The Tories (ie the government) will be feeling pleased enough with the spin operation surrounding the cuts to local authorities. The media were buying enough ‘power to the people’ (sic) to dilute the real impact of yesterday’s announcement, namely a savaging of services which local authorities provide and on which many people depend.
But just as David Cameron successfully set up Nick Clegg as the lightning rod for anger about a university fees system that benefits the rich, so the coalition has just about won Round One in its battle to set the councils up as the bad guys when the cuts fall locally.
One of the coalition’s communications successes has been their robotically delivered statement that they are making all these spending cuts because of the mess Labour left behind. It is a statement that can be torn apart bit by bit, but it hasn’t been, the media rarely challenge, so to some extent the Tories (with Lap Dog support) have got away with it.
Now, as the local authority cuts go through, watch how they perform a similar trick – these cuts will suddenly become an expression of localism, and if you have a problem, take it up with the local authority or, better still, join the Big Society and run your own library, swimming pool, refuse collection service!
Gordon Brown used to be accused of disappearing whenever the brown stuff was hitting the fan and flying in the direction of the then Prime Minister. In this government, it is the Prime Minister who goes awol when the trouble starts. It is a habit that people will start to notice.
Meanwhile, it is still not too late for Labour to take apart the claims made by the coalition about why they are ‘being forced’ (sic 2) to make all these cuts. It will not be done overnight, but over time, and it needs to be done strategically, with determination and confidence, and in a way that puts Mr Cameron where he doesn’t like being – facing repeated and difficult questions over the decisions he has made.