How Labour forced Tories to defend the ‘squeezed middle’


by Sunny Hundal    
4:07 pm - March 23rd 2011

      Share on Tumblr

Its one of those unstated rules in politics: if you want to win over your opponent, make sure you’re the one framing the parameters of the debate. The Conservatives played that hand well pre-election by forcing Labour on the defensive over the deficit and national debt levels.

Labour’s subsequent attempt to triangulate (saying they would also push for ‘savage’ cuts) failed and their economic credibility splintered between people angry that nothing was being done about the banks, and those suddenly fearful about national debt levels.

This budget is perhaps the first sign that Labour is regaining the initiative again.

I said earlier (mostly on Twitter) that Ed Miliband’s focus on falling living standards and the ‘squeezed middle’ was a stroke of genius: politically and tactically. More recently, Ed Balls focused relentlessly on the rising cost of fuel and VAT. They even forced a vote on the issue in Parliament last week.

In the end Osborne couldn’t ignore them. And so this became a budget about the ‘squeezed middle’ and Conservative attempts to try and defuse that ticking time-bomb.

Naturally, the right-wing ideologues are outraged that it did not focus enough on tax cuts for rich corporations. But the underlying point is true: this wasn’t a Budget about creating jobs as it was initially billed as.

As Duncan Weldon says on Twitter:

Amazed at the sheer audacity of hailing this a ‘budget for growth’ whilst cutting growth forecasts. Staggering.

I have little doubt Osborne will fail: the rising cost of living is affected more by the structure of the economy (stagnating wages and growing inequality) than simply about cutting the cost of fuel by 1p a litre. It’s doubtful these half-hearted measures will do much to stave off rising discontentment. They won’t do much to create jobs either.

And so this budget is the first sign after ages that Labour have forced the Conservatives on to their territory: stagnant living standards.

Now they have to keep pushing the narrative and look for more openings that will force Osborne on the defensive. Once voters start blaming Conservatives for their living standards stagnating (which they inevitably will, since Conservatives will focus on tax breaks for corporations and high earners) – the Coalition will be electoral toast.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. Peter Garbutt

But what have Labour got, to put in its place? Still a cuts party, no sign of investment from them. More misery, just a slower descent and longer sojourn.
Labour opened up the economy to abuse by the banks, what are they going to do to decouple themselves from the uber-capitalists now?
You’re reaching for scant comfort, here; Labour may well have forced the Tories to play to their agenda; shame it’s the wrong agenda.

Labour may well have forced the Tories to play to their agenda; shame it’s the wrong agenda.

This sounds like a slogan than anything meaningful. You want Labour to do more than oppose cuts (they’re the opposition, not in govt) while lamenting they’re doing nothing about the banks. The comment doesn’t make any sense.

I have little doubt Osborne will fail: the rising cost of living is affected more by the structure of the economy (stagnating wages and growing inequality)

It’s true, every time a millionaire makes money my standard of living falls. Just last week Alan Sugar bought a new Merc and as a result I became more deprived.

You say you have no doubt that Osborne will fail. That depends on his intention: This is a very tabloid-pleasing budget.

I do agree that more should have been done – aiming a tax break at smaller companies would have been better imo than targeting larger ones.

With the larger companies the money tends to go to shareholders whilst smaller ones it’s in the pockets of the owners and staff.

Will 12-18 months of stagnation matter if things do improve before the election? I suspect not as it will prove that the government knew what they were doing. It may also consign Labour to being “the party that can’t handle finances” like in the late 70′s.

I do think Miliband and Balls were a bit rich (pun intended) over fuel increases and bankers (again). Have they forgotten how much fuel went up under Labour? Or how the banks could have been focused on when they bailed them out but were failed to by Brown and co?

Believe me I would like to see 3 strong parties – even Labour. I’m not convinced the likes of Miliband and Balls are the ones to give it to us.

6. David Dickson

The economic aspects like ‘growth’ ‘ prices’, especially fuel , will become ongoing debating topics. it would be useful if such debates could be conducted in the context of an ethical perspective.David Miliband has recently that debates on future policy should ‘ start with an ethic not a policy.’ He went on to suggest: that the starting point should be how to build a ‘moral economy’.
Would this not be a worthwhile path for discovery and policy development.

You say you have no doubt that Osborne will fail. That depends on his intention: This is a very tabloid-pleasing budget.

The tabloids can’t make people feel their lot is improving simply by headlines. What I mean is – his policies will fail even if he gets a short-term media bump.

aiming a tax break at smaller companies would have been better imo than targeting larger ones.

I agree with this. But its not surprising is it? Osborne has always been a corporatist.

@ Sunny

“The tabloids can’t make people feel their lot is improving simply by headlines. What I mean is – his policies will fail even if he gets a short-term media bump.”

I agree, but this was a “steady as she goes” budget. The changes the tories are really concerned with are elswhere, EG health. They know they are pretty safe because they have fixed the term of the government and they are gambling that economically things will pick up by the election.

At the moment I’m disgusted. I’m seeing a NO2AV “soldier needs body armour” at the bottom of this article. Don’t Lib Con have better taste in who they accept advertising revenue from?

“Naturally, the right-wing ideologues are outraged that it did not focus enough on tax cuts for rich corporations.”

Good Lord , talk about one trick ponies. Their solution to every problem is tax cuts for the rich.

“Well I am sorry Mr Smith you have cancer” …………….Mr Smith “ Give me tax cuts.”

“Mr Smith your daughter has been kidnapped” …………Mr Smith “ Give me tax cuts.”

“Mr Smith your family has been caught up in an earthquake ….. Mr Smith “ Give me tax cuts.”

No wonder Tim Worstall’s posts are all the same. Tax cuts are all they got.

@10 To be fair Tim’s posts are getting increasingly condescending and snarky, so they ain’t exactly the same…

12. Mr S. Pill

@9

Use AdBlockPlus. I’ve not seen an advert for years :D

@12

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available for chrome though I might switch back to firefox now version 4 has come out.

@12 – who’s going to fund Sunny’s iPhone bill?

(Why the need for adverts, anyway? I thought this site had a little more class…)

15. Edward Carlsson Browne

@Get Labour Out – Balls was hawking a statistic today. He pointed out that from 1990 to 1997 the element of petrol prices that was made up of tax went from 59% to 75%.

From 1997 to 2010 it dropped from 75% to 65%.

That’s still a lot of tax, but the rises were in no small part due to sky-rocketing oil prices.

Jeez, I’d be shocked if anyone actually saw that ad and was convinced, given I’ve trashed it several times on here. Can people stop taking the ads as endorsements? I’d block it but I’d rather they wasted their money online….

They know they are pretty safe because they have fixed the term of the government and they are gambling that economically things will pick up by the election.

Yes but this is my point. If the terms of the debate are on living standards – then the metric people will look at in 4 years time isn’t the employment or inflation levels necessarily but whether they feel better off. If they don’t, they blame the Coalition for that.

17. AnotherTom

I think you should read The Sun and the Mail more often Sunny. There you’ll find the “debate” on the need for a fuel cut was well “framed”. And it probably had little to do with the “genius” of the Labour leader.

How about this for a subtle Mail hint?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1368327/Almost-half-Britons-change-political-party-committed-reducing-fuel-duty.html


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How Labour forced Tories to defend the 'squeezed middle' http://bit.ly/fzngpy

  2. salardeen

    RT @libcon: How Labour forced Tories to defend the 'squeezed middle' http://bit.ly/fzngpy

  3. sunny hundal

    This budget is evidence Labour has forced Tories to defend the 'squeezed middle' http://bit.ly/fzngpy

  4. stephen wesley

    RT @sunny_hundal: This budget is evidence Labour has forced Tories to defend the 'squeezed middle' http://bit.ly/fzngpy

  5. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @sunny_hundal: This budget is evidence Labour has forced Tories to defend the 'squeezed middle' http://bit.ly/fzngpy

  6. TunbridgeWells Uncut

    RT @libcon: How Labour forced Tories to defend the 'squeezed middle' http://bit.ly/fzngpy <> " be electoral toast". Huh. So will the NHS.

  7. Metis Rebel

    RT @TWUncut: RT @libcon: How Labour forced Tories to defend the 'squeezed middle' http://bit.ly/fzngpy <> " be electoral toast". …

  8. Oscar Davies

    http://bit.ly/g93jnT how Ed Miliband's focus on the squeezed middle forced Osborne's hand on the budget

  9. Safe Asian Traveling Tips and News - How Labour forced Tories to defend the ?squeezed middle?

    [...] Source: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/23/how-labour-forced-tories-to-defend-the-squeezed-middle/ [...]

  10. Miliband's "squeezed middle" message gains ground | Left Foot Forward

    [...] Hundal pointed out pointed out how  it may have already influenced the government’s budget strategy and James Plunkett [...]

  11. Miliband’s “squeezed middle” message gains ground — Ace Campaign

    [...] Hundal pointed out pointed out how  it may have already influenced the government’s budget strategy and James Plunkett [...]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.