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Cameron’s lack of understanding of lives of squeezed middle could be his undoing

Posted on 26 November 2011 | 11:11am

Very good night at the fundraiser for Ed Miliband’s constituency party in Doncaster last night. Good turnout, good mood, and after someone in the q and a had raised the crisis of capitalism, it duly emerged – in the form of sold out raffle tickets. Anyone who knows anything about Labour fundraisers will know why this is significant. It is unheard of for raffle tickets to sell out. Proof that Market forces are not working as they should.

In his speech, Ed echoed some of the themes of his conference speech, and in mine I explained why I felt he got a bad press for it – first, because some of them didn’t like his tough stance on the press post phone hacking. Second because maybe he struck a chord, and not for the first time the press were behind a curve. They are catching up though. I have been intrigued by the broadly sympathetic treatment of the St Paul’s protests. Not long ago, they could have guaranteed for themselves negative and hostile treatment. It didn’t really happen.

Next week’s strike is another area where feelings are more nuanced than they might have been pre the economic crisis. Unlike other European countries, the media tone on strikes is always totally hostile. There remains consdierable negativity about the planned disruption, but also widespread feeling that the government are stirring rather than resolving, and widespread sympathy for the fact that the living standards of what Ed has called the squeezed middle really are being squeezed.

One of his activists asked me what I thought was the fatal flaw that would bring David Cameron down. I said it was important never to underestimate your opponent, and always assume that they might improve in the job, rather than get worse. But I think if there is one single characteristic that is a risk to the PM, it is a genuine lack of understanding of the lives of the squeezed middle.

He is very good at being energetic, seeming dynamic, and giving you the impression that his latest idea or initiative is really going to make a difference. But it was interesting to note that on the day he was promoting his new housing plans this week, with matching energy and dynamism from Nick Clegg alongside, a report was published on the virtual non-take up of a scheme they had energetically and dynamically launched to help small businesses. As these failed initiatives clock up, the sense of disappointment and distance will grow.

In the coming days, we will learn just how far off their stated objectives on the deficit they are. A long, long way off. They will blame Labour. They will blame Europe. But with every day that passes, excuses become more irritating, the lack of clear strategy becomes more exposed, and the gap between the lives and mindsets of Cameron, Clegg and Osborne, and the rest of the population, becomes more politically dangerous.

I said last night that I had pretty much called every election I was involved in right, including, as Philip Gould’s updated Unfinished Revolution makes clear, the last one. But at the next one, anything could happen, from a clear Tory win to a clear Labour win. Osborne’s statement this week is an important moment in deciding which of those is likelier.

  • Anonymous

    I agree he fails to grasp majority public perceptions – but imagine how much worse off he’d be if his website/blog featured a slideshow of large self portraits  at the top…

  • MicheleB

    I think you’re right that there will be only two choices next election, maybe only two main sets of standees, therefore a lot of redundant candidates  both Tory and LD.

    Tim Farron seems to have moved from his idea of ‘Why not?’ with partner-swapping as a possibility at every election and to have taken a step towards converting to be a Tory with his snide ‘mess’ this week when describing 2010’s economy. 

    ANYthing is a mess if one chooses not to understand it (or is incapable of doing so) and as we all know, not a single Tory or non-Lib Dem even tried to do so with GB/AD’s ideas/plans/timetable for the future; too busy making a meal of someone’s ironic ‘I’m afraid to
    tell you there’s no money left.’

    ANYthing is misleading if one has too much trust in a person’s should-be responsible behaviour.  Owen Paterson on QT last week spouted that we (I suppose he meant the UK) are presently borrowing £232k per minute, which if it were true expands to mean we are borrowing over £334million per day.
    He also repeated the mantra of (I want a bigger font please) us paying £120million per day in loan interest.
    I doubt that both figures are true; I certainly hope the first isn’t (not to mention that I hope Mr Paterson isn’t in charge of any accounts).

