How can the Conservatives deal with Labour’s attack on the cost of living? As I explained last week, the party believes that the best way to address the opposition’s focus on living standards is to talk about the bigger picture rather than the ‘footling little things’. Senior Tories I’ve spoken to in the past week are very confident indeed that because they enjoy the trust of voters on the economy, while voters still blame Labour for the mess, they don’t need to worry about the strategy that Ed Miliband has adopted. One senior figure remarked to me this weekend that ‘Labour has mis-fired: when we’ve got such a poll lead on the economy, why should voters think anything Labour has to say about cost of living is credible?’ Some backbenchers disagree, by the way: they’re anxious that ministers should still make announcements this week on the little things. But it’s clear that at the top, they’re pretty upbeat.
George Osborne will make the big picture stuff clear in his speech today. He’ll say:
‘This battle to turn around Britain, it is not even close to being over. For what I offer is an economic plan for hardworking people. That will create jobs. Keep mortgage rates low. Let people keep more of their income tax free.
‘Our economic plan is the only plan for living standards. In fact, if you don’t have a credible economic plan, you simply don’t have a living standards plan. For we understand that there can be no recovery for all – if there is no recovery at all.’
But it’s interesting that the Chancellor has also trailed increased conditionality for the long-term unemployed ahead of his speech. Welfare is another area that voters do not trust Labour on. He has just told Radio 4 that his choice of announcement has nothing to do with his reportedly low opinion of Iain Duncan Smith, but his choice of welfare is another way of reminding voters that there are big issues aside from the economy where they just can’t trust the opposition.Tags: Conservative conference 2013, UK politics