As the Tories begin to fight back, their opponents are struggling to find a way to appeal to the electorate
A few weeks ago Richard Curtis, the king of the feel-good film, slipped into the House of Commons for a meeting with George Osborne and Steve Hilton. He could have been researching a romantic comedy entitled Notting Hill Tories, with Julia Roberts, of course, playing the role of the newly pregnant Sam Cam. In fact, though, he was explaining to the two men in charge of the Conservative election strategy his campaign for a levy on financial transactions — the so-called Robin Hood tax.
The man who got Gordon Brown to help to Make Poverty History explained that, with the actor Bill Nighy, he was launching a grassroots campaign to bash the banks. The aim was to harness public anger and create a more Love Actually mood by calling for a tax that would raise billions for climate change, poverty and public services. Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel were already fans of the idea, he said. An American campaign is going live next month, probably starring Michael Douglas, who as Gordon Gekko came to symbolise a Wall Street where “greed is good”.
The Tories were impressed. The week before last the Shadow Chancellor had another meeting with the moviemaker’s team. By then the Robin Hood tax had 140,000 followers on Facebook — more than the supporters of all the political parties combined. Mr Osborne developed what Curtis’s Baldrick would call a cunning plan. Although he thought a transactions tax was too complicated, he made clear he supported the principles of the campaign. The result was the proposal for a unilateral bank levy, announced by Mr Cameron on Saturday.
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