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.