  • Olli Issakainen

    I would like to start on positive note: excellent win for Burnley today!
    According to OECD Britain will be in RECESSION at the start of 2012.
    Ed Milband was right about the Murdoch Empire. What about the Rothschild media empire?
    Not many people appear to know that the Rothschilds control the biggest media company in Britain, BT, through Invesco (10.88%) and BlackRock (5.14%).
    BT is involved in broadband, TV and mobile products.
    Rothschilds also control ITV, and are a big shareholder in BSkyB.
    They have a lot of power also in News Corp.
    Rothschilds control Pearson: Financial Times, Economist and Penguin.
    They control Reed Elsevier through Legal & General Group (4.30%) and BlackRock (4.22%).
    They also own IPC Media: NME, TV Times, Marie Claire, World Soccer, Woman´s Own etc.
    IPC is a subsiadiary of Time Inc, which the Rothschilds control through Dodge & Cox, Vanguard, Allianz and Fidelity.
    Rothschilds are also a major player in Thomson Reuters.
    We are not witnessing a crisis in capitalism itself. We are witnessing a crisis caused by neoliberal austerity.
    I have lost count how many times I have warned that austerity will lead to a disaster both in Britain and Europe.
    Policymakers should realise that we have a demand problem caused by the super-rich taking all the money. We have a DEMAND problem, not a problem with supply-side.
    Occupy movement is being backed by the elite. Hegelian dialectics has created an opposition of 99% against the top 1%.
    But this only benefits the elite as the future United States of Europe will be SOCIALIST.
    Unless European Central Bank will be made a lender of last resort, there will not be end to the eurozone crisis. Belgium is the latest country to be affected.
    The position of ITALY and Spain is now hopeless.
    Britain´s economic problems in 2011 are entirely home-grown.
    Austerity and inflation caused by unwise VAT rise are the reasons. Exports have been doing well, so it is not intelligent for Mr Osborne to blame eurozone.
    Labour left a growing economy (4% on annual rate) and falling unemployment.
    Turn for worse started with Mr Osborne´s Spending Review. He is 100% to blame for the current problems.
    The first rule of economics is that you wait until recovery is on track, and only then start the cuts. Mr Osborne broke that golden rule.
    Alistair Darling´s plan was based on growth. It would have halved the deficit without risking the recovery.
    Plan A has now totally failed thanks to the Tory-led government.
    Britain will now have to borrow at least £109bn more than the forecast. By 2015 10% of total tax take will go to interest payments.
    This, of course, is not sustainable level.
    Real incomes for the squeezed middle are down. This, of course, is the plan of the globalists who do not like the middle class.
    Britain still pays to the tune of £46bn a year for banks who caused the financial crisis and recession.
    No prizes are given away for guessing which banking family controlled Lehman Brothers when it collapsed…  

  • Richard

    Sorry to say it but selling out of raffle tickets is a typical symptom of Labour thinking.
    The extra cost of a few more thousand tickets is pennies: to run out is a sin! Labour economics would never understand this. Your mentioning it is a testament to that!
    ( Any surplus will keep.)

  • Ehtch

    You can just imagine Cameron and his ilk making fun of what they would have no doubt considered the oikes of the middle and lower classes during their school and university days? Make me laugh them trying to find a heart these days, the ones at Westminster that is.

  • Granted.  The Westminster parties are competing to see who can have the most undoings it seems.  

    It would be good if Labour did something coherent, convincing or worthwhile rather than just waiting for Cameron and co to make everyone disrespect them. 

    Still at it Michele and Gillie despite one computer and a key income source down.  Any thoughts, comments, help or info about what anyone else is up to welcome.

  • MicheleB

    Do you mean as opposed to usurping / re-colouring OUR flag to look like a blue sun’s rays ?


    PS: My post above was re Any Qs, not QT about 20mins in

  • Anna

    The problem with Cameron, I think, is not simply that he can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the shoes of ordinary people, whether it’s someone scared for their job, a pensioner scared to switch the heating on or a disabled person struggling along on benefits – though that is true. The impression he gives me is of someone acting a part. He can speak with apparent passion and sincerity on any number of topics, but there is no depth. He’s learned the script, put it over convincingly but then gives the impression that, like an actor going off-stage, he’ll forget all about it and move on to something else. He’s losing support among women – and not just for the daft ‘Calm down, dear,’ and other episodes. Women have been hit extra hard by the government’s policies and they are not convinced by this ‘smoothie’ one little bit.

  • MicheleB

    I used to be like you Richard, posting on a blog owned by someone I didn’t like among people I didn’t like (some of whose ‘sense’ extended to suggesting that those bereaved in last year’s Pakistan floods should have been smarter and had less children to start with).

    I came to my senses and realised it was all negative, I hope you come to yours soon.

  • MicheleB

    Sorry to hear of the misfortune RH.

  • Ehtch

    Off-topic again I know, But there is no doubt Alastair won’t mind, with reference to Gary Speed. Things have been tuned upside-down and many people, not only in football, are left, well, hopelessly lost to explain. Myself have a creeping suspicion of what with him personally drove his mind to this, but I would be guessing. Some say mid-life crisis which footballers have a double-whammy due to retirement from a job they love – playing on the pitch in front of thousands. But we might never get to bottom of what was going through his mind this devastatingly tragic morning. It is just unbelievably surreal and unreal.
    Robbie Savage here, and to see someone like him in bits just sums what everyone is feeling. How his wife and two young sons will cope with this is beyond my comprehension. oh god

  • MicheleB

    I saw that interview too Ehtch, very very moving words from someone whose usual role has to be being ‘up’.  Speed’s wife has had surely the most awful shock a person can have, we can only hope their sons saw nothing although I doubt that’s likely.

    Have just heard that the book AC has mentioned, written about Robert Enke’s suicide, has won a literary prize for its insights.  Also heard an interview this evening with someone from ‘Samaritans’ who said that Gary Speed had probably come to his decision before his TV interview on Saturday and that his calmness was typical of someone that had reached a commitment with themself.

  • MicheleB

    ” ( Any surplus will keep.) ”
    Ping !  Perhaps the stock last week was suplus from previous raffles.

    Gotcha 😉

  • Richard

    For those of us who thought that New Labour was a progressive
    Party which would claim the middle ground for many more years, TB’s war
    obsession and Bush-following, and subsequent demise followed by the wretched GB
    administration led to what we have now. The project was driven aground, and the
    Unions got their man as new leader.

    AC was advising and working for the Party in various guises
    throughout  the period of 15 years which
    ended in such hopeless failure in 2010. His blog should not just be a vehicle
    for “ya boo”  and “hear hear”, but an
    avenue for contributions suggesting a way that the Party may have a chance of
    winning the next election. Under current leadership the Party is struggling to
    get ahead in the polls. In the circumstances the Party should be 20 points

    You wish for the only posts to be from people who agree with
    AC and with you (and Olli). ( Olli seems to be closer to David Icke than any real
    world occupied by Britons.)

    If AC agrees with you I will take direction from him.

  • Ehtch

    Suppose some of you might have heard the Daily Star rumour going around.

    All I have to say to the Daily Star, if true, is so what?

    And with this inquiry going on at the moment, if it is true he was phoned up by DS, I hope they all get put up against the wall. Whatever absolutly anything would not change my mind of my respect for Gary, anything at all.

  • Ehtch

    furthermore, Dundee United put it the best of this rumour, on the whole,

  • Ehtch

    Even furthermore, some say there was a suprising amount of paparatzi outside his home in Huntington last Saturday night, just outside Chester (know that area well – lived there once), as described here, so just builds up on the rag DS rumour. Pap fecking bastards!

  • Ehtch

    You must be swotting up for Wednesday Alastair. Just be simple honest and true as you have always been, that is all is required. Don’t let it spook you, even this leak via Guido, or whatever his stained name is.

    Am looking forward for you to put a calm honest perspective on the media dysfunctionality that has been carrying on for well far too long.

    Good luck bro – give it double barrels.

  • Richard

    Thank you for reinforcing my point precisely, der! At a price of £12 for 500 raffle tickets it is well worth running out isn’t it? Relying on ‘suplus’.
    Is ‘ping’ a  response brought about by your trying to tackle concepts which are beyond you?

  • MicheleB

    You exercise yourself about so little Richard, finding a stupid detail, any stupid detail, to nitp*ick the opening post about.

    As for your stupid question two boxes away, NO ….. I doubt anybody here wants the blog to be as if from a load of sheep and you have been reminded before that the blog contains much debate, much disagreement, much questioning of each other, you enter in to none of that ….. you bother to post about (note that ‘about’) something silly or ABOUT people not present to defend themselves for what you deem silly or inefficient.

    Wakey wakey, your comments ABOUT people not present or about people’s grammar or spelling are tedious and pointless.  

  • Auditor

    Ah Michelle, isn’t the devil in the detail anymore then?

  • Which bit?  The bit where those who were presenting a balanced view got their computers destroyed, the bit where the pro-Israeli lobby decided to write to people who employ me and work to systematically discredit me or the be when when I finally started to turn the tide and get participants to engage with the idea that it is important to see things from more than one point of view and the conversation got deleted (no-one knows how but it can’t be reversed)?

    Sigh.  Thanks anyway.

    Probably not a good idea to take on a country which has the most advanced cyber-warfare tactics in the world and pays an army of people a lot of money to stitch up discussion forums, twitter, comments and the rest of cyberspace for them.  

  • Steve Shrewsbury

    “He can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the shoes of ordinary people”…….unlike that great working class socialist and man of the people – Mandelson!