.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, July 05, 2010

Accentuating the negative

Whilst I am catching up on yesterday's papers there was an intriquing article by Julian Glover in yesterday's Observer about Labour's reaction to the coalition government.

Mr. Glover argues that the two governing parties must steel themselves against the bitter rage of an ousted and out-of-touch Labour Party. He says: If hollow outrage is all Labour cares to offer, then reason and calm explanation must be the coalition's answer. Outrage fails in the end. It poisons rationality, it repels the moderate, it frightens the balanced. It lures zealots into a world where everyone inside thinks the same way and no one outside wants to enter. It is where Labour is going now.

But above all the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives must continue to explain their actions to the public:

The left is beginning to smell like sour yoghurt, a long moan against the world as it is and how the last government left it. The problem is not that Labour is heading towards interesting ideological isolation. The varied shades from pale pink to light magenta in which its serious candidates are painting themselves are not socialism. The problem is that the party is being bundled up in all sorts of shallow resentments and is assuming that the public will share this negativity.

UK politics is often characterised as a contest for the centre ground, but that misdescribes the nature of the quest. Centrism implies banality, but I don't think voters want their governments to be mundane. There is a willingness to endorse radical action if it is explained and if it looks practicable. It worked for the left under Attlee and Blair; it worked for the right under Thatcher; and it is working – so far – for this government.

That a large number of people oppose what you are doing, very strongly, can become a strength, so long as they are seen to be opposing something rooted in a kind of imperative. Eight years ago almost half a million people marched through London with the aim of blocking the hunting ban – and to their dismay, the public took the government's side. The miners' strike, the Iraq war – examples are legion. Half a million people and more will probably be marching against the budget cuts soon, and will feel just as strongly that their solidarity brings invincibility. They may be proved wrong.

Keep calm and carry on has become a cliche, but it is good advice for a government. Stay pragmatic and keep explaining, firmly, in moderate language and with courtesy. The left will howl at budget cuts that their own economic legacy makes necessary, just as the right will howl against political reform. That doesn't mean these things won't get through. The noisiest causes often fail.

There are 110 days until the spending review is published. That is not long to win people over to an understanding that the new government will be attempting a fair distribution of an unavoidable shock. But unless that case is made, the coalition endeavour cannot last.

It is a call for leadership. Let us hope that we are up to it.
The problem with the Glover approach is that it relies on the results of a few opinion polls. No one as yet knows what the reaction of the public will be to both the budget or more importantly the spending review.No as yet has been really effected by government decisions. That is to come. We are still in the phoney war period before the storm. At the moment as Jackie Ashley points out in another article it is a situation where most people seem to believe that it will be someone else who will be effected by the cuts. The reality of course except for the rich and they include most of the cabinet all of us in someway will be effected. Look at the letter from the Federation of Master Builders(hardly a Labour Party front organisation) in today's Guardian. Just watch your post bag as your constituents who are genuinely ill are hauled in to be reassessed. Who are you going to say is to blame for the cuts that you will vote through in next year's Council budget? If you are quoting from the Guardian then perhaps your next post could focus on Philip Inman's article entitled ' Private speculation rather than public profligacy is real villain of Labour years.' Labour made mistakes particularly2001 but those mistakes were no worse than any those made in other western capitalist countries. Thye would probably have been worse under a Tory government. It will be interesting to trawl through the archives for quotes from Assembly members arguing that Wales should copy,for example, the economic policies of the 'Irish Tiger' to see how it is easy to get it wrong and to be deceived by the effects of a property boom which masks the underlying weakness of an economy. There is obviously a need to redress the imbalance in the UK economy caused mainly by the effects of a world economic downturn outside of the control of most governments including the UK. Perhaps things might have been different if Paulsen hadn't allowed Lehman Brothers to go under. But we are where we are and the Labour government had a policy to reduce the deficit and make the cuts. The NIESR argues that the cut in government consumption need only be in the region of £33 billion not the nearly £100 billion demanded by Osborne and supported by the Liberal Democrats. The cuts envisaged by the Coalition government go way beyond those required for economic reasons. They are motivated by an ideology which wants to use the fall out from the economic crisis to permanantly reduce the role of the state. There is nothing wrong with that if you are a right wing Tory or a Gladstonian Liberal but I don't think that it is something that those on the left of the Liberal Party believe in. Finally let's stop this nonsense that somehow all of this is required to stop the UK becoming another Greece. The average maturity of UK debt is 14 years compared to 9 years for Germany. Whereas Greece depends on overseas finance for 70% of government debt, the UK figure is 30% less than the USA. No credit agency is seriously thinking of down grading the UK cradit rating and to imply otherwise is just another example of government spin.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?