Imagine your favourite philosophy don stumbling into the junior common room one morning by mistake, and picking up, for the first time in his life, a copy of The Sun newspaper. I cannot prove it, but this is what (I can't help feeling) happened to John Redwood all those years ago. He has been part dazzled, part enchanted, and part bewildered by this strange populist world, and has ever since striven to be a successful part of it. But he really should have stayed at his favourite desk in the Bodleian library. He is better with footnotes than functioning policy.
Why all the digs at nice Mr Redwood? Well, this Friday he will be publishing his report on economic competitiveness for David Cameron's Conservative Party. And it seems that his election-winning strategy now revolves around slashing health and safety regulations, abolishing the independent regulators of the energy, telecoms, water and postal services, and generally leading an assault on 'red tape' which he thinks could save billions of pounds.
If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel (Dr Johnson), then 'cutting red tape' must be the death rattle of a politician with nothing better to tell us. Now, I know that are few MT readers out there who would enthusiastically sign up for more red tape.
But, of course, it depends what you mean by red tape. Health and safety rules prevent cowboys from undercutting you with dangerous practices. Similarly, the minimum wage (another bit of 'red tape' that even John Redwood doesn't dare cut) protects decent employers against the cheapskates.
If Gordon Brown thought that his good luck was about to run out, then he is in for a pleasant surprise on Friday, when TV screens and newspapers will be filled with pictures of Mr Redwood and shadow chancellor George Osborne, trumpeting the need for cuts. This should put at least another five points on Labour's poll lead, so get that bet on for an October election.
Find this article useful?
Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime