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Instead of trying to defend himself from Conservative attack, is it time for Gordon Brown to go on the attack? David Nicholl wonders whether that would expose the holes in Tory thinking.

Lets face it, Gordon Brown is not having a good month.

Labour has had the worst local election results in living memory. Over the weekend he had not just one, but three of his former colleagues put the boot into him with their various memoirs. To make matters worse, he even had a former government minister, Frank Field, suggest that he won’t be leading Labour at the next election.

Cripes, with this lot as friends who needs opponents?

Talking of Brown’s opponents, all the opinion polls put David Cameron’s miles ahead, so is it time for the PM to chuck it in – or ask some pertinent questions of the opposition?

The Conservatives can genuinely run cock-a-hoop as, for the first time in a generation, they are looking electable.

Yet the Tories would be very naive if they interpret the current disenchantment with New Labour as guaranteeing victory at the next general election. I say this for two very specific reasons.

Firstly, many have commented how Cameron’s success was by imitating Blair - imitation is, after all, the most sincerest form of flattery. Yet Blair lost public trust as people were fed up with the culture of New Labour spin, so where does that mean the public’s view of Cameron lies when he has yet to announce a single substantive policy.

What exactly is the specific Conservative plan for, well, anything?

It is very easy to criticize the government, but the public needs to know what the opposition really offer by way of difference. In short, is Cameron the real deal or just a Blair clone in Tory clothes?

Secondly, Cameron has promised to keep the level of public spending the same as Labour, without increasing taxation. Given the global problems of the ‘credit crunch’, the housing crisis and the world economy, is this realistic or just a Tory pipe-dream? We cannot have our ‘Public Service cake’ and eat it without looking at the overall level of taxation.

So finally, this leads us back to Gordon - when things are this bad what do you do? When you are in a hole, you don’t just keep digging, you think of a different strategy. Maybe it is time for Brown to call Cameron’s bluff.

Brown has taken a hammering over the 10p tax rate and although there’s been 10 years of unprecedented growth in the economy, the poor are poorer and rich richer under a Labour government.

Maybe Brown needs to look again at taxation – only this time by considering increasing the higher rate of income tax to 50% for earners over £100,000. This would be a brave, arguably populist move, and would force Cameron into showing whether his Conservatives really are a party of the people or a party of the rich and privileged.

Has Brown got the courage, or will he bottle it? Is Cameron really a caring Conservative with policies to match or is he just Blair-lite bluffing his way at the dispatch box?



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