David Cameron speaks at a Cameron Direct Q&A session at the Royal Bath and West Show on May 27, 2009. Photograph: Getty Images.
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The pre-election pledges that the Tories are trying to wipe from the internet

"No frontline cuts", "no top-down NHS reorganisations", "no VAT rise" - why the Conservatives are trying to erase all pre-May 2010 speeches and press releases from the internet.

As I reported earlier, the Tories have attempted to erase all pre-May 2010 press releases and speeches from the internet, but what could they possibly have to hide? Here are some suggestions. 

1. No cuts to front-line services

As remarkable as it may seem, David Cameron told Andrew Marr the weekend before the general election that a Conservative government would not cut any front-line services.

What I can tell you is, any cabinet minister, if I win the election, who comes to me and says: "Here are my plans," and they involve front-line reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again. After 13 years of Labour, there is a lot of wasteful spending, a lot of money that doesn't reach the front line.

Since then, 5,870 NHS nurses, 7,968 hospital beds, a third of ambulance stations, 5,362 firefighters and 6,800 frontline police officers have been cut. 

2. "We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT"

In an interview with Jeremy Paxman on 23 April 2010, Cameron said: "We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT. Our first Budget is all about recognising we need to get spending under control rather than putting up tax."

VAT was subsequently raised from 17.5 per cent to a record high of 20 per cent in George Osborne's emergency Budget.

3. Cameron on child benefit: "I wouldn't means-test it"

At a pre-election Cameron Direct event, the Tory leader issued this "read my lips" pledge: "I'm not going to flannel you, I'm going to give it to you straight. I like the child benefit, I wouldn't change child benefit, I wouldn't means-test it, I don't think that is a good idea." The coalition went on to abolish the benefit for higher earners in the Spending Review and froze it for three years. 

4. NHS: "no more top-down reorganisations"

Perhaps most infamously, the Conservatives repeatedly promised before the general election that there would be no more "top-down reorganisations" of the NHS (Andrew Lansley, Conservative Party press release, 11 July 2007). In a speech at the Royal College of Pathologists on 2 November 2009, Cameron said: "With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS." 

In his 2006 Conservative conference speech, he said: "So I make this commitment to the NHS and all who work in it. No more pointless reorganisations."

The coalition went on to launch the biggest top-down reorganisation of the service in its history.

5. On Education Maintenance Allowances: "we don't have any plans to get rid of them"

At a Cameron Direct event in January 2010, Cameron said: "We've looked at educational maintenance allowances and we haven't announced any plan to get rid of them." Challenged to firm up his pledge, he added: "I said we don't have any plans to get rid of them . . . it's one of those things the Labour Party keep putting out that we are but we're not."

Nine months later, the coalition announced the abolition of EMA, which paid up to £30 a week to 16-to-18-years-olds living in households whose income is less than £30,800 a year, in the Spending Review. 

6. Cameron on Sure Start: "Yes, we back Sure Start. It's a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this."

The day before the general election, Cameron pledged to protect Sure Start, the network of children's centres founded by the last Labour government.

Asked for a guarantee that the centres would continue to receive funding, he replied: "Yes, we back Sure Start. It's a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this. He's the prime minister of this country but he's been scaring people about something that really matters."

In his 2009 Conservative conference speech, he said: "It’s also about emotional support, particularly in those fraught early years before children go to school. Labour understood this and we should acknowledge that. That’s why Sure Start will stay, and we’ll improve it."

Since then, 566 of the centres have been closed, with over half of those still open no longer providing any onsite childcare. 

7. On the Future Jobs Fund: "no plans to change"

In March 2010, Cameron praised the Future Jobs Fund as a "good scheme" and said the Conservatives had  "no plans to change existing Future Jobs Fund commitments". On 24 May 2010, the coalition announced its abolition (only for a subsequent Department for Work and Pensions study to show that it had been an unambiguous success, with a net benefit to the economy of £7,750 per participant) and replaced it with the ineffective Work Programme, later found to be "worse than doing nothing". 

8. Cameron on green taxes: "[they] need to go up"

While recently pledging to "roll-back" green taxes, Cameron took a very different line during his early hug-a husky phase. On 29 October 2006 he told the BBC's Politics Show: "I think green taxes as a whole need to go up". He also told Newsnight on 3 October: "We’ve said publicly, we’ve committed that we think green taxes should take a bigger share of overall taxes."

In a speech at the Tories' local election launch on 17 April 2008, he said: "Our message in this local election campaign is simple: vote blue, go green - and save money. It's been our campaign slogan for the last three elections. Why? Because it goes to the heart of what Conservatives believe. And because that's the kind of change people really want."

9. Osborne on bank bonuses: "totally unacceptable"

In an interview with the Guardian published on 14 August 2009, George Osborne said: "It is totally unacceptable for bank bonuses to be paid on the back of taxpayer guarantees. It must stop."

Not only did he fail to keep his pledge to ban bonuses at state-owned banks, he is now taking legal action against the EU commission over its plan to cap payments. 

10. And finally...Cameron on transparency in 2007

"It's clear to me that political leaders will have to learn to let go. Let go of the information that we've guarded so jealously." 

