This has been one of the weirdest 10 days or so in politics for some time, and pretty much all of the bad stuff has happened to the Tory led coalition government.
The Budget was always going to be a toughie for George Osborne – but because everyone knew that, to an extent the disharmony arising from it was likely to have been discounted by the spin doctors in advance. So the Tory press were at the ready, ready to tell us what a good job he’d done, protecting the most vulnerable in a time when nothing he did was going to please many people, but he’d done his best – blah blah …
It didn’t happen though.
He made a public relations catastrophe out of cutting the 50p tax rate (even though it’s deferred a year, even though it’s almost an article of faith for Tory rank & file, and even though it’s quite obviously been a hand grenade with a long fuse lobbed by Gordon Brown in the dying days of the Labour Government, designed to cause maximum embarrassment to the Tories).
Catastrophe number two – the Granny tax – minor adjustment leaving old people worse off – Most people didn’t really understand it – but the perception that the Tories value millionaires over poor pensioners (some pensioners are millionaires too by the way) did not go down well.
And of course Pasty-gate. A relatively minor alignment of an anomaly in VAT – should have been able to have been broken in gently, should have gained fairly little attention, but no – it again emphasises the crass prioritisation of the needs of people who lunch at the Savoy Grill, over those who grab a snack from Greggs in their 30 minute lunch break, and then goes viral – helped in no small part by the laughably pathetic attempts to justify all their moves by the Tory spokespeople who were wheeled out. The arguments about who ate which pasty where, only serving to make the whole thing – and the whole government look more and more ridiculous, and by inference totally incompetent and unable to manage their own public image. The fact that probably the biggest losers as well will not be pasty-munchers, but the entrepreneurial owners of fast food sellers such as Greggs, was again not lost on the Tory press.
Then there’s the Dosh for Dinner with Dave debacle. There we are with the Tory treasurer caught in the act, pretty much with his metaphorical pants down. He knows the jig is up, and he walks, but it doesn’t stop the rest of the senior Tories (minus the PM of course who’s too scared to show his face) frantically trying to defend an undefendable position by doing what ? Well by blaming Labour of course !
Oh yeah, this isn’t about selling your policies to the highest bidder, it’s about Labour getting all that money from the unions. Those big bad unions ruled by unaccountable despots who pay the Labour party to do what they want.
Well actually no it’s not, and the public for once aren’t falling for it, and to their credit neither are the normally sycophantic Tory press – Labour was formed by the Unions, donations to Labour are effectively the aggregation of the many thousands of large donations from working people which are passed to the party - and they still add up to only a fraction of the sums handed to the Tories by their wide boy spiv friends.
Then comes the biggest own goal – Francis Maude, who uses a strike ballot and an up-coming bank holiday as an excuse to panic the whole country into hoarding petrol. Despite the fact that there’s been no strike called, nothing to suggest an imminent strike, and it being very unlikely that one can be called before the holiday weekend.
Throw into that the fact that Unite are quietly and methodically inviting the employers to get in touch with Acas in order to mediate a settlement, and have published their ballot details – which are absolutely overwhelming and on a huge turn out, and the Government starts to look very foolish in deed.
So when in a hole, what do they do ?
Naturally they do what they’ve been trained to do : Blame the mess that Labour left.
Except this time it’s not being swallowed by anyone – even The Mail and The Telegraph are now openly criticising David Cameron and his chaotic management of what isn’t really any kind of crisis, but has turned into something that looks very much like one. The pantomime that’s ensued is reminiscent of the sleazy comic chaos of the worst parts of John Major’s government. A state of affairs that led in no small part to Labour’s landslide 1997 General Election victory under Tony Blair.
So a by-election in a safe North of England seat should be signed sealed and delivered at the end of all this stuff shouldn’t it ?
It was George Galloway that won it – the same creepy egotist that sucked up to Saddam Hussein and Rula Lenska’s outstretched hand.
So how did that happen then ?
A shift in the Muslim vote? a misunderstanding of the depth of feeling over Afghanistan ? George’s brilliant oratory skills (please – it’s just not true)
Well I don’t really know – but what I do know is that it could only happen if Labour hadn’t royally messed up.
What we have is a Government that is as unpopular as Thatcher’s ever was, as chaotic and sleazy as John Major’s government ever were. More than that though – where Margaret Thatcher’s unpopularity in some quarters was unbounded. It was matched by hero worhip in others. There’s no such mandate for David Cameron – he didn’t even manage an overall majority. Even the Tories don’t like him.
In contrast to Thatcher, The Cameron government sneaks in right wing ideological change in the guise of sorting out a fictitious “mess” left behind by Labour, or on a pretext of austerity. Margaret Thatcher didn’t do that – she said what she was going to do, and she went ahead and did it – to applause and boos in roughly equal measure.
In Dave Cameron’s pantomime though there are only boos – even his loyal Tory Press are now rounding on the Government incompetence.
Which makes it all the more worrying that Labour can’t hold on to a safe seat.
So at the end of this almost unprecedented period of British politics, I have unfortunately got to conclude that our leadership in the Labour Party is not delivering.
Ed Miliband – I will always be loyal to the party leader, and wish that the rest of the party would be too; but the Bradford West by election is one which Labour should and could have won. The conditions for victory could scarcely have been more favourable for the party.
So Ed, I think you really need to do something very dramatic now to inject momentum into the party’s fortunes. I don’t know what form that should take – but if we approach the General Election with the same kind of leadership that we approached the Bradford West by election , then we will probably lose it.
There are probably lots of lessons from the Bradford by-election – but one that is clear is this : However badly the Tories and Lib Dems mess up, and however un popular they are, it’s still no guarantee that Labour will benefit.
Please Ed. Get it sorted.
- Why conventional Westminster wisdom is wrong about Bradford (liberalconspiracy.org)
- Bradford West By-election (wmmbb.wordpress.com)
- Bradford West by-election: 5 initial thoughts on an astonishing result (libdemvoice.org)
- How Labour lost Bradford West (newstatesman.com)
- +++ Labour crashes to sensational Bradford West by-election defeat to George Galloway (libdemvoice.org)
- Pasties and a 250 G Sting (hopisen.com)
- We don’t need George: we have hope (burdzeyeview.wordpress.com)
- Why the odds are against a Tory majority (newstatesman.com)
- Galloway stuns Labour in Bradford West (newstatesman.com)
- George Galloway – The Bradford Spring (olivermeredithcox.wordpress.com)