Each time Gordon Brown shook his head during last night’s debate was a sign of his utter dismay regarding how things have unravelled for Labour. The economy is his strong issue; he did his best to associate the Conservative party of today with its past failures during times of economic strife in the ’30s, ’80s and ’90s, and ripped into Cameron for his party’s non-progressive inheritance tax plan. Unfortunately for Brown, he just couldn’t combat the fact that the public is aching for change (and Duffy-gate didn’t help much either). Early polls suggested that Cameron won the debate, even though he definitely lost on the issue of fairness. His tough stance on “waste” must have resonated well with the viewing public. The Tory leader didn’t offer any new detail on further cuts – none of the leaders wanted to touch on this issue – but people trust his party more than Brown’s or Clegg’s to rein in public spending.
Maybe the public is justified in doubting Gordon Brown’s economic credentials. As Cameron pointed out in the debate, the PM betrayed the Labour constituency when he abolished the 10p tax rate and by neglecting pensioners. Yes, the link between state pensions and earnings was broken by a Conservative government (Thatcher in 1980), but Labour has had 13 years to restore it. Cameron also argued that Britain needs “to start making things again” – a statement with which Clegg agreed. Again, it was Thatcher who paved the way for our over-reliance on financial services at the expense of the manufacturing industry, and yet the Labour government has done nothing to relinquish the British economy from the firm grip of the City. Having said all this, Brown should have come in second place instead of third, as Clegg is no whizz kid when it comes to the economy, and he got annihilated on the Lib Dems’ immigration policy once again. It no longer seems to matter what the PM says or how hard he strains to smile when he says it – he’s fighting a losing battle.
The Labour Party itself appears to share this sentiment, as their entire election campaign has reeked of defeatism. There has been little mention of their past achievements: peace and some self-government in Northern Ireland, the introduction of a minimum wage, greatly reduced waiting times for treatment on the NHS, House of Lords reform, falling child poverty. Maybe it’s hard for Brown to extol these virtues of Labour government when they’re attributable to Blair’s administration rather than his own, but I still can’t help feeling that he’s let the side down by not pushing the positives.
Alastair Campbell was overheard telling a security guard, “We’ve had it.” Sadly, I couldn’t agree more.