Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Labour Manifesto 2015

Remember this date. This is the day Labour lost the UK General Election of 2015. Either by gross miscalculation, curious happenstance or the greatest piece of political chicanery this side of the Trojan Horse.

For me, it began several weeks ago. When the normally tight-fisted George Osborne, the man responsible for the UK's public finances in the UK LibCon Coalition Government these past five years, suddenly became all fairy godfather.

Previously, George had developed all sorts of reputation for squeezing public spending, cutting this, slashing that, taking milk out of babies' mouths, returning public spending to the days of Richard III. You get the picture.

Then, all of a sudden, using the admittedly rapidly improving UK economy as a foundation, he became the Dark Prince of Largesse. We will create 1,000 jobs a day. Let 2.5 million Housing Association tenants buy their own homes. Freeze rail fares. Cough up £8billion a year extra for the National Health Service. He even wrapped some of this up in something called 'Money-Back Monday.'

Look. Tories don't do things like this. And certainly not George Osborne. Whom everyone has come to hate as the man who, yes, has restored public finances and got the UK economy to the point where it is one of the fastest growing in the world, but who has put every third family into eternal servitude in order to achieve it (as the Opposition would have you believe).

I knew something was wrong. The people in charge of the Tory election campaign are dry and dour. There is a message: 'we got the economy right, Labour are economically illiterate, f**k off.' They have stuck to this message through thick and thin. Gnashing. Wailing. Screams of anguish of biblical proportion notwithstanding.

Why would they suddenly hurl caution to the wind? Toss their hard-earned reputation for fiscal rectitude in the trash can? And do it so egregiously that no-one would believe them? Now we know why. No-one would believe them.

Either someone high up in the Tory high command has an ear in the Labour camp, or someone made a brilliant deduction. That Labour would try to change its colors in the middle of the election campaign.

For, while the Tories have stubbornly stuck to the script of financial correction and economic healing these past five years, Labour, at every turn, have offered only one prescription for the woes following the Great Recession: borrow more and spend our way back to economic growth.

Never once have Labour sought to borrow the clothes of Tory financial prudence - until this morning. And no-one will believe them now.

Miliband is trying to do a Blair, who, in the run-up to the 1997 General Election, attempted (successfully) to undo the harmful reputation Labour had built for itself during the Seventies and Eighties, as being a socialist advocate of near total economic incompetence.

The difference was this. First, Blair achieved his turnaround before the General Election of 1997. Not during it. Secondly, he accompanied the change in tack with apologies for previous Labour mistakes. Miliband has never truly apologized for the mess his party (he was a Cabinet Minister) handed over in 2010.

So, this about-turn by Miliband was likely to be viewed with some suspicion in any event. But, due to the antics of the Tories in the past few weeks, it will now be met with utter ribaldry.

You see, the Tories have it both ways. On the one hand, their mouths have been seen to utter words like 'rail fare freeze,' 'more money for NHS.' People don't forget that. They might disbelieve. But their minds will do that Ricky Gervais thing: no, not the Tories; but they went on telly and said it; no, not George; but he was on Andrew Marr ...

And yet, if you watch the Andrew Marr interview with Osborne very closely, especially now in the context of this morning's Labour Manifesto, you ever so gently begin to wonder if Osborne isn't taking the piss.

So, on the one hand, the Tories uttered the words. For whatever it is worth. At the same time, we all know the Tories have improved the economy. There will be more tax revenues. There have been savings. The money is there. We just all thought they would be putting it in a grand piggy bank. Not giving any back. But they could.

Nevertheless, we're still pretty sure it's unlikely. Oh c'mon. We know our George. Come the day after the election. He'll bury that key to the piggy bank deep in the set of Game of Thrones And we'll never see it again. Gotta love him. But at least Junior's got a job. We all have a good chuckle (maybe?), and move on ...

Then. Boom! Labour come out and do the same thing. Change colors. But in reverse. And the electorate, now primed by the Tories, get the point and collapse in helpless laughter. OMG. They're doing it too. Brilliant!

In other words, by taking the piss (maybe?), by spending a couple of weeks egregiously acting like Labour on steroids, the Tories have completely undermined Miliband's oh-so-serious, seeming conversion to Tory fiscal principles.

But there is one crucial difference between the two parties' respective cross-dressing. George having a tease (maybe?) is sort of harmless fun. If he doesn't do what he says, meh.

Labour's change of clothes is potentially more harmful. Promising fiscal rectitude, and then not delivering (cf. same promise in 1997; fast forward to mess in 2010), could destroy the economy - again. This ain't quite so hilarious. And I think ordinary folk will see the difference.

Plus, add in this bit of electoral calculation. Droves of Tory supporters aren't going to abandon their party because one of their leaders has said they are going to pledge £8billion more to the NHS.
Droves of socialists will desert the Labour Party, for the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru, if they seriously believe Labour just became Tory-lite.

My prediction? As a consequence? Labour's polling figures will now freeze at about 31%. The Tory share will gently rise to about 35%. And that is what the actual vote will show on May 7. As for the rest, only memoirs will tell us if this was an amazing confluence of co-incidence, or a move of pure political genius ...