David Cameron has delivered his New Year message, and with it a slogan we will no doubt be heartily sick of by February: Britain is on the rise.
He writes in the Times that the “difficult decisions” he has taken since forming a government in 2010 are now beginning to pay off. “After three and a half years, it’s time for the next phase of that plan – 2014 is when we start to turn Britain into the flagship post-Great Recession success story. A country that is on the rise.”
Later, he adds: “During the recession I insisted that we were all in it together. As we recover, let me be clear: we are still all in it together. The question now is how we move forward and make sure Britain and its people rise.”
He then claims that Labour’s policies – “more borrowing, more spending and more debt” – would be catastrophic (perhaps, following his earlier logic, people might sink? Perhaps Britain as a whole might sink?) and instead advocates a five-point plan.
1. Continuing to reduce the deficit, and “help keep mortgage bills low” – although how far he can control the latter, when the Bank of England sets interest rates, is questionable.
2. Continue cutting income tax, raise the personal allowance and freeze fuel duty.
3. “Backing small business”.
4. Capping welfare and controlling immigration.
5. A new national curriculum and a commitment to “deliver the best schools for every child”.
Cameron concludes: “We’ve come a long way already. Let’s make 2014 the year when Britain really starts to rise.”
The article distils the key messages we are likely to hear from the Tories until the next election: cautious optimism, budget responsibility, plus hard lines on immigration and welfare. As Mark Wallace writes at Conservative Home: “This article is the crib-sheet to [Cameron’s] campaign plan – now we must see whether he sticks to it, and if it survives contact with events and the enemy.”
Also noteworthy is the unsubtle dig at France in there – “If you doubt how disastrous a return to Labour-style economics would be, just look at countries that are currently following that approach. They face increasing unemployment, industrial stagnation and enterprise in free fall”.
In recent days, Francois Hollande’s flagship policy of a top tax rate of 75 per cent has been approved by France’s highest court. This will no doubt lead to more protests from football clubs, showbusiness stars and business leaders in the coming months, although it has popular support. Hollande’s personal polling is dire, so expect to see more attacks linking him and Miliband.