Thursday, 17 May 2012

'Work harder': the worst political line in the world


William Hague (above) is a good Minister. Clever, articulate, hard-working and insightful, he would make a good Prime Minister. Place on one side his disastrous reign as the Conservatives' actual leader, and his CV is just about as good as you get.

So why on earth did he just say 'work harder' when asked about the reasons for the continuing recession? 

So now, as Zoe Williams has it today in The Guardian, government ministers say: 'it's all your fault, voters and businesses'. So... leave aside the banking crisis, which then became a sovereign debt crisis, which then transmogrified into a crisis of the European single currency, which now threatens to bring down the European banking system.

It's all your fault. Do that extra hour's overtime. Get up an hour earlier.

This is just about the worst political line I've ever heard. Not only does it make no sense - it's demonstrably untrue - but it's the political equivalent of vomiting on citizens' collective carpets. Other Ministers have even compounded the fault. Instead of saying 'oh yes, that was an unguarded remark, sorry', they've piled in behind the Foreign Secretary.

What next? Strangling puppies on prime time TV? No wonder Ed Miliband chose to go with this issue at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday.

Though this approach has a historical precedent. Remember Normal Lamont and his ill-fated 'je ne regrette rien' remark at the Newbury by-election of spring 1993? That didn't chime with the voters either. At a moment when, for the first time, more voters say they'd like a Miliband-led Labour government than a Cameron-led Tory one, you'd think senior politicians would be more cautious. Not that caution is this government's watchword.

Why do they do it? I think our leaders sometimes think such talk makes them look hard. Worldly. Practical. Tough. Actually, it creates a very dangerous impression, and one with which Labour is making hay: that they're 'out of touch'.

Memo to Ministers: don't blame citizens. Blame bankers, the Euro (more on this tomorrow), 'world economic conditions' and the credit drought. A better slogan than 'work harder' would be: 'go out and borrow and spend'. But that wouldn't fit in with the wider prescription for our demand-strapped economy, now would it?

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