Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Party of government

Being the party of government has never sat well with Labour. We're not used to it - this is the first time we've had a second chance at power and we seem set for a third. It just doesn't seem right. We got used to being in opposition and the freedom that brought. Opposition is easy - you can just sit there and snipe, knowing that your proposals don't really matter and you can wait to jump all over the government for mistakes and failures.

In May 1997 this country stepped out of 18 years of Tory rule with a new spring in our collective step. That next morning did feel different, didn't it? Weren't you infused with hope for the future? That excitement and hope is part of our problem now. We've forgotten that government is about compromise - the art of the possible. Being in government means that you will fail in some things - the law of probability demands it.

As a party committed to social justice and the value of society, we'll tie ourselves in knots over Iraq or PFI or foundation hospitals or the railways or whatever else is bothering us today and we'll forget to shout about our achievements. That's not to criticise the many loyal members who are genuinely exercised about these important issues, but we do need to keep our eyes on the prize.

We need to recover some of that evangelical fervour of May '97. We need to get out there and tell people what we have done and what more we will do. Plenty of people will remind you of the failures, but every time they do, remember to tell them of a success.

  • Low inflation
  • High employment - every month, more people are in work than ever before
  • Low interest rates
  • Economic growth
  • 2 million pensioners off the poverty line
  • 1 million children off the poverty line
  • More teachers
  • More nurses
  • More doctors
  • More police officers
  • More nursery placed
  • A national minimum wage - now past £5 an hour.
  • Guaranteed annual holidays
  • Paternity and parental leave
  • NHS waiting lists falling
  • Crime rates falling
  • Life expectancy rising faster than ever

These are not vague proposals or timetables for action - these are real improvements delivered by this government. We are fighting against a partisan media more concerned with minor infidelities and semi-naked celebrities than discussing politics in anything other than snappy, prejudice-fuelled headlines. We've also got our own internecine struggles going on to distract from the business of government.

We've failed to get the message across, not to deliver.

Your choice at the next election is not between the idealist party that we would choose, it is between the current Labour Party - with all its faults and successes - and the remains of the Thatcher generation currently running the Tories. Voting for the Liberal Democrats may salve your conscience over a particular issue, but if you then find Michael Howard walking through the front door of Number 10 after election day, will you feel that the punishment fits the crime?

1 comment:

Marlowe said...

A timely reminder of the Government's achievements. But, as you say, the Labour Party, the supposed masters of spin, have failed to get the message across. I do think it's harder than it ever was for a Government to get a positive message across in the media. The papers, and to a point the broadcast media, find negative commentary far easier. And we know which makes the better headlines. And it doesn't help that Labour supporters seem to want to focus on the negative all the time.