Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Labour 'attack dog' is chasing its own tail

Shaun Woodward: with a butler and seven houses, is he a Tory secret agent?
I have an early Christmas present wish for this year. Namely, that this Labour leak, revealed by the Observer, is not a hoax.

Written by ex-Tory MP Shaun Woodward, its stated aims are to turn Labour's campaign towards presenting David Cameron as 'recognisably rightwing' and an 'old-style, traditional Tory.'

Apart from the cries of 'no shit Sherlock' already doing the rounds on the Comment is Free, it seems incredible to me that Labour feels it has a winning formula in attacking some of the Government's most popular policies.

According to the Observer, the prime minister is seen as having 'abandoned the centre ground' and adopted a more 'orthodox conservative' approach to law and order, immigration and welfare.

Perhaps it is his butler and several multi-million pound properties that have obscured his view but, deliciously, Woodward appears to have identified the three policy areas that chime the most with working peoples' views.

As someone who's spent a lot of time living and canvassing in a former mining town, I can say with confidence these issues - second only to the money in peoples' pockets - are of paramount concern to the ordinary voter.

They see the police as being soft on crime, particularly when drug-related, and are well aware of the sea of paperwork drowning their local bobbies. They were egging on the Government to use water cannon against the rioters and are also intelligent enough to see immigrants being drafted in to fill job vacancies that Housing Association idlers next door can't be bothered to do. They're sick of working hard for very little while some people watch Sky all day with their taxes.

Or perhaps it's an inside job? Perhaps Woodward has, in fact, been a Tory spy all these years, giving a helping hand to an already feckless party by destroying itself from within? After all, he himself concedes:

There are fears that some of the rightwing rhetoric employed by the government in recent months may chime with large sections of the public, as it did in the 1980s during Margaret Thatcher's premiership.

Now why could that be? Margaret Thatcher was an immensely popular prime minister for two reasons. One, because of her handling of the economy. Two, because she was - at least in her first two terms - remarkably in tune with public opinion. To say she was a populist would be unfair, but she knew what people wanted and what was important to them.

Labour's refocus, therefore, represents something of an ideological defeat. They know people dislike the Government for cuts being imposed on local councils but have abandoned this line of attack because they still lack a credible alternative. And, since the US had its credit rating downgraded, their argument has lost whatever little force it had.

This is doubly good news as, like Tim Montgomerie said on the Today programme this weekend, Cameron will be judged primarily on his handling of the economy in 2015. The rest is all gravy.

Thanks to Mishap Miliband, however, that could turn out to be very tasty gravy indeed.

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