|The five keys to Number 10 Posted by Fraser at 7 54 PM on Saturday, April 17|
“This isn’t Question Time,” he said. “It’s answer time.”
He’s right. And voters have plenty of tough questions. If enough people think the Lib Dems have those answers, Gordo might still win this election. Anything could happen.
David Cameron knows this only too well. And I was on the road with him last week, watching him make his pitch to punters. The same issues are raised, time over.
It’s clear that there are now FIVE issues that will determine the next election: immigration, education, defence, crime and jobs.
Each a thorny issue for all Westminster parties. But a battle based on FACTS can have only one winner. Because the Tories have the best answers, on all five. Here’s why . . .
CAM told me that he has been struck by how much immigration comes up. It’s what troubles voters most.
It has been the biggest change to Britain under Labour — the greatest influx in the history of these islands, accounting for almost all job creation.
Gordon Brown boasted in the debate that 2.5 MILLION jobs have been created. But most came straight off the boat. It’s a disgraceful situation. We put our own people on welfare, and suck up overseas workers.
And call it progress. All leaders say they’d act. But the truth is that we can’t — not against Bulgarians, Romanians or anyone from the European Union.
Cameron boldly promises to turn off the newcomers tap, until net immigration is less than a quarter of what it is now.
Gordon Brown can’t match this promise. He has been left saying he wants to stop CHEFS arriving from “outside the EU”.
What good does that do? Make life tough for Birmingham’s Balti industry, and specialist Chinese restaurants. But that’s about it.
The immigrants come because the jobs are there. And the welfare state pays British people not to take them.
Last week, I saw a fork-lift truck driver in Reading tell Cam he was taxed too much — while his neighbours were on the dole.
“Are any people on your street swinging the lead?” Cam asked. “They’re all swinging the lead,” came the reply. “All of them.”
Cam understands. We have so many immigrants because our insane welfare system means so many are better off on benefits. What would the Lib Dems and their shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne (left) do about this? Nothing.
Labour? They’ve had 13 years to change the system. They failed.
Only the Tories promise radical welfare reform. Cam understands the urgency. Only that will bring down the 1,600-a-day influx.
SCHOOLS are a problem already haunting Gordon Brown on the campaign trail. People are heckling him, hurling abuse.
Parents want to know why they can’t find a place in a decent state school for their child.
It is a national disgrace. A staggering 89,000 pupils were denied the chance to study at the state school of their choice.
Cruelly, some parents were even rejected by TEXT MESSAGE from the school. Is this what the education bosses do with their money?
The schools budget has been doubled under Labour — so the Government has new, high-tech ways of telling parents to sod off.
Grammar schools, which gave places to bright working-class kids, have been destroyed in the name of equality.
Today, the quality gap between UK private and state schools is the biggest in the world, save for Latin America.
No wonder so many parents dearly want to go private. Unless you’re loaded, there are two options: win the lottery or vote Tory. Yes, this is Cameron’s best single offer. He’s pledging that, within four or five years, people will be able to go private — FOR FREE.
For reasons that I can’t quite understand, Cameron didn’t mention this in the debates. Or put it in his manifesto.
But Michael Gove, whom Cam has put in charge of the revolutionary policy, has told me what it will mean in no uncertain terms.
“After four years of Tory government, there will be a school going out of its way to persuade you to send your children there.”
Believe him? I do. As long as these new schools can make a profit (and act as businesses), they’ll flock to where there’s most demand.
GORDON BROWN may have forgotten that there’s a war on. But the voters certainly haven’t.
The heart-rending scenes at Wootton Bassett, as our brave dead are brought home past row upon row of mourners from all faiths, show that the bond between our country and its military has never been stronger.
We know the problem. We were defeated in Basra after ministers failed to commit enough troops to win the peace. And those who have been sent — to Afghanistan as well as Iraq — are being blown up by roadside bombs for lack of helicopters.
Much more cash is needed — but each party envisages savage cuts in the military budget to protect the NHS budget (but none of them tells you about it).
