Monday, January 17, 2011

Ed's Spin Is Taking Off But In The Wrong Direction

Back on 19th December, The Observer reported that Ed Miliband had instructed his shady, sorry, shadow cabinet not to refer to the government as a coalition but as "Conservative-led". The idea is that left leaning LibDems would hear this description and immediately believe their party had no influence on government policy and that they were merely being used by the evil Tories to cling unto power while they implement terrible right wing policies that would make Maggie Thatcher vomit.

The enormous din caused by the whining and gnashing of teeth by a growing number of actual right wing Tory backbench MPs wouldn't be enough to jolt these gullible liberals back to reality, Labour's spin Meisters calculated, and the poor deluded souls would rush into Little Ed's arms gratefully; forgetting how he had absolutely no interest in them during the LD/Labour talks following the General Election hung result, just a few months ago. Recent polls a the Old & Sad by-election suggest this may well have worked, for now anyway.

It seems Ed's little sound bite is catching on. I'm see "Conservative-led" popping up all over the place. And not just in/on the slavish followers of Labour's communication machine that you'd normally expect, like The Guardian, Mirror or BBC; but also in the Telegraph, Mail and Times recently. I suspect each journalist has his or her own reason for adopting the term - Labour supporters wanting to turn LibDems, right wingers wanting to bring down the coalition or reduce the influence of the LibDems, etc... But whoever uses it is likely to have the objective of weakening the coalition in one way or another. So, watch out for who's using the term as it's a useful (if not quite 100% accurate) method of spotting an underlying political motive behind a reporters/experts view that may be presented as independent or unbiased.

To be honest, I'm not convinced left leaning LibDems needed this kind of sub-concious Derren Brownesque trick to be convinced that they'd be happier with Labour. Many were disaffected Labour supporters or even old SDP (i.e. like David Owen - disaffected Foot-era Labour) supporters. They believe that there is a left wing majority out there in the electorate and this deal with the Tories is an anathema to them. They really have nowhere else to go other than to Labour. Sadly, for them, their left wing majority theory is proving hard to prove, if the polls are to be believed. Labour still can't achieve anywhere near 50%, despite being the only choice for the left now. And this despite the incredibly unpopular decisions this government has had to take.Things will get worse for the government in the next couple of years, but Labour really should be doing better now if the majority of Britain's are natural leftists. The coalition partners will hope that support will return in the final year or so of the parliament. If things are brighter economically then than now, that's not a bad bet.

We are seeing a realignment of party politics in this country. This is something the media is missing, in its keenness to report the demise (as they see it) of Clegg's leadership. And it's a realignment that is alienating as many right wing Tories and left wing LibDems. The realignment will only be successful if the coalition is successful. That is why there is such an unholy alliance forming around Ed's little "Conservative-led" sound bite.

Miliband's Labour and right wing Conservatives want to go back to the certainties of party politics before the General Election. Cameron and Clegg want to forge a new right of centre consensus. They calculate that, in fact, that is where the majority of votes are - not on the left but the right. I think Tony Blair and Peter Mandleson understood that too, even if they didn't fully understand right of centre politics and how to implement it effectively, they knew that was where the action is and they emulated it, to great electoral success.

So, for all Ed Miliband's sound bites and mind games, he is following a losing long term strategy by positioning Labour as the only home for the left. But in the short term, it could win out, but only if the coalition fails to survive until better economic times. If they falter, Labour would benefit by accident and the whole experiment would be lost, probably never to be attempted again. I, for one, think that would be a shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment