The coalition may have a tricky week ahead of them, but they continue to have media opinion (not to be confused with public opinion) blowing a favourable wind up their bums and into their sails.
Or, to put it more favourably for their strategists, they have done a good job in winning the battle of the political narrative.
So when 35 business leaders write a short, bland but supportive letter to the Daily Telegraph (a device which served the Tories reasonably well in the battle over national insurance before the last election) the broadcast media follow along nicely.
Yet over in The Guardian was a piece from Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which I for one found to be more detailed, better argued and, given the drift of the narrative referred to above, more newsworthy, if news is defined by that which we are not expecting. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I would hazard a bet that the business leaders (many of them hardy annual Tory supporters) have been getting more media traction than Mr Serwotka.
What I liked about his article was his challenging of the Cameron-Osborne narrative which most of the media have accepted almost without question. Here is a short extract.
“The collapse in the finance sector, due to greed, caused a sharp recession and higher unemployment, tax revenues shrank dramatically, and the welfare bill increased. In making cuts, the government is making a political choice, not responding to ‘record’ debt. Research by my union shows that, between 1918 and 1961, the debt was more than 100% of GDP. Osborne’s budget papers put the current debt at 53%. Between 1918 and 1961 different choices were made. We established the NHS and welfare services, built council houses, developed state education and pensions, and invested in industry. Instead, Osborne is choosing to realise a long-held ambition to rid the rich and powerful of the burden of the welfare state. The way we pay benefits to those in need, how we get people back to work, our ability to collect the tax that funds healthcare, education and other vital services for millions of people – no corner of government will be spared the axe.”
Doubtless some will say that his members fear for their jobs and so he is a vested interest putting a narrow point of view. And the business leaders in The Telegraph? Well, if you accept the tone of the coverage so far, they are like independent voices of wisdom speaking only with an obvious national interest in mind.
The role of the moneymen in getting us into this mess appears to have been forgotten. Now teachers with a pension, medical staff on the allegedly safe frontline, not to mention people who hold out the hope of getting a home, are the enemies of the State as viewed through the lens of its leaders and their media cheerleaders.
Amid all that, it was good to see Mr Serwotka put an alternative view. And good to be reminded that government is about political choices. The Tories are making a political set of choices, using the deficit as the reason to make them, the Lib Dems as cover, and pretending it is all about fairness. For sheer nerve, you have to doff your caps to them.