The change in tone of the Conservative election campaign has been obvious to even the most casual observer. What started as David Cameron’s victory lap en route to taking up his rightful residence at Downing Street has quickly turned into a panicked, scaremongering attempt to paint a picture of economic armageddon if the electorate decide the Tories can’t be trusted. Add this to the orchestrated attacks on Nick Clegg from the right-wing media and the whole Tory campaign starts to smell a bit desperate. So much for “redoubling the positive”.
The floundering Tory campaign (unsurprisingly headed by George Osborne) has had more than a touch of hubris about it from the very beginning. The tone has been “We know you all made a mistake by letting someone else run the country these last few years, but we’re preparing ourselves to forgive you”. This arrogance remains undimmed despite the Tory slide in the opinion polls, and the latest twist to their campaign is to effectively tell the electorate (i.e. those who nominally have the power to choose) that the current desire for a hung parliament will lead to indecision, weak government and inevitable economic collapse. It seems the Tories are none too keen on having to achieve a consensus – not for them that terrible continental idea of politicians working together.
But, hang on a minute, didn’t the Tories recently invite me to “Join the Government of Britain”? Let me quote from David Cameron’s introduction to the Conservative manifesto: “Only together can we get the economy moving. Only together can we protect the NHS. Improve our schools. Mend our broken society. Together we can even make politics and politicians work better. And if we can do that, we can do anything. Yes, together we can do anything.”
I’m slightly confused now. When the campaign started, and everything at Conservative HQ still looked peachy, we were all going to be invited to do our bit and have our share of the responsibility (at least insofar as that doesn’t interfere with the exercise of power at the top, of course). Now it looks as though they may have to share the real power, they suddenly don’t seem so keen on the idea.
The trouble is, their panicked response doesn’t even ring true to their own supporters. Take, for example, Alex Massie’s response to the Tories’ abject ‘Hung Parliament Party’ campaign in The Spectator. In it, this natural supporter of the Cameron project takes the Tories’ scaremongering apart chunk by chunk, along the way pointing out that Osborne’s dire warning of discontent in the City of London is another demonstration of how out of touch the Tories still are. Massie ends his article with the phrase: “I’d like David Cameron to be the next Prime Minister but I’d prefer it if he became so without insulting everyone’s intelligence along the way”.
As the election campaign (mercifully) enters the home straight we can expect more of this type of naked desperation from the Tories and their shameless propagandists in the press. Cameron, Osborne, Murdoch and the rest of the Tory project can feel the prize of absolute power slipping away from them, and they don’t like it one bit. The arrogance of their assertion that they must have unfettered power in the House of Commons to carry out their morally and ideologically empty manifesto programme is breathtaking, and there’s no end in sight.