For those of you who have watched the classic Blackadder goes Forth series, you may remember a scene where Blackadder refers to the lawyer Bob Massingbird, who, he claims, is the finest legal mind in British history and, in the case of the ‘Bloody Knife’, a man was found next to a murdered body. He had the knife in his hand. Thirteen witnesses had seen him stab the victim. And when the police arrived, he said "I'm glad I killed him." Massingbird not only got him off; he got him knighted in the New Year's Honours List. And the relatives of the victim had to pay to wash the blood out of his jacket!
Where am I going with this? Well, if we fail to communicate who it was who left the biggest deficit in the developed world, who left a huge structural deficit, who presided over the severest recession since the 1920s, who left two and a half million unemployed, who left us with an unbalanced economy where the 52% of the economy that is the private sector has to support the whole country as well as itself, then Ed Milliband and Ed Balls might just pull off an even bigger coup than Bob Massingbird.
According to the latest polls, although the Conservatives still lead when people are asked "Which party is most trusted to run the economy?", the number of people who blame the spending cuts on the Government has reached its highest level (26%) since the election, while 40% blame Labour.
That’s six out of ten people who do not blame Labour for the spending cuts. That is in spite of the deficit and debt being run up on their watch and the fact that Alastair Darling, the then Chancellor, had already announced that, if the Labour Government were re-elected, the country faced the biggest cuts in public expenditure in its history.
One of Tony Blair’s political skills was the way he portrayed our Party. His rhetoric about 3 million unemployed, Black Wednesday and Boom and Bust were standard responses at Prime Minister’s Question `time and he even succeeded in making many Conservatives feel bad about being Conservative.
When Francis Maude blamed Labour for the deficit on Question Time the other week, he was booed. This was a shot across the bows and we must take every opportunity to remind voters that it was Labour who were in government when Northern Rock were pushing 125% Loan to Value mortgages, it was Labour who ran up unsustainable spending plans on the back of a consumer credit bubble. It was Labour who signed the country up to countless disastrous Private Finance Initiative contracts (PFI which really should stand for Pay For Indefinitely) and, worst of all, it was Labour who failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining.
So when we talk about cuts, we need to push, push, push the fact that these are Labour’s cuts at every opportunity, and when Ed Milliband dares to come out with statements like "What I see is an economy where there are real signs of weakness in terms of employment, in terms of growth and now inflation as well", he must be held to account for his role in creating this mess.
If Labour are pushing the media to call the Coalition Government the "Conservative-led Government". It is time we pushed the media to call the spending cuts "The legacy of Labour’s spending cuts".
We are all in it together and we need to make sure the public know who put us in it and never let them forget.