Labour is relaxed but lacks PR focus

When George Osborne stood up after the pre-Budget report, he had one task: to save his own job. After weeks of being becalmed and ineffective following the Oleg Deripaska affair, Osborne needed to show he had some fight in him.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

His speech was punchy, aggressive and peppered with sound bites and his audience, the Tory backbenches, loved it. The 'precision-guided missile' aimed at the 'heart of a recovery' went down particularly well. The Tories love military metaphors.

Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable, on the other hand, seems to walk on water these days, eclipsing his own leader, Nick Clegg. The mythology around his expertise is so pervasive that you can almost hear the Labour and Tory benches begging for a snippet of approval for their party lines. But he had none to give and took the position that a 2.5 per cent VAT cut just wouldn't provide any stimulus.

Labour's perspective is grim. The economy is the one issue Number 10 believes can win Labour a fourth term. It has to keep everyone talking about this issue; there is no other plan. And, on the face of it, the papers presented this economic stimulus package as 'The death of New Labour' - whether they were supporting or attacking it.

It is a hard PR sell for Labour because people are used to asking: 'My family earns £55,000; we have a mortgage and two kids. How does this affect me?' And yes, over the whole timescale there will be plenty of case studies of people who will be paying a bit more - and the opposition will keep feeding the media these case studies.

The Labour response, however, seems unfocused. It is talking about statistics when it should be telling a story. The fact is, the Government knows this is a painful budget, but it is being done so that the couple earning £55,000 still have jobs in two years.

But Labour seems relaxed about this. The YouGov poll published since the pre-Budget report has the Tory lead down to only four per cent. The Government realises that, by the general election, people will know whether this financial rescue package has succeeded or failed. All it can do is wait and see.

- Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blogs Labourhome and Recess Monkey.

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