Speech at Google Zeitgeist Conference, 11 October 2007

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Now listen to George discussing why the Conservatives have tried to erase these pledges on the NS Podcast:

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tony Blair might be a toxic figure - but his influence endures

Politicians at home and abroad are borrowing from the former prime minister's playbook. 

On 24 May at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, a short distance from where he once governed, Tony Blair resurfaced for a public discussion. Having arrived on an overnight flight, he looked drawn and puffy-eyed but soon warmed to his theme: a robust defence of liberal globalisation. He admitted, however, to bafflement at recent events in the world. "I thought I was pretty good at politics. But I look at politics today and I’m not sure I understand it."

Blair lost power in the summer of 2007. In the ensuing nine years, he lost reputation. His business ventures and alliances with autocrats have made him a pariah among both the public and his party. A YouGov poll published last year found that 61 per cent of voters regarded Blair as an electoral liability, while just 14 per cent viewed him as an asset. In contrast, John Major, whom he defeated by a landslide in 1997, had a neutral net rating of zero. It is ever harder to recall that Blair won not one general election (he is the only living Labour leader to have done so) but three.

His standing is likely to diminish further when the Iraq inquiry report is published on 6 July. Advance leaks to the Sunday Times suggest that he will be censured for allegedly guaranteeing British military support to the US a year before the invasion. Few minds on either side will be changed by the 2.6 million-word document. Yet its publication will help enshrine Iraq as the defining feature of a legacy that also includes the minimum wage, tax credits, Sure Start, devolution and civil partnerships.

Former leaders can ordinarily rely on their parties to act as a last line of defence. In Blair’s case, however, much of the greatest opprobrium comes from his own side. Jeremy Corbyn inclines to the view that Iraq was not merely a blunder but a crime. In last year’s Labour leadership election, Liz Kendall, the most Blair-esque candidate, was rewarded with 4.5 per cent of the vote. The former prime minister’s imprimatur has become the political equivalent of the black spot.

Yet outside of the Labour leadership, Blairism endures in notable and often surprising forms. Sadiq Khan won the party’s London mayoral selection by running to the left of Tessa Jowell, one of Tony Blair’s closest allies. But his successful campaign against Zac Goldsmith drew lessons from Blair’s election triumphs. Khan relentlessly presented himself as “pro-business” and reached out beyond Labour’s core vote. After his victory, he was liberated to use the B-word, contrasting what “Tony Blair did [in opposition]” with Corbyn’s approach.

In their defence of the UK’s EU membership, David Cameron and George Osborne have deployed arguments once advanced by New Labour. The strategically minded Chancellor has forged an unlikely friendship with his former nemesis Peter Mandelson. In the domestic sphere, through equal marriage, the National Living Wage and the 0.7 per cent overseas aid target, the Conservatives have built on, rather than dismantled, significant Labour achievements."They just swallowed the entire manual," Mandelson declared at a recent King’s College seminar. "They didn’t just read the executive summary, they are following the whole thing to the letter."

Among SNP supporters, "Blairite" is the pejorative of choice. But the parallels between their party and New Labour are more suggestive than they would wish. Like Blair, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have avoided income tax rises in order to retain the support of middle-class Scottish conservatives. In a speech last August on education, Sturgeon echoed the Blairite mantra that "what matters is what works".

Beyond British shores, political leaders are similarly inspired by Blair – and less reticent about acknowledging as much. Matteo Renzi, the 41-year-old centre-left Italian prime minister, is a long-standing admirer. "I adore one of his sayings,” he remarked in 2013. “I love all the traditions of my party, except one: that of losing elections."

In France, the reform-minded prime minister, Manuel Valls, and the minister of economy, Emmanuel Macron, are also self-described Blairites. Macron, who in April launched his own political movement, En Marche!, will shortly decide whether to challenge for the presidency next year. When he was compared to Blair by the TV presenter Andrew Marr, his response reflected the former prime minister’s diminished domestic reputation: “I don’t know if, in your mouth, that is a promise or a threat.”

The continuing attraction of Blair’s “third way” to European politicians reflects the failure of the project’s social-democratic critics to construct an alternative. Those who have sought to do so have struggled both in office (François Hollande) and out of it (Ed Miliband). The left is increasingly polarised between reformers and radicals (Corbyn, Syriza, Podemos), with those in between straining for relevance.

Despite his long absences from Britain, Blair’s friends say that he remains immersed in the intricacies of Labour politics. He has privately warned MPs that any attempt to keep Corbyn off the ballot in the event of a leadership challenge would be overruled by the National Executive Committee. At Methodist Central Hall, he said of Corbyn’s supporters: “It’s clear they can take over a political party. What’s not clear to me is whether they can take over a country.”

It was Blair’s insufficient devotion to the former task that enabled the revival of the left. As Alastair Campbell recently acknowledged: “We failed to develop talent, failed to cement organisational and cultural change in the party and failed to secure our legacy.” Rather than effecting a permanent realignment, as the right of the party hoped and the left feared, New Labour failed to outlive its creators.

It instead endures in a fragmented form as politicians at home and abroad co-opt its defining features: its pro-business pragmatism, its big-tent electoralism, its presentational nous. Some of Corbyn’s ­allies privately fear that Labour will one day re-embrace Blairism. But its new adherents would never dare to use that name.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad