KAMPANJ | Ett parti som bara svartmålar riskerar förlora röster om väljarna inte känner igen sig i deras beskrivning.
Conservative Party vill gärna att väljarna skall se Labour som ett parti som saknar lösningar på de problem man lastar den konservativa-liberala koalitionsregeringen för.
När Sam Macrorys intervjuade de konservativas partiordförande för Total Politics var det tydligt att Grant Shapps vill att väljarna mentalt skall förknippa attackerna från oppositionen med att Labour har en svag partiledare och att partiet saknar egna lösningar.
Extra viktigt blir det för regeringen att sätta bilden av en svag Ed Miliband bland de väljare som börjat tröttna på regeringens politik. Det gäller att övertyga dem om att Labour inte är lösningen på deras problem.
The argument is one we’ll hear rather a lot in the coming months: the government is turning the economy around, has restored a rise in growth and jobs, can do more without the shackles of coalition, and must be allowed to finish the job. And the Conservative Party, Shapps says, is “feeling proud… we’ve done exactly what we said we were going to do. We followed a long-term economic plan and worked hard on reducing the deficit. What’s happened? We’ve become the fastest growing economy in the developed world. Clearly the economic plan is working.”
It’s going to be long and tough, but we have to make those arguments vigorously every single day. And whereas we have a vision for the future, Ed Miliband has another crisis.”
Shapps whips out a sheet or two of A4 from his pocket and thrusts them in my direction. “What separates Miliband from Cameron? And what’s the reason why people recognise consistently that Cameron is the better leader and better prime minister for Britain? Why? I think I’ve got the answer. Miliband has a knack of announcing crises. He’s announced 56 in the last three years. What’s that? Getting on to 20 a year. He’s also got 15 issues that he describes as the most important facing Britain.” Shapps looks up from the Miliband crisis dossier with glee. “In other words, this guy can’t decide.”
Looking through the headlines, if nothing else, the Labour communications team has been a little lazy with their crisis management. “Here’s a list of things he says are the number one crisis issue,” Shapps continues, pouring through his “fascinating” figures. “The badger cull crisis… that’s the number one issue facing Britain? This is a guy who leaps from one subject to another, jumps on the nearest bandwagon as it passes him by and tries to attach himself to every issue. He comes from the cold, hard, calculating [Gordon] Brown world of politics. The public end up realising that this is not a man who is the right person to be in Downing Street. This is a person who responds to the news rather than making the weather. You can’t both jump on every bandwagon and have the long-term interests of the country at heart.”
This is not the first time the Tories have tried to pin a perceived crime on Miliband. They tried ‘Red Ed’, the frothing socialist leader. That didn’t stick. Next came ‘Weird Ed’, the, well, weird leader. So what is it this time? “Well, it’s a ’Bandwagon Ed’, I suppose, but I’m not trying to brand him as anything,” Shapps replies. “All I’m trying to say is there is a choice. He’s always looking for the negative and he doesn’t have a positive, long-term vision for his country. Only [one of] two people can walk into Downing Street after the next election, Miliband or Cameron, and Cameron has a long-term vision for this country.”
So, is the choice in 2015 made after a presidential-style battle between two men? “Yes, Cameron is a big asset, but no, actually.” Shapps disagrees. “What’s commonly misunderstood about elections – and what I hope I bring to the table as somebody who won a seat off Labour – is that it’s not one national election, it’s not a US presidential election, it’s 650 separate contests on different things in different places.”
Back to those crises. There’s one in the list of 56 that resonates, and that’s the cost-of-living crisis. “Wait,” Shapps interrupts. “Let’s just check.” He looks back at the list. “Cost-of-living crisis…. there it is, number 21. Yes, crisis 21, 17 January, 2013.” He looks pleased, but should he be? The cost-of-living crisis, the argument that even as the economy recovers people see little to no improvement in their living standards, seems to cut through. “Look, it’s true that people have suffered huge pain over six years as this economy has got back to the size it was, when Labour – Labour – had its great recession. You know what? People have hurt and suffered from Labour’s great recession.” So it’s Miliband’s cost-of-living crisis, then? “He’s identified what he and Ed Balls were doing in the backroom while Gordon Brown was destroying the economy. He identifies the problem, he ignores the fact it’s of his own making, and then he fails to identify the solution.”