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Classic Tory 'jam tomorrow'

In the real world, away from the Shangri-La populated by privately educated multimillionaire ministers, hard-working people are taking it on the chin every day

Every prime minister facing an imminent general election likes to enthuse his troops and the electorate at party conference by listing all the good things his government's done.

David Cameron can't because he has no positive achievements to publicise.

He has the millionaires' April tax break, the ongoing cuts in corporation tax, the uninterrupted profit and bonus bonanzas for banks and privatised utilities and the latest boost for property speculators through state-guaranteed mortgage deposits.

But how can he boast of these government policies?

People might draw the unmistakable conclusion that, despite pre-election chat about compassionate conservatism and an end to the nasty party, Cameron and company remain in thrall to the rich and powerful.

The Prime Minister's sole message was a plea for voters to trust him and give him a chance to "finish the job we've started."

It was classic Tory "jam tomorrow," offering a land of opportunity in the future and a hard unrewarding grind for most people at present.

Every flat surface and even flatter speech at Tory conference was spattered with references to "hard-working people," - the Tories' target for the 2015 election.

But the only pitch in their direction was flattery and favourable comparison with the millions of people denied the right to work, whom the government demeans as choosing a life on benefits.

In the real world, away from the Shangri-La populated by privately educated multimillionaire ministers, hard-working people are taking it on the chin every day.

Their average hourly rate of pay has fallen by 5.5 per cent since the conservative coalition took office, their pension contributions have increased to deliver less and price inflation continues to rise by 2.7 per cent according to CPI and 3.3 per cent for RPI, even though both measures underestimate the true cost of living for the low-paid.

Cameron brays about new jobs created by the private sector, but the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development calculates that a million of these are zero-hours contracts - four times the government estimate.

Housing is increasingly a nightmare for working people, with precious few new-build council homes and an impending government-generated house-price boom to make home ownership less possible for first-time buyers.

All Cameron could do to urge his audience into standing ovations was to rabbit on about nasty party patron saint Margaret Thatcher, the world's "finest armed forces" and a point-scoring rejoinder to an anonymous Russian official that Britain is "a small island but a great country."

His speech was a latter-day confirmation of Winston Churchill's 1904 description of the Tories.

He called them "a party of great vested interests, banded together in a formidable confederation, corruption at home, aggression to cover it up abroad ... sentiment by the bucketful, patriotism by the imperial pint, the open hand at the public exchequer, the open door at the public house, dear food for the millions, cheap labour for the millionaire."

They are still backed by big business and the mass media, but the party's membership is evaporating, from over 253,000 when Cameron became leader to 134,000 today, with an average age of 68.

This floundering government ought to be as easy to unseat as John Major's in 1997.

But it will require clear and decisive policies that overturn Tory priorities, really challenge their big business allies and guarantee a speedy improvement in working people's standard of living.


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