Last year the polls were saying people wanted to hear the austerity message. Even after a projected growth of just 0.1% for the last quarter in the UK, the voters are not too sure. But this should not make comfortable reading for the putative Chancellor the Exchequer:
Mr Osborne, who doubles as the Tories general election co-ordinator, has taken other positions which appear to have been motivated by a desire to find dividing lines with which to attack the government: his proposal to abolish the Financial Services Authority, in particular. But, in the heat of a campaign, only clear, coherent and consistent policy is defensible. It benefits no one for one party to repeatedly shoot itself in the foot. The Conservatives must get a grip.
That comes with the news that the Tories previous tough talk on the economy sounds like it is being flatpacked into Labour’s more cautious approach to spending cuts…
The Tory policy of going faster than Labour in tackling the £178bn deficit, starting with spending cuts within weeks of taking office, remains unchanged, officials insist.
But the partys recent rhetorical shift away from harsh spending cuts in 2010-11 towards a more gradual approach co-ordinated with the Bank of England is causing unease on the Tory right. A lack of clarity over whether a Conservative government would go beyond the £1bn to £1.5bn examples of cuts for 2010-11 has done nothing to assuage such concerns.
One Tory MP said on Tuesday that the tough stance on the deficit had been agreed at a time when everyone expected Britain to be in full recovery by May 2010, an assumption that was subsequently shaken by weak growth figures for the last quarter of 2009.
Candidates are getting feedback from people on the doorsteps, the [austerity] policy is not going down too well, he said. This is the right thing to do but we are losing our nerve on this.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty