The Tories have had a very good run with their ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’, but it is slowly coming to an end.
With the public, or at least the centre of gravity of public opinion, I think it came to an end some time ago. The media are following on behind.
It was a great help to the Tories that Labour had such a long leadership election. As that trundled on, and as the media enjoyed giving the Tories a honeymoon even though they had failed to win a majority, various lines were hammered into the public debate.
The books are worse than we feared. (Not true, but convenient for the next bit)… The deficit was caused by excessive Labour spending. (Not true, the deficit was manageable until the global crash which hit tax revenues and required massive sums to bail out the banks. But convenient for the next bit)… The deficit risks making us the next Greece. (Not true but convenient for the next bit)… There is no alternative to tax rises and massive spending cuts. (Not true – though some tax rises and some spending cuts were inevitable, the bulk of the cuts being made are the result of political and ideological choices).
When the cuts were theoretical, and the tax rises just echoes of a largely forgotten election campaign, the Tories could get away with it. But as the tax rises are implemented and the cuts start to bite, a set of glib lines suddenly looks exactly that.
Just as David Cameron is bravely carrying on with his Big Society, so he and George Osborne continue to tell ministers and MPs that the above economic lines must be parroted in all interviews at all times.
It is normally a rule of communication that a line that has early acceptance, and is then repeated endlessly, is likely to become a permanent part of the political backdrop. But the Tory line on the economy, whilst it may have met with the early acceptance, is now facing more resistance.
That will be increased by the fact that Osborne continues to blame Labour decisions for the current economic problems, notably inflation. In seeking to exempt the VAT rise from any impact on inflation, for example, I’m afraid he is moving into the ‘treat people like idiots’ category. People aren’t idiots. It is why as ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’ and ‘there is no alternative to the cuts’ continues to come over the airwaves, acceptance has turned to jeers which will turn to anger as the cuts bite and the tax rises squeeze.