Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Playing The Victim - Now It's May's Turn

After George Osborne suggested that Labour has some questions to answer over the Libor scandal that occurred while they were in power, Ed Balls switched to his highest spin setting and very successfully diverted attention from valid questions about Labour and Libor and turned the tables on the increasingly hapless Chancellor.

Balls' genius was to re-frame Osborne's question in the media's and therefore public's mind as a direct accusation against himself - Osborne hadn't suggested Labour had questions to answer, he had said Balls had directed the whole affair. Now, there's no evidence for this, so Balls is onto a winner straight away. When Barclays insinuated that the Bank of England had suggested they "low-ball" the Libor rate, Balls saw his opportunity. He knew that, whatever the strong likelihood was that ministers in the last government were aware, even complicit in, the rate fixing, there wouldn't be any trail back to him. So effective was the deeply engrained principle of "plausible-deniability" within the Labour leadership. All dodgy decisions or instructions were to have no paper or electronic trail back to a minister. Everything was kept informal and verbal. 

Mr Cooper
So when the deputy governor of the Bank of England refers to "senior Whitehall sources" everyone knows they are Labour ministers, but there's no actual proof they had anything to do with it. Great. And, perhaps they didn't. Certainly, that's what the Deputy of The Bank of England, Paul Tucker told the select committee when he appeared before them shortly after Osborne said Labour had questions to answer in an article in The Spectator. And how Balls, the BBC, the Guardian and a myriad of other left wing and not-so-left-wing-but-not-keen-on-Osborne media outlets jumped on the news. Osborne should apologise immediately. The number of times I heard BBC commentators talk as if this was a blatant truism. Osborne had accused Balls of pressurising the BoE and now his accusations have been denied (albeit by someone who would never have admitted to the charge even if he was guilty, but let's ignore that for now).

Osborne released a statement clarifying that he hadn't accused Balls of anything and this was immediately cast as a humiliating climb down. Game, set and match, Ed Balls.

Well, now the government finds itself with an opportunity, rather sweetly involving Balls' wife, to exact some revenge in a similar fashion. This time over the G4S debacle. Again, a crisis born under Labour - they signed up contracts with G4S when they were in power. Ex-Labour minister John Reid is a G4s Director - so it could easily be said that Labour have questions to answer again. But that line isn't being played very hard since Osborne's problems. No, the opportunity here is that Yvette Cooper made a quite specific allegation in the Commons that Theresa May knew before the last couple of weeks that G4S was struggling to meet it's commitments. Well, what do you know, today Nick Buckles confirmed Theresa May's account that she was only told on the 11th July.

So, where is the outcry for an apology now? I'll watch the BBC news in the morning and pick up a Guardian expecting to see the headlines dominated with the word "APOLOGISE"...

I may be disappointed.

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