Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Labour's attacks misfiring

Dale-o (as I like to call him) has a post today about Labour's apparent attempts to shift the focus of their attacks on David Cameron from being an out of touch toff t0 being a "nice guy" in charge of an unreconstructed right wing party. Iain thinks that this is doomed to failure.

I think it is as well because yet again, their attacks on Cameron do not resonate with the popular mood. Let's have a quick run-down of what they have tried so far:

1) They claimed he was too inexperienced. The problems with this are that he is no less experienced than Tony Blair or much of his cabinet were when they came to office in 1997.
2) They claimed he was a chameleon and that he changed his policies to suit the weather. Well, that's funny because that seems to be exactly what Tony Blair used to do, rather successfully as I recall.
3) He was Norman Lamont's "chief adviser" on Black Wednesday. This never really rang true as senior politicians have lots of advisers and it is unlikely that Cameron in his mid twenties had much influence back then. Of course, now the economy has gone down the swanny, Brown cannot use this attack anyway.
4) The Tories are a "do nothing" party. Whatever you might think of them, it cannot be plausibly claimed that they would do nothing about the recession. They have made lots of suggestions.

I don't hold any particular candle for David Cameron or the Tories but if one wants to attack him, it needs to be for things that will resonate with the public. This situation reminds me of the increasingly desperate attempts by the Tories in the run up to their 1997 election massacre to attack Tony Blair. They tried things like:

1) He is a lightweight, hence the nickname Bambi. As he imposed his will on his party via the ditching of Clause 4, they soon abandoned this link of attack.
2) He is too inexperienced (see above). I distinctly remember John Major making exactly this point. That is an argument for permanent incumbency and is therefore by definition nonsense.
3) He might be a centrist but he is leading an unreconstructed left-wing party. Sound familiar? Of course it turned out to be nonsense once they got into power. If anything New Labour have been more right-wing than most governments in this country's living history.
4) New Labour, New Danger. Once they had exhausted all other avenues they tried to frighten the electorate by painting Blair with demon eyes. A pathetic last ditch attempt. I wonder how far the current government are from trying something like this:

There was one other thing the Tories did before the 1997 election campaign which I personally thought was the worst thing they could have done. They did a party political broadcast which was based around the at that point hypothetical election of Labour as the government and then took the viewer through what they could expect to happen. I remember after a year or two, John Prescott would resign from the government and lead a huge backbench rebellion or something. The huge problem with this broadcast was that it made it seem plausible that Labour could win. The Tories were saying so! The broadcast used phrases like "Prime Minister Tony Blair" and "Chancellor Gordon Brown" when they were still in opposition.

Coming back to Labour's attacks on Cameron, they (and the rest of us) need to criticise him for things that ring true. So how about this lot for starters (I appreciate some of the following are being done, but they need to be done more):

1) He seems to disagree with a lot of the statements that Ken Clarke makes.
2) Boris Johnson in office is now displaying what the Tories will be like on green issues once in office. He has already scrapped the extension of the congestion charge and there have been threats to the existing one also.
3) Shadow Ministers have far too many outside interests (especially William Hague) and are not taking their positions as a shadow cabinet seriously.
4) He promised to change the alignment of his party in Europe but has still not done so. This is a good one to niggle at because there are a lot of Eurosceptics in his party who are angry about this. Also, it is an example of a broken campaign promise, could this be portentous of what is to come?

There are lots more things like this but I reiterate, they have to ring true. Not for the first time, Brown's supposedly razor sharp political antennae seems to have been found wanting.

Edited to correct a couple of spelling mistakes.

No comments: