While still in opposition, David Cameron used to promise that a “Conservative government would share the proceeds of growth” between higher public expenditure and tax cuts. That was the Tory mantra – repeated ad nauseam from 2005 until the summer of 2008. It was a slippery phrase, allowing the Cameroons to have it both ways. By pledging to “match Gordon Brown’s spending plans”, Cameron hoped to banish the Tories’ “nasty party” reputation. The promised lower taxes, meanwhile, placated his core vote.
While “sharing the proceeds of growth” seemed like clever political positioning, it was actually economic nonsense. Brown’s spending plans, coming after years of turbo-charged state borrowing, were profligate. Matching them was “me too” student politics. Talk to some senior Tories now and, when recalling the “sharing the proceeds of growth” years, their eyes roll as their right index finger faintly twirls.