Thursday, August 11, 2011

Labour's Riots Blame Game Tactic Turns Toxic

Ed Miliband has recently proven he is more wily than he's been given credit for in the past.

His opportunistic harrying of Cameron over Hackgate was politically very effective. He correctly assessed the mood of the public and demanded decisions and action faster than a Prime Minister burdened with actual responsibility could deliver. It made him look like he was leading the debate. He was lucky that the media (most of which backed Labour's politically motivated anti-Murdoch agenda but for commercial reasons) mostly glossed over Miliband's hypocrisy and inconsistency on the subject. He emerged from the Hackgate scandal in a stronger position as Labour leader. It now looks likely he'll not be replaced anytime soon.

But Miliband couldn't play the same game when the riots broke out. There's no doubt he'd loved to have gone with the "PM's on holiday in Tuscany and is out of touch with the suffering of the nation" line but, sadly for him, he was also on holiday. So that line was somewhat muted.

Instead, when he and Harriet Harman returned from holiday early, they decided on a strategy to blame the Tories for the rioting and looting that had, by now, spread around London and into other English cities. But wily Miliband has been careful to leave the explicit statement of this line to his lieutenants. Harman's brazen outburst on Newsnight on Tuesday was the clearest example if it, closely flowed by Diane "private school is ok for my kids but not yours" Abbott, last night.

Miliband was right to test the water via his underlings first. It's gone down like a lead balloon with the public, who want to see a strong and robust response to the criminals who have been perpetrating the vandalism and theft, not weak excuses made for party political gain. The whole tactic is turning toxic for Labour exposing, as it does, their preponderance to see every event as an opportunity to score party political points. That's not to say that there aren't serious political issues to discuss. But the petty accusations that we've heard (such as riots only occur under Tory governments, spending cuts (that haven't happened yet) are to blame and tuition fees (that have yet to increase)) are clearly not intended to help cast light on the real root causes of the trouble but to advance the cause of the Labour party.

Again, today, Miliband has been careful not to make petty party political points in Parliament. Let's hope he now abandons the whole tactic and insists on his troops showing a bit more sensitivity and common sense from now on.


  1. "Spending cuts (that haven't happened yet?)" What planet are you living on? Of course spending cuts are to blame for the riots. Tottenham has the highest rate of unemployment in London (twice the national average) and eight out of thirteen youth centres have closed. Add inequality, police violence and racism into the mix and you go a long way to explaining what has been happening to our young people that now have no chance of an education, a job or a future.

  2. I'm living in the real world. A world where none of the people involved in rioting had been affected by the cuts or tuition fee increases Harman linked to their behaviour. Because they haven't happened yet.

    Yes, there are some tough times ahead as the coalition attempts to reduce the national deficit. EMA will be reformed, tuition fees will be going up, alongside many other painful changes that will affect all sections of society. Such is the extent of state dependency in this country. So, a more valid question would have been, how can we mitigate the risk of further disturbances when the cuts do start to bite? But that's not the question Harman was asking. She wants to link these riots to this government, despite the fact that any economic or opportunity deprivation can not be laid at the door of a government that's been in for just over a year. If we want to indulge in Harman style finger pointing we could ask who has had 13 of the past 14 years in power to resolve these issues of deprivation? But, I believe the problems go back much further than that and no party has done enough when given power to sort them out.

    Youth unemployment has been a problem for years. It's not something that's popped up since we've had a Tory PM as much as you'd like to believe it.

    Let's have a grown up debate about the causes and avoid the silly point scoring we've seen from Harman, Abbott and Livingstone.