Web Only: the best of the blogs

Today's five must-read blogs, on David Cameron's NHS poster, inheritance tax and free speech

1. Darling, VAT and the general election

At Comment Central, Daniel Finkelstein notes that Alistair Darling did not rule out the possibility of hikes in VAT, thus removing a potential dividing line for the election.

2. The Express are wrong on housing benefit dependency

Over at Left Foot Forward, Graeme Cooke goes behind the figures in the Express to explain why housing benefit is set to soar by 15 per cent.

3. Is this approach too Dave-specific?

Mike Smithson at PoliticalBetting draws attention to that NHS poster and its personal pronoun -- "I'll cut the deficit", rather than "We'll". Is this a sign of things to come in the election campaign?

4. Vince: Tory sums do not stack up

Liberal Democrat Voice draws attention to Vince Cable's criticism of the Tories' sums on inheritance tax.

5. Islam4UK: free speech for bigots?

At Liberal Conspiracy, Dave Osler considers the problems posed for the left by the Islamist group's request to stage an anti-war march in Wootton Bassett.


Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

Good morning.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May are more similar politicians than people think, and that holds true for Brexit too. The German Chancellor gave a speech yesterday, and the message: Brexit means Brexit.

Of course, the emphasis is slightly different. When May says it, it's about reassuring the Brexit elite in SW1 that she isn't going to backslide, and anxious Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the country that it will work out okay in the end.

When Merkel says it, she's setting out what the EU wants and the reality of third country status outside the European Union.  She's also, as with May, tilting to her own party and public opinion in Germany, which thinks that the UK was an awkward partner in the EU and is being even more awkward in the manner of its leaving.

It's a measure of how poor the debate both during the referendum and its aftermath is that Merkel's bland statement of reality - "A third-party state - and that's what Britain will be - can't and won't be able to have the same rights, let alone a better position than a member of the European Union" - feels newsworthy.

In the short term, all this helps Theresa May. Her response - delivered to a carefully-selected audience of Leeds factory workers, the better to avoid awkward questions - that the EU is "ganging up" on Britain is ludicrous if you think about it. A bloc of nations acting in their own interest against their smaller partners - colour me surprised!

But in terms of what May wants out of this election - a massive majority that gives her carte blanche to implement her agenda and puts Labour out of contention for at least a decade - it's a great message. It increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in May's words - the Tories your vote. You may be unhappy about the referendum result, you may usually vote Labour - but on this occasion, what's needed is a one-off Tory vote to make Brexit a success.

May's message is silly if you pay any attention to how the EU works or indeed to the internal politics of the EU27. That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496