Saturday, July 1, 2006

'Tax plan will test me' - Menzies

On the face of it, this report on BBC news sounds very confessional. It says: "In an interview for the GMTV Sunday Programme, (Campbell) admitted he could lose a vote on the (tax) plans at his party's autumn conference."

All very dramatic sounding. But in fact all Menzies seems to be doing is stating the simple party process. The conference decides on party policy.

Presumably this sounds sensational when compared, say, to the Conservative party.

I may have missed it, but did David Cameron's "plan" to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights ever get debated at a Conservative conference? Of course not.

I enthusiastically agree with Cameron's announcement that gay partners who have had a civil ceremony should enjoy the same tax breaks as heterosexual married couples. I just wonder whether it has been put to the massed ranks of blue-rinsed matrons and retired colonels who largely make up the Conservative party. I may be judging them wrongly, but if they had discussed the proposal, I suspect the cries of outrage in the seaside conference centre would have been heard in Belgium. One Conservative die-hard I know, when asked about civil partnerships, issued a stream of bigoted invective that I do not care to repeat.

Whatever tax plans come out of the Liberal Democrat conference in the autumn, we can be sure they will have the party behind them, having debated them thoroughly.

One cannot say the same for the ideas coming out of the Cameron cabal at the moment, with respect to the Conservative party. While this 'idea by dictat' mode might look very sexy in the media, sooner or latter the whole facade comes unstuck.

But at the moment it is difficult to tell. Are we dealing with "liberal Conservative" Cameron or "British Bill of Rights" Bulldog Cameron? For now, neither it seems. We seem to be dealing with David "I am as confused as everybody else, so let's slam the LibDems for playing 'dirty' " Cameron.

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