One of Labour’s favourite phrases is “speak truth to power”. It’s meant to smack of their championing of the little guy – though please note it doesn’t apply if the little guy is under the heel of Brussels, authoritarian legislation, heavy taxation, red tape, political correctness, petty bureaucrats or Gordon Brown in a huff.
Were they to actually live by their own phrase, the concept would be a good one. In a democratic, free society, voters and consumers should be able to tell those wielding influence things that they don’t want to hear.
It’s with that in mind that I took part today in Labour’s online survey of the electorate. Headlined “Ed has a question for you”, it’s meant to give Miliband an insight into public opinion.
Instead, it reads like the job application questionnaire for Robert Mugabe’s next press officer. If you disagree with the Opposition, there’s no box you can tick.
Here are some samples of the questions, and the multiple choice responses offered:
What does Labour mean to you? Complete this sentence: “To me, Labour stands for…”
Strangely, neither “debt-fuelled irresponsibility”, “jobs for the boys” nor “Gordon Brown insulting an old lady” are listed as possible answers.
Which *one* of these Labour achievements means most to you?
a) Creating the NHS
b) Decriminalising homosexuality
c) Ensuring equal pay in law
d) Establishing comprehensive education
e) Founding the welfare state
f) Guaranteeing a minimum wage in law
Again, they seem to have missed some off the list – “selling Britain’s gold reserves at the bottom of the market”, “crashing the economy”, “ending every Government with higher unemployment than they inherited” and “allowing Gordon Brown anywhere near the levers of power” spring to mind.
Thinking back over the last year or so, have you noticed any of the following in your local area?
a) After-school clubs closing
b) Citizens Advice closing
c) Empty high street shops
d) Harder to see your GP
e) Law centres closing
f) New betting shops
g) New pawn shops
h) Pubs closing down
i) Reduction in local council services
j) Sure Start centre closing
k) Threats to NHS services
Someone really should have done a proof-read on this. Otherwise, I’m sure Labour would have wanted to ask whether people had experienced “a freeze in fuel duty”, “cuts in tax on beer”, “frozen council tax”, “hundreds of thousands of new private sector jobs” or “the British economy growing faster than any other developed nation”, for example.
You can picture the scene next week – Iain McNicol enters the Leader of the Opposition’s office to present the latest insight into how voters think. “It’s good news, Ed – the results are in, and every single answer that anyone clicked was one that agreed with us.”
Speaking truth to power indeed.