“Right vs wrong, not right vs left”
Politics has changed. The Prime Minister is no longer given the benefit of the doubt. So U-turns are no longer seen as pragmatic responses to public opinion but as evidence of incompetence. So I wrote in The Independent on Sunday today, and by happy chance the Sunday Times YouGov poll provides the numbers:
Asked about the recent U-turns 50% think this is a sign of weakness or incompetence, while 33% see it as a sign the government is willing to listen. This is a significant shift from when YouGov asked a similar question a year ago and people were pretty evenly split between the two answers
However, this shift is not yet mortal for the Conservatives, I suggest, and by another happy chance another pollster, this time Andrew Cooper of No 10 (pictured), pops up to provide the slides:
These numbers were indicative of ‘mid-term grumbles’ rather than anything more serious. The presentation, which he [Cooper] will be giving to all Conservative MPs over the next few months, highlighted the fact that Margaret Thatcher had far worse numbers at the equivalent moment in her first two terms and still went on to win the elections that followed. He urged the MPs to remember that the almost constant poll leads enjoyed by Tony Blair were the exception, not the rule. He also emphasised that Cameron remains ahead of Miliband on the question of who would be the best PM.
Mind you, it is all very well for me to say it; I am not so sure that Cameron’s own pollster ought to be spreading complacency quite so cheerfully.
Still, among the reasons for the Prime Minister to be cheerful are that the Labour Party seems to be engaged in opposition for opposition’s sake.
As I say in my article, the thinness of the alternative offered by Ed Miliband is disguised by the apparently large difference between Government and Opposition on the question of public borrowing. The contrast between George Osborne’s austerity and Ed Balls’s Krugman-Keynesianism seems vivid and ideological. Nasty right-wing Tory sellout Macdonaldism from the 1930s versus all that is holy and decent about Attlee, Beveridge and Keynes’s neveragainism of 1945.
Except that this dualism is fake. I cited Tony Blair; here, in my blogpost-as-footnote, is the quotation, on the subject of deficit reduction, from A Journey:
This is a judgement that is, if you like, one of right vs wrong, not right vs left. There is a need to balance the opposite impacts of deficit reduction: less overall demand, because of a contraction of government spending, on the one hand; more confidence among consumers and businesses due to reining in the deficits on the other.
At the next election the voters are more likely to decide that both the main parties have failed to get this balance right – first Labour by borrowing in the boom and then the Tory-led government by cutting too deeply – than that Osborne has got it wrong so it is time for Balls to have a go.
That is what is wrong with the “incumbents being thrown out all over Europe” thesis with which some Tories are scaring themselves. In Britain, we threw our incumbents out two years ago.Tagged in: blair a journey, david cameron, tony blair
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