David Cameron’s attack on Labour for “flailing and dithering” over whether to support the government’s pension reforms would seem unfair had the party not struggled to present a clear message over the weekend. It would be unfair to expect a snap judgement on the changes from a responsible opposition party, but the weekend press and the papers this morning suggest that Labour doesn’t even have a neat holding line as it works out how far to extend its support.
But what should worry Ed Miliband far more than the attack from Cameron is the increasing anxiety from his own side about Labour’s message. The Guardian’s letter from 19 leading Labour groups and thinkers including the Fabians, Progress and Compass, is far more concerning. The letter warns:
But if Labour plays the next election safe, hoping to win on the basis of Tory unpopularity, it will not have earned a mandate for such change. It must take into the election a vision of a much more equal and sustainable society and the support of a wider movement if these formidable challenges are to be met.
The party’s response to the Budget has exemplified this problem. The biggest hit Miliband and colleagues scored was on that bingo poster; an unpredictable event entirely outside the Labour leader’s control. Labour had been trying to move away from a strategy predicated entirely on government cocking up, but kid habits seem to be dying hard, much to the anxiety of those who want to talk about what their party would do right, rather than what another party is doing wrong.