Why do people still believe the Conservatives are more likely to raise their living standards than Labour, even though they understand that they have become worse off over the last five years?
Why do political commentators brand Ed Miliband a “useless” leader, when even former Torygraph stalwart Peter Oborne has admitted he has been responsible for extraordinary successes and has challenged the underlying structures which govern Westminster conduct?
Let’s look at the first claim, courtesy of the latest Mainly Macro article by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis. He makes it clear from the start that people are being denied the facts; otherwise the economy would be the Conservative Party’s weakest point in the election campaign.
Look at the evidence: Since 2010 we have endured the weakest economic recovery for at least 200 years, with a steady fall in real wages (masked in average figures by the huge pay rises awarded by fatcat bosses to themselves). “The government’s actions are partly responsible for that, and the only debate is how much,” writes the Prof. “Living standards have taken a big hit.”
He continues: “There is no factual basis for the view that the Conservatives are better at managing the economy, and plenty to suggest the opposite. However this belief is not too hard to explain. The Labour government ended with the Great Recession which in turn produced a huge increase in the government’s budget deficit. With the help of mediamacro, that has become ‘a mess’ that Labour are responsible for and which the Conservatives have had to clean up.
“The beauty of this story is that it pins the blame for the weak recovery on the previous government, in a way that every individual can understand. Spend too much, and you will have a hard time paying back the debt.”
It’s a myth; the facts disprove it easily – so the Tories avoid the facts at all costs.
But why be concerned, if Ed Miliband is such an awful excuse for a Labour Party leader. Didn’t David Cameron describe him as “weak” and “spineless” to Scottish Conservatives only a fortnight ago?
Not according to Peter Oborne. Writing in The Spectator, he has praised Miliband because he “has been his own person, forged his own course and actually been consistent”.
Oborne praises Miliband for “four brave interventions, each one taking on powerful establishment interests: the Murdoch newspaper empire, the corporate elite, the foreign policy establishment and pro-Israel lobby… There is no doubting Mr Miliband’s integrity or his courage.
“Opposition is an essential part of British public life. Oppositions have a duty to challenge government and to give the electorate a clear choice. Ed Miliband has done precisely this and yet he has been written off. Does this mean that no opposition dare offend the big vested interests that govern Britain? Is this really the politics we want?”
It’s the politics the Conservative Party wants.
Professor Wren-Lewis notes that Miliband’s opinion poll ratings are low “because most people just see unglamorous pictures of him and note that he does not have that Blair appeal.
“That could be changed if they saw him in a one on one debate with Cameron, so there was never any chance that the Conservatives would let this happen. The debates last time had huge audiences, so no one can dispute that democracy has been dealt a huge blow as a result of what the FT rightly calls Cameron’s cowardice.”
He goes on to say that Cameron’s refusal to debate one-on-one with Miliband is “a key test” for the media, with Cameron counting on them letting his spin doctors dictate what people are allowed to see.
If that is true, then it seems Cameron has miscalculated.
Broadcasters have said the three TV general election debates planned for April will go ahead, despite Cameron saying he will take part in only one.
“It means Mr Cameron – who has rejected a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband – could be ’empty-chaired’,” according to the BBC. Perhaps they really will put a blue chicken on the podium, as was suggested on this blog yesterday!
Perhaps the broadcasters were provoked by Cameron’s claim that they were the ones responsible for what he called the “chaos” surrounding the TV debates, when it is clear that he has been responsible for delays and indecision.
The end result is the same. Cameron has denied himself the chance to stand up and defend his record against an Opposition leader who is increasingly starting to come through as The Better Man.
Will the debates be enough to change the mind of the general public and mitigate against the mass ignorance nurtured by the Tory Press?
That will be up to Mr Miliband. If his performances in recent Prime Minister’s Questions are any indication, it should be a walkover for him.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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