It’s the economy stupid…..
Sunny Hundal and Mark Ferguson have both come up with different answers to this question. Personally, I was a bit aghast that, at the last Prime Ministers Questions before a crucial set of elections, Ed Miliband split his questions 4/3 in favour of Jeremy Hunt on the day it was officially confirmed Britain was back in recession. I agree more with Mark than Sunny. Sunny’s basic premise is that Labour is right to focus on Hunt because;
this issue captures Labour’s case against this government.
However, even if this was true then it is pretty pointless illustrating this case with an example that most people, frankly, don’t care about. It is awfully interesting to politico’s but not so much so to the wider populace and at times like this we do have to remember how distinct we can be, as committed and interested activists, from the general population. We don’t have three heads but we are more interested in things like Huntgate than the man on the street. For example, how many people have, since this scandal broke, said on the doorstep, ‘you know what really bothers me is Jeremy Hunt still being in government’? My money is on not many, if any. This is because people have far more pressing things to worry about, like struggling to pay their bills, whether they will have a job in a few months time, whether, if they fall ill, the NHS will be there for them, etc, etc. Sunny is wrong because banging on about Jeremy Hunt makes us look as out of touch as we claim the government is and totally remote from peoples everyday concerns. I think Hunt should go, I think its the right ‘line’ to call for his resignation but I don’t think our leader was right to split his questions with a majority on hunting the Hunt.
It shows we have not moved beyond picking up protest votes into the necessary territory of cohering an election winning majority. Furthermore, it comes with the serious implication that we have nothing of substance to say on the economy (and that’s why we don’t talk about it). Our economic message is, in fact, still one of a protest Party, not a governing one. No doubt this is why polling consistently finds Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, somewhat incredibly, still ahead when it comes to the question of who people most trust to run the economy. Labour is performing well in the polls and will indeed, I believe, perform well in at least the local election section of this Thursday’s elections, however, polling numbers like the one just cited clearly illustrate what a castle in the sky this lead actually is. People are, broadly speaking, saying they will vote Labour out of annoyance with the government, not a belief we should actually govern. Solidifying this sky castle is Labour’s most urgent priority if it wants to win the real election and returning to power. Focusing on Jeremy Hunt will not do that, in fact, it will only make the sky castle even more insubstantial in the long-run.