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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Who is the real heir to Blair?
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

It might seem like an extraordinary pitch for an opposition party to make.

David Cameron and George Osborne
Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne want to continue reforms
But David Cameron seems to have a new slogan to underpin his party's apparent revival - "Vote Tory, get New Labour".

As shadow chancellor George Osborne has pointed out, there is a "growing consensus between the current prime minister and the Conservative Party".

Gordon Brown, on the other hand, remains the roadblock to reform and would break that consensus with a "lurch to the left".

So, only days after he infuriated traditional Tories by rejecting the notion that grammar schools aid social mobility - and losing a frontbencher in the process - Mr Cameron is at it again.

This time, Mr Osborne is promising a Cameron government would continue Mr Blair's drive to bring private finance and choice into the public services.

Tory clothes

Mr Cameron may reject the tag "heir to Blair" but if he carries on like this it will be an increasingly difficult line to sustain.

But perhaps this is not so extraordinary after all.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown is accused of blocking reforms

New Labour came to power with the prime minister and chancellor boasting they would stick to Tory spending plans for the first two years and, in reality, going further.

The government faced persistent claims from disgruntled Old Labourites that, in policy after policy - and particularly over public service reform - it was wearing Tory clothes. Tony Blair was the "heir to Thatcher".

So, things have come full circle, with the Tories claiming the Labour policies they want to continue on schools and the "privatisation" of the public sector were really theirs in the first place.

But there are a few questions arising from all this agreement.

First, while there may be a consensus between David Cameron and Tony Blair, does that really extend beyond them to their wider parties? There are plenty of signs from both sides that, in key areas, it does not.

However, these internal disputes may please Mr Cameron, just as they did Mr Blair when he took on and defeated his old guard, because they offer powerful symbols of change and of who is in control.

Only game

Secondly, is Gordon Brown really an old style leftie opposed to choice and who "rejects the very idea that there should be alternative providers of taxpayer funded public services" as claimed by Mr Osborne?

Tony and Cherie Blair
Mr Blair is seeking a lasting legacy
Surely, the chancellor encouraged much of the current private involvement - through the Private Finance Initiative for a start. And, in any case, he is still playing his cards close to his chest.

Lastly, and by far the most important, is there really a national consensus, echoing the old post-war consensus, that the Blair agenda is the only game in town?

That seems hard to judge one way or the other at the moment - only a general election with opposing views competing for attention could settle that one.

And that, in the end, is what all this Tory positioning must be about.

Mr Cameron and his team appear to believe, as the prime minister often states, that New Labour is setting the political agenda and addressing the problems of the 21st century.

All the Tories can do is offer modifications of that agenda. They do not want to offer a competing view - they believe that will come from Gordon Brown and voters will not like it.

As Mr Blair moves out, so they will jump onto his ground and push Mr Brown out to the left. Just the tactic Labour tried when it attempted to crowd out the Tories, leaving them only the old, right wing ground to themselves.

This all raises another question then. While Tony Blair is flying the globe desperately seeking a legacy, are the Tories planning to give it to him by winning the next general election?

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