This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Building Britain's Future

The Prime Minister’s package of reforms that he announced today, “Building Britain’s Future”, is good stuff.

It has been attacked for containing ‘rehashed ideas’ but it does establish clear dividing lines with the Tories and there is an attempt at the ‘vision thing’ in it.

Importantly, it is an opportunity to move away from the economy and get back to reforming the public services which have been understandably neglected over the last year.

The parts I liked included:

• The mandatory training or employment for every young person who has been out of work for a year

• Training or a school place for each 16 or 17 year old

• An energy bill which pledges support for 4 CCS demonstration projects

• Extra investment in housing with a focus on new council build; and

• Reform of the House of Lords

All of this was positive and right.

However, I still think that the Government’s strategy of going into the next election with an offer of Labour investment versus Tory cuts is fundamentally wrong. I don’t think it is going to wash with the British public.

We have a £140 billion debt. Our public finances have taken a battering. Everyone knows this. It is isn’t credible or truthful to go into the next election saying that we’re going to carry on spending at the same level as we are doing now.

We all know that there will be tough choices ahead and yes indeed, some cuts. Wouldn’t it be better for Labour to be honest about this? Draw a line in the sand with 4 or 5 key things that we will defend like new Sure Start centres and then tell the British public where the sacrifices will be made.

I would start with Trident and ID cards for one. Both are totally unnecessary, have clear alternatives and would save us billions. It isn’t too late to do this and still be believed.

The political journos and the Westminster village might worry about u-turns but all the British public are concerned about is making the right decision. On this, I think the public would reflect and think the Government had got it right.

If we just start telling people that the Tories will cut 10% across the board, we face the danger that the public might actually think this a good idea. I don’t know anyone who would like to see their taxes increased as an alternative. It simply isn’t a good enough argument to vote Labour.

And while Brown had a good day today so did Cameron. I know some people think this is a problem for the Tory leader, but I think he is most effective when he is angry.

At the press conference he gave this morning he was asked about the debate over Labour investment and Tory cuts and he replied:

"I don't care what the government does any more. They can announce cuts, they can announce increases, they can set out whatever they want. Set the whole thing to music and do a karaoke. I have lost faith in a prime minister who stands up and says black is white. We will make our own decisions about what's right for the country."

This was powerful, brutal, elegant and steely stuff. If Mandelson saw this he should worry.

It just goes to show you that even when Labour has good news days, Cameron now has the power to effectively hijack our coverage.

Today was a good start for Brown after the tumultous last few weeks but we are not even close to being out of the woods yet. He must know this.


Anonymous said...

agree with lots of this. the difficulties for Labour are that there may not be four or five key themes/things that Labour is currently capable of articulating as part of a vision of the kind of society it wants to help build. Surestart has been a great success and doers the Party great credit - but it is not going to turn on middle england, particularly. And few people know about it.
Even the social housing boost was a cynical ploy by Brown to try and buy off the left.
Why wasn't it done five years ago?
All is political expediency.
However, Labour's greatest difficulty is that it is simply not believed anymore. Brown's agendsa yesterday merely contributed to the picture of a dissembling, dishonest man/party who will say and do anything to hang on to power.
Brown's campaign against Blair and his overweening personal ambition and downright nastiness have come back to haunt him.
Labour could go into the next election, saying "look, this is all going to be incredibly difficult, some painful decisions are going to have to be made particularly abour public spending and some people will get hurt. But you can trust us to make fair, good decisions which decent people will support. We will do our utmost to protect the most vulnerable, the most needy, those who suffered the most and have slipped to the bottom of the pile during the last ten years (when we were having our doomed love-in with the City abnd the financial markets."
Except it wouldnt be believed and no one would trust Brown to run a whelk stall. Much less to take honest, decent fair decisions. He would be calculating the size of the short-term headline in the Daily Mail before he made any decision.

Alex Finnegan said...

Fantastic comment - thanks.

I was trying to be as positive and non critical as I could be but I hear what you say completely.

It's about not believing the messenger, isn't it? Well, we have made our decision on this so I think we go with this message anyway and hope that some people will buy it some where.

Alex Finnegan said...

I agree though that it doesn't seem likely.