Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Labour’s worst week since last week

One day, when I’m really bored, I’m going to trawl through the internet and find out how many ‘worst weeks ever’ the government has had. But not today.

Today I’ll just note that Labour really does need to get its act together sharpish. David Cameron’s claim today that Gordon Brown’s premiership so far has been “disaster after disaster” is clearly theatrically OTT– is this latest funding scandal really more serious than the loans-for-honours affair or the Ecclestone million or the many grubby shenanigans the Tories used to get up to? Would a hypothetical Harriet Harman resignation (if things go that way) be so much more damaging than Peter ‘I am a fighter not a quitter, apart from those two times when I quit’ Mandelson?

Is this government’s responsibility for Northern Rock at all comparable to the last government’s for Black Wednesday? Are the two missing discs a greater calamity than the 2001 FMD outbreak or the 2000 fuel crisis? Is a ‘part-time’ defence secretary more of a disgrace than the Iraq pre-war dossiers – or the arms-to-Iraq business, or sitting out Bosnia and Rwanda?

Why isn’t Labour being attacked for spiralling unemployment, soaring hospital waiting lists, crumbling schools and the like? Because these things aren’t happening. Even a partisan such as me can fault the government for all sorts of things, including some serious things. But, to use a god-awful cliché, most of the fundamentals are sound.

The sorts of blunders and failures and scandals popping up now aren’t, I think, qualitatively different from all sorts of things that happened under Blair, Major and Thatcher. ‘Discgate’ is an arguable exception, but given the lack of evidence that a single person’s details have fallen into the wrong hands, it may be that the only thing to fear here is fear itself.

But the media mood is such that Brown is taking a series of hits and a narrative of failure is building up. The longer this goes on, the harder it’ll be to get the initiative back.

So: get your act together. Start making the running.

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