The blame game…
We have all heard the refrain from the Government – ‘It’s Labour’s fault’. Indeed, Sooty and Sweep (David Cameron and Nick Clegg) are starting to sound more like Cartman and Kyle from the South Park movie during the song ‘Blame Canada. Of course, this is getting intensely boring for us but they are repeating it for a good reason – it works. This is for a few reasons but the big one is that election after election is showing that people in general are not sure what they want but they definitely do want somebody to blame. This is why countries are zig-zagging from centre-left to centre-right with no discernible ideological shift in toe. Eventually, when people decide the Coalition has had a fair run this strategy will become a busted-flush and may even blow-up in their faces, but we are not there yet. Incidnetally, another good reason to think that the next election will not be in 2015 – surely the mileage on this will have run out by then?
Labour’s response is uncertain and hesitant because we are not really sure what in our legacy to criticise. A few totemic issues like Iraq aside this leadership simply has not shown it has learnt the necessary lessons from our time in power – that we became way too relaxed about and subservient to the City of London. We swallowed the myth that it was the main source wealth creation in this country and did nothing to rebalance an economy which had been fundamentally unbalanced during the Conservative’s previous crack of the whip. In power, we were relaxed about the credit time-bomb caused by easy credit and wages that have become terminally depressed and when it exploded we didn’t have the right tools to fix the problem.
Part of what lies behind the blame game therefore is the desire to opportunistically funnel public frustration but a desire on our part to conceal beneath the rhetoric the very small differences between our current programme and the programme of the government. We simply don’t have a strong enough vision that stands apart from what the government – the difference in our spending programmes is a tiny £5billion as Newsnight recently reported.
Of course, there is a subtle difference in emphasis – the government emphasises austerity and we do growth and things like the ‘5 point plan’. However, again, like with the blame game this is largely smoke and mirrors – a game played to conceal the truth from the electorate. The blame game is one Labour cannot win – it could point to the real roots of the crisis in the Thatcher years and the decimation of large swathes of our productive economy – but most voters wouldn’t buy it. This is too far back for a whole generation of voters to really remember so playing that card is pretty pointless.
Instead, Labour must develop a much sharper narrative about how we would build a better world out of the ashes of the crash and counter the bitterness of the blame game with the hope of a better future. This is not only ‘the right thing to do’ but its politically sensible and would see much better polling returns. It’s a win-win for Labour. So, let’s get on it shall we?