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Coffee House

Where is Labour’s intellectual self-confidence?

9 May 2014

5:00 PM

9 May 2014

5:00 PM

What a funny, contradictory week it has been for Labour’s campaign machine. First Ed Miliband told the Evening Standard that he had greater intellectual self-confidence than the Prime Minister – and won praise in the Spectator’s leading article for being someone who does indeed have the courage of their political convictions these days. Then he seemed so confident of his policies that he chose to needle David Cameron with one of them at Prime Minister’s Questions.

But then he seemed to have a crisis of confidence and decided to produce a party-political broadcast that, er, didn’t mention anything Labour is up to at all. When I blogged about this latest offering from Labour on Wednesday, I said it was an example of class war with wit and panache. I now think I was being too kind: it was funny, but in the sense that a sketch on a comedy show is. If Labour Students had filmed this and it had gone viral, it would have had more effect, in the same way as the Mitt Romney Gangnam Style parody probably helped the Democrats but wasn’t one of their own attack ads. But this was a broadcast from a political party that had clearly poured a fair bit of money and thought into its prime time political broadcast slot.

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And there were some very unfunny bits that told us a great deal more about how very highly Labour think of themselves and how evil they think the Tories are. The line in which a minister says the bedroom tax hitting disabled people doesn’t matter because ‘they can’t fight back’ is fascinating because it assumes that bad Tory policies are conspiracies, not cock-ups. We could talk about all the bad policies that Labour initiated, such as the desperately unpopular Work Capability Assessments, which also don’t do much for disabled people, but most critics of these policies would accept that bad policy is made because politicians are at best flawed and at worst fools, not because they’re moving evil flags over an evil map plotting how they can best be evil without anyone noticing.

But one ad doesn’t make a crisis. So today the party put out a new poster, again attacking Nick Clegg for his proximity to the Tories as part of its campaign for disgruntled Lib Dem voters. John has examined every inch of the poster’s claims, right down to its white asparagus for hardworking people. It’s even better than the cost-of-gymming crisis. And yet again, it fails to suggest that Labour is the solution to the problem it is highlighting. Which is fine if you’re after a small niche group of voters who used to vote Lib Dem but who might quite fancy Labour and whose votes could help you limp over the line in 2015. It also broadcast this new anti-Nick Clegg video:

But there is no effort here to persuade potential converts who are dithering about whether Labour really can be trusted again with the economy, or whether Labour has thought about immigration, or whether Labour does understand why they got a bit shirty about welfare and didn’t vote for them in 2010. Perhaps Labour isn’t as self-confident about what it can offer as it claims. Today’s offering is another 35 per cent poster. Presumably ex-Lib Dem voters are quite partial to a jar of white asparagus every once in a while.

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