The polling reaction to the new government and the budget has been fairly positive (link opens PDF) with the previous government being blamed by half of all people surveyed for the difficult measures in the budget and a majority saying that they think the cuts are good for the economy.
Friday, 25 June 2010
At the same time Labour is vigorously attacking the government for what it is doing and also repeatedly accusing the Lib Dems of "betrayal". It feels slightly odd for the opposition to be so strongly railing against the measures being taken when the public appear to be largely behind them. The public do not like being told that they have made a huge mistake just a few weeks after they have voted.
I know that some will argue that they never voted for the coalition but they certainly did not vote for Labour to remain in power and again, look at the polling. The public is broadly in favour of the coalition.
Labour's approach reminds of the position the Tories were in after the 1997 election. They still stood up at the dispatch box and argued against what Labour were doing in government but they had been in for 18 years and had been clearly rejected by the electorate at the election. Nobody (outside of the Westminster bubble) was really listening to what they were saying and they were making the same mistakes as Labour are now, attacking a broadly popular government that the public were behind. It did them few favours in the following election where they made almost no headway.
I hope that whoever wins the Labour leadership finds a more moderate and humble tone. I get the sense that the public are starting to feel a bit exasperated with the way that the party that was in government for 13 years is attacking the new government who are clearing up the mess left behind by them. Some recognition by Labour that they did contribute to the problems rather than continuing to pretend that it was solely down to international factors beyond their control would help them and I think that then the public would be more willing to give them a fair hearing.
It took the Tories many years to accept their failings from the 1980s and 1990s and properly draw a line under them. It was only when Cameron became leader that they properly addressed them with the "detoxification" strategy. Now to be fair I do not think that Labour's brand now is as damaged as the Tory one was in 1997 but it is certainly damaged and they need to repair it.
Screeching from the opposition benches about "betrayal" is not the way to achieve that.