OneStat.com Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): CAMPAIGN ROUND-UP: LABOUR

Thursday, May 05, 2005

CAMPAIGN ROUND-UP: LABOUR

Labour's campaign was based upon focussing the electorate's mind on how much they hate the Tories. They lied and misrepresented Conservative policy throught. They deployed cynical slogan after cynical slogan to invoke big bad ogres. They relied upon largely healthy current headline figures for the economy. As a result they will most likely win. Tony Blair made a big point of praising the "niceness" of the Liberals but saying they wouldn't make the tough decisions. Much of middle England, I would suggest, is the same. They haven't yet felt the pinch of economic instability and decline to motivate them to put up with economic toughness from an alternative. They won't make the hard decisions about what has to happen to shore up the economy in advance until they feel the bite - by then it will be too late and people will suffer. Labour have been lucky though, for they have proclaimed the health of the economy and nobody from the political body has challenged this orthodoxy.

I honestly cannot name a single policy which Labour is keen to or plans to push through in the next Parliament. Vital decisions on really quite important and sensitive issues such as the pension shortfall, what will happen with local taxation and housing revaluations, how he will fund the black hole in the economy having promised not to raise income tax or, now, national insurance. Even the manifesto is hugely inaccessible. There is a myriad of meaningless soundbites and platitudes but no tough policy, no serious proposals. I feel, therefore, entitled to ask how they feel anybody can trust them to lead an elective dictatorship when they are so vague on a programme for action - although given their previous contempt for manifesto pledges this is, perhaps, not so great a problem.

The real story of the Labour campaign was the return of Gordon Brown, surely now Prime Minister in waiting. What that signals is a real concern in the Labour camp when the election was called that the Tory resurgence would continue, with the opposition highlighting important and different issues at the start of each week. This lead to the demonisation of the Conservatives as the key strategy, and the depiction of Blair+Brown as a kindly and dynamic pair, who were, despite everything, pretty straight kinds of guys. This has meant Labour can continue, in the minds of the many, to offer responsible government with a heart which isn't going to unduly harm their pockets, even though they don't like aspects of its behaviour. They have succeeded, therefore, in painting the Tories as heartless, and, to a lesser extent, unlikely to be any different in terms of how much of their money members of the electorate will be allowed to keep.

I wish I could say more, but this must surely be the least inspiring and least visionary campaign ever by a governing party. We have heard nothing about a plan for the future, merely the repeated assertion that Labour will continue "forward", alongside contrasts with horrible alternatives. New Labour has come of age as a managerial marketing fad. The fascinating challenge for Labour is whether this is sustainable if a downturn approaches; and if it's not what they do. For now though, it's the short-term economy, stupid.

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