There’s a distinctly optimistic aura within the Conservative Party at the moment; a real feeling that things are coming together. In contrast with Labour’s identity crisis and its lurch to the left, the Conservative benches are relatively settled. Perhaps, as I wrote earlier in the week, it’s because the Prime Minister and his circle seem to be taking more account of the views of the wider Conservative Party across the country. Additionally, the IMF’s upgrading of the UK’s economic growth forecast can only help cement the feeling of well-being. As the political commentators never seem to tire of saying, Conservative electoral success relies heavily on the state of the economy. So it’s a great boost to hear the IMF’s economists eating their words of six months ago.
If you recall, Olivier Blanchard – their chief economist – warned that George Osborne was “playing with fire” by pursuing the UK’s deficit reduction programme. Now, he’s upgraded the predicted growth rate for this year to 1.4% - an extraordinary 0.5% more than was predicted back in April. But it’s especially remarkable when you consider that Britain’s forecasted growth is significantly higher than any of its European contemporaries. It’s a deserved justification of the Government’s determination to tackle its debts and rein in the profligate spending that got so out of hand under Labour. Ed Balls will undoubtedly find something to moan about but he’s on shaky ground now. The Conservative approach to getting the UK’s house in order has been vindicated. The economy’s in safe hands.
It’s also very reassuring to see the Prime Minister standing so firm in his commitment to what I believe is one of the most important Conservative policies in recent years – the “Help to Buy” scheme. He’s come in for a lot of criticism over the project, most of which has been based on conjecture, speculation or even blind panic, and it’s admirable that he’s stuck so firmly to his guns in the face of it all. I’ve said many times before that it’s not just the economic benefits of the scheme that are important. It has a much wider, far-reaching benefit in terms of the national psyche. In previous blogs I called it the “feel-good factor” that’s associated with property ownership, empowering people to spend, invest and contribute to the economy. We’ll see the benefits of Mr Cameron’s determination for years to come.