How does a political party rid itself of less than flattering descriptions that have inconveniently lodged in the public mind? Simple – dump them on the opposition.
I’ve already mentioned the Tory painting of Labour as “stupid”. This reverses the impression of the last years of John Major, with an incumbent Prime Minister seen as not quite up to the task, and a sharp, clever young challenger. But why stop there?
Why indeed. And here, yet again, the Tories have seen the Class issue coming over the horizon and acted swiftly. What the electorate might conclude when offered a party whose new stars went to very good schools, took the best kind of degrees, and had a rather good time on the way, is that they might just be out of touch with ordinary people. You might not empathise with the checkout staff at Asda when someone else does the shopping.
The solution is straightforward: dump that one on Labour. So we have the sight of the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, and someone who has little experience of the world outside politics, telling us that Pa Broon – or any other minister in the news at the time – is out of touch with the electorate. It’s industrial strength drivel. Osborne might represent Tatton, but the thought of him soiling his hands popping into Booth’s to do the shopping does not enter. And neither will the regulars at the Red Cow be seeing him any time soon.
Osborne is also in the vanguard when it comes to dumping yet another key attribute on Labour: that of what then chairman Theresa May called the idea that they were the “nasty party”. So Osborne simply labels Pa Broon as “cruel”. Another one crossed off the list.
This is also drivel, as anyone who “enjoyed” the effects of over reliance on monetary policy, and savage budgets, of the early Thatcher years will know. So best not to give the electorate time to think – just keep up the assault.
And the Shadow Chancellor isn’t through with this tactic yet. Just to underline the deliberate use of the idea, he clumsily fielded a question on whether his grasp of minutiae showed a slight autism by, you guessed it, accusing Pa Broon of being autistic.
Here, in summary, is the politics of the playground: “No, that’s you”. It might keep opposition minds occupied, but that kind of approach in government would not do.