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Shapps admits that Labour has policies, but warns that they’d be terrible for the country

By Peter Hoskin
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ShappsIn a broad sense, Grant Shapps’ speech to Policy Exchange this lunchtime is similar to Michael Gove’s fiery article for the Telegraph in May. Both make the personal political, as it were. Shapps attacks Eds Miliband and Balls directly and without remorse, but does so under cover of political difference. They’re not mad or sad or odd, those Labour folk. They just don’t have the right ideas for Britain. Whereas the Tories, the Tories have staved off a double-dip recession, encouraged private sector jobs, reduced crime, etc, etc.

But Shapps’s speech differs in one crucial way from Gove’s article. Whereas the latter suggested that Miliband had created a “vacuum” where policies should be, the former contends that Labour has too many ideas that would be dangerous for the country. The Tory chairman directs our imaginations towards the possibility of a Labour government after the next election. Some of his divinations are realistic (“the deficit quickly begins to grow again”). Some of them involve a bit of artistic license (he warns that incomplete and unconfirmed Labour plans to make benefits a human right “could allow prisoners … to be entitled to housing benefit”). But they all have one thing in common; they all say that too much Miliband would be bad for Britain’s health.

The politics of this attack are pretty straightforward. It makes sense, for instance, to start attacking Labour on its substance as more and more substance emerges ahead of 2015. But I suspect that Shapps’ ulterior motive is to win over any voters who are leaning towards UKIP, as well as to pacify any Tory backbenchers who might be thinking of causing trouble for Cameron. Carry on like that, he seems to be saying, and Miliband might end up in No.10 – and that wouldn’t be pretty.


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