Wednesday, 15 October 2008

To Do List: 1. Save World 2.Stop Digging Hole 3. Pass the Blame...

A few short weeks ago I was predicting a near total melt down in the Labour Party's fortunes. They were all played out and the various segments of their core vote were drifting away. The Tories held an incredible 24pt lead in the opinion polls.

But Mr. Bean has been replaced by Dr. Finlay - the economic physician of choice to the Western world. Suddenly, Brownanomics is the new black throughout the chancelleries of the west. This, I submit, is a fairly bemusing development. Historians will struggle to explain it. In objective terms it might be the greatest comeback since General McArthur returned to the Philippines.

It seems to have given the government heart to begin to stop digging whilst in a hole. So we see the rapid abandonment of basically stupid policy positions- 42 days detention, key stage 3 SATS test – which only pride and unease about lurking ultra-Blairite reaction on the back benches had kept them wedded too. Sure, there are good policy specific reasons for both of these moves, but I really think what connects them is a political tactic rather than anything to do with the inherent nature of this government's attitude to either civil liberties or education. This is an attempt to regroup politically, and store up those sections of the core vote – the Guardian reading middle classes – most interested in these matters.

But the recession still looms. Inflation up to 5.2%, unemployment predicted to rise to 2 million by Christmas. Being praised by Nobel Prize winners and striding the international stage like a latter day Keynes is all well and good – but who will the electorate blame for the recession? Who, after all, was minding the shop in terms of City regulation?

The politics of the next few months will be a struggle to allocate blame. Brown and co and in a strong position in some ways - everyone understands that it is their prescription which the world is now taking and this will earn them kudos. But how convincing a story can the Tories – who have been all but invisible for a fortnight – make of the assertion that this is a home grown crisis?

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