My application to become Ed Miliband’s spin doctor
So Ed Miliband’s had a good PMQs, and all the Westminster bubble commentators, the Westminster bubble wannabee spin doctors and the Westminster bubble ex-wanabee-but-wanabee-again-soon-spin doctors are really happy that he got stuck into Cameron by exploiting the latter’s weakness in policy detail and implementation.
It’s almost as though that exactly what they thought he should do, although of course last week I think one of them thought the best way forward was to come clean about how Labour rubbish was and how great the Tories’ plans are for everything.
All of which suggests that I should be Ed Miliband’s spin doctor, because what Ed did today is pretty well what I said, about 10 months ago, that Labour should be doing, as the distiguishing features of the New Conservative regime, and Cameron in particular, started to become clear:
[W]e also know that in what I’ll term social policy – and especially that policy being developed subsequent to the election – is marked both by what often appears to be rank ignorance of what’s happening ‘in the real world’…..
The examples of these ill-considered ‘policy-on-the-hoof’ decisions are growing weekly, but include:
- Proposals to scrap Primary Care Trusts and require GP consortia to purchase care through their own (no doubt, privatized) management arrangements, despite clear evidence from the last PCT reorgsanisation and the development of GP commissioning that this approach simply will not work;
- The diversion of public funds for the Swedish Free School experiment, rushed through without proper thought and at the direct expense of existing education and planned improvements;
- Contradicting the apparently carefully thought-through and much vaunted Big Society policy by suggesting that people getting a well-paid enough job should move out of council accommodation. The inference seems to be a) that houses are not really homes, but assets; b) only those on benefits should live in council housing;
- Being apparently unaware of existing provision for refererenda on local matters of concern before setting out proposals to allow communities to vote on local housing plans, in a move highly likely to exacerbate local tensions and in a manner wholly out of keeping with the Big Society plans;
- Easy acquiescence to the car lobby over the removal of speed cameras, despite the jury being out, to say the least, on whether they save lives;
- Support for local authorities to introduce minimum alcohol pricing, despite such an approach being totally out of keeping with the ‘nudge’ theories advocated and apparently accepted by the government’s own advisors;
- An announcement presaging the end of Asbos, desirable in itself (I would argue) but taken with no consulation whatsoever with Tory (or any) local authorities who to date have made much of their use;
- Unimplementable plans for 5,000 community organizers now replaced by high-cost, civil-service backed ‘pilot schemes’ which will lead to nothing because the expense involved means that the promised ‘no cost’ approach (ridiculous in itself) is not actually being piloted;
- Broader, vacuous talk of the voluntary sector and volunteering (and the two sometimes confused) being the way forward for mainstream public service delivery, with no apparent grasp of the funding needs of the sector or the reality of volunteering.
Now, its fairly early days, but what I suggest is happening in this set of examples is start of a longer term trend for the Conservatives simply to abrogate responsibility for detailed political administration of the country, and the development of a laissez-faire attitude to what actually happens in the country beyond the Westminster village purview.
Responsibility in modern government, and the fact that the Tories cannot offer it as a result of their core beliefs and traditions, is a theme we should be keen to develop…. and this theme needs to be backed by a constant flow of stories about irresponsibility…… In the next two years, as the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer, these stories and revelations will gain ever more traction.
This ‘flow of stories’ is what Ed was doing today, and it’s what he and his frontbench team should be keeping at day in, day out.
The examples I gave back in August 2010 were from just four months into the regime – there are countless implementation cock-ups and unthought through consequences for his researchers to choose from now, all of which reflect the simple fact that Cameron doesn’t give a monkey’s about what happens in the real world.
Further, Ed and his frontbench team should be attacking Cameron (and Osborne) as individuals in a way which clearly links their ignorance about welfare reforms and people suffering from cancer, for example, to an attack on Cameron’s wider ruling elite style.
All this should be set in the context of an overall coherence of political analysis of that regime, of exactly the type I can bring to Miliband’s table, because I live outside the Westminster bubble.
I am available this week, should Ed’s team wish to talk contractual terms. I’ll leave my mobile on.