Each party says “protect Our Boys”. Can you do both? Only if you pull them out of harm’s way — and effectively make Britain retreat from the world stage.
When Cameron, Brown and Clegg do the “leaders’ debate” on foreign policy, they’ll all have a series of tough questions to answer.
Cam’s question is particularly tough. Are you going to fund the military properly? Or admit defeat in Afghanistan and shatter credibility?
As for Clegg, his plans to rule out any attacks on Iran — in any circumstance — show he’s not serious about government.
The less said about Clegg’s barmy plans to scrap our nukes, the better.
The Tories are the only party to promise to protect the military budget for this year. And to keep us away from plans for an EU army, diverting funds instead into a dedicated hospital for veterans.
And you can bet that’s just the start. If Cam gets into No.10, he’ll soon see how this is not just about defence, but Britain’s place in the world.
Are we a country that shapes the world, or is waited to be shaped by the world? Cam knows there’s only one answer to that question.
PLAYING tricks with crime statistics can’t deflect attention from what we all know: that violent crime is a major issue.
Figures produced by the House of Commons library show violent crime is up by a scandalous 44 per cent since Labour came to power.
This weekend the tragic image of Ryan Dugdale is still fresh in our minds. He was the 21-year-old referred to by Cam in that TV debate — killed when a teenage burglar set fire to his mum’s house.
What does Gordon Brown offer a country where serious crime and the fear of crime is so prevalent? More of the same. So let’s hear no more about his useless Baldrick-style cunning plans.
The Lib Dems have a decent idea: Have doctors keep a record of where the event took place, so police can flood the areas with officers.
Most knife crime does take place in a handful of lawless hotspots. This approach in Cardiff has almost halved violent crime in five years.
But the Tories ask: Why should orders come from London? Why put politicians in charge of policing? What about letting police do it?
The problem with crime is that the police work to the bureaucracy — not to the people they are supposed to be protecting from crime.
The Tory plan for locally-elected police chiefs changes that. It makes bobbies respond to what locals want, not pointless state targets.
David Cameron has a plan to trust police more. Free them up from bureaucracy.
American police chiefs have used freedoms to cut crime. So can Brits. And only the Tories can give them the power to do it.
Jobs & debt
THIS is perhaps the most important issue. Gordon Brown’s economic policy — reliance on DEBT — has backfired monumentally on us all.
The “boom” was a debt-fuelled illusion. We know that now. And the biggest debtor of them all is Brown’s government.
Like an alcoholic reaching for the bottle every morning, Brown’s economic plan is to saddle us all with an astounding £450BILLION more in debt.
You can’t borrow your way out of debt, any more than you can drink yourself sober. Even now, the Prime Minister has not understood this.
The recovery has started. But at a snail’s pace. The sheer weight of this debt — on taxpayers, households and companies — is crushing.
Our choice is simple. Take this problem seriously, and we’ll recover. A head-in- the-sand approach keeps the economy on its knees.
The word “debt” was nowhere to be seen in Labour’s manifesto. A clear sign that Gordo has no idea what he has done.
Tough action is needed — and right now. The country knows this. That’s why Brown’s “more of the same” offer is so unattractive.
The problem is this: 13 years of Labour’s broken promises mean few people trust any politician. It’s a real problem for Cam.
No wonder so many are thinking of a protest vote, in the form of the Lib Dems. A party whose economic policies are a sheer fantasy. But as the polls have shown, a Lib Dem resurgence will strengthen Labour. They could very well help Brown cheat political death.
In Britain, we’re used to elections being decisive. But having NO clear winner will mean NO proper solution to these crucial problems. Without an outright Tory victory, everyone will be preparing for a second election — just as happened in 1974.
These five issues need immediate, long- term action. A Tory government is Britain’s best chance of that action.
My take? Britain has waited long enough. We can’t afford to faff about for another month, let alone another parliament.
But could the public’s verdict be “we simply don’t like any of you that much?” It’s not just a possibility. The opinion polls say it is a probability.
It should NOT be this close, when you think of the extent of Labour’s failures. But this election really still is up for grabs.
FRASER NELSON is also Editor of The Spectator