Even within the Labour Party, people sometimes ask why I keep banging on about the need to keep banging on about the government’s record.
The last 24 hours have shown the reason.
Imagine that when he was avoiding answers to serious policy questions in Manchester yesterday, David Cameron had suddenly piped up that he was gettting rid of the NHS. You do not need to think too long or hard before having a clear sense of what the outcry would be.
Why? Because the NHS is now woven into the fabric of our national life, has helped millions of people, and is so popular despite things sometimes going wrong that the Tories do not dare go against its basic principles even though many on the right would like to.
It is also in such a strong position because ever since its inception Labour people have never stopped expressing their pride in such a wonderful creation.
I am not going to pretend that Sure Start or the New Deal are in the same league. They are nonetheless important developments brought in by this Labour government, which have had a beneficial impact on many people’s lives, in the main the kind of people that David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson do not really know because they tend to mix with their own type.
Yet these people, wealthy, elitist, and bizarrely possessed of the notion that they could run the country, can talk happily about cutting such schemes and – in part because our top media people tend not to mix with the Sure Start and New Deal people either – this comes and goes with barely a whimper.
The fault for this cannot all be laid at the door of the media however, or even of the Tories who not surprisingly would like to be back in government after so many years out of power. The fault also lies with Labour politicians and supporters for failing to do enough to set out the record in such a way that when VacuDave and Co come along to dismantle it, there is a huge and genuine outcry.
And that is why defending the record matters. Of course elections are about the future. But the past is always important as an indicator of what the future may hold. The Tories opposed the New Deal because as they showed in the global financial crisis they do not believe governments can make a difference when it comes to creating jobs (which is why all his welfare reform wafffle is so implausible). These are the people who said the minimum wage would cost two million jobs. Another part of the record that has to be defended against them.
Sure Start to them is some kind of Statist interventionist interference in the running of family life. They just do not get it, which is why it means nothing to them to say whey they would get rid of it.
And when Boris comes out with his ideas for £5 billion worth of cuts, he does so mindful only of their impact within the Tory Party as he lines himself up to take on Cameron at some point. He could not give a toss about their impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
Labour has a good record. Defending it between now and an election is a vital part of getting in the right shape to fight that election. It is important for what it says about us. Their desire to dismantle so much of it underlines what it says about them.