When I saw this headline last night, I thought, that’s it. I’ve had enough. None of the work that was done to understand why people don’t vote Conservative, or on policy that was based on evidence, has sunk in and we’re back to panicking and knee-jerking and pandering.
There is an excellent (if rather unedifying) reason that the Tories attack Labour on grounds of not having learnt the lessons of their failures in government, of being in hock to the unions, and of being unable to handle the economy. It is that (if done properly, and if Labour play along by not showing anything different) it works, because it plays into the stereotypes that people have about them.
So given that people still think of Tories as being only in it for their rich friends, of being careless about others, of being uninterested in making life better for everyone, it would seem obvious that the party should do all it can to prove that none of that is true, and that the fundamentals of why and what the point of modernising was still hold. Because it worked – as Tim’s very interesting chart which I wrote about on Friday shows, the social focus of the early change worked.
I wrote in mid-2007, in a very early post, about the dangers of zig-zagging and the need for strategic clarity. I also, around the same time, wrote about the need to address the full spectrum of policy areas. And for years I have been banging on about the need to actually make a difference, to deliver what was promised, to stop pandering to vested interests (of whatever kind), to ensure that people understood what we were doing and why, and perhaps most importantly of all, to implement policies that actually have an outcome that we desire, rather than just for the sake of doing something.
As I have said before, simply locking criminals up does not do anything other than postpone the problem. Having read the article in today’s Mail, that probably isn’t actually what the government is intending to do. But it’s what they want us to think they are going to do. And that is stupid for two reasons. Firstly that it calls into question all the good work that was done on actually fixing the problem of crime, rather than just managing it. And secondly, it suggests once again that the Tories didn’t mean it when they said they were different and understood why voters had deserted them.
Playing into the stereotypes that people have about the Conservatives is exactly what Labour want. It is part of the political dance. But people dancing on their own look pretty stupid; if the Tories stop playing along with Labour, deliver what they said they would, fulfil the promises they made, then Labour’s attacks cannot resonate because they are not based in reality.