It was sixties Labour leader and Prime Minister Harold Wilson who famously said ‘a week is a long time in politics.’ If that is the case, then the past seven days must have seemed like an eternity to David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne.
A huge uprising of Tory backbenchers on plans led by their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats to reform the Lords looked like bad news for the Tory leadership at the start of the week. However, that potential rebellion looked like a storm in a teacup by the week’s end.
Being accused of being a couple of out of touch toffs is an attack that both Cameron and Osborne not only suffer from but absolutely expect. However, they do not expect that attack to come from one of their own party’s rising parliamentary stars. They may try and dismiss Nadine Dorries comments as the mutterings of a maverick, but they hurt because they know it’s what a lot of those that really matter – the electorate- suspect. It is extremely unhelpful for a Conservative MP to remind us all of the fact.
This was then followed by revelations at the Leveson inquiry that the governments Culture Secretary was allegedly up to no good in relation to News Corps takeover bid for BSkyB. The Minister in question, Jeremy Hunt, is a ‘Cameroon’ and it is of little surprise that the Prime Minister wants to keep hold of him if he can. However, if only a small part of what James Murdoch claimed this week is true, then Hunt will be gone before the end of the summer.
All this though, as exciting as it is for political commentators and ‘geeks’ like me, is simply bluff and bluster and political knockabout for the masses, who care little for such matters.
Another well known leader, President Bill Clinton, ran his campaign for election in 1994 by repeatedly reminding his team that ‘it’s the economy stupid.’
And it was the news on Wednesday that UK PLC had suffered a ‘double dip’ recession which will potentially have the greatest impact on the futures of Messrs Cameron and Osborne. People are resigned to the pain of cuts, but they have been promised a much more robust and swifter recovery than is proving to be the case.
Huge levels of unemployment, reductions in services and unpopular measures on the NHS are only worth supporting if we are getting some pay back. These figures suggest that we are not.
Osborne says there is no ‘plan B’. The right of his party want him to go further with his spending cuts agenda – but also to be more aggressive with his tax cutting agenda too. The opposition, who have a huge mountain to climb to regain their credibility in the area of economic competency, want to slow down the reductions in public expenditure – but that will definitely not happen under the current regime.
In the short term, the beneficiaries of this awful news will be Labour. As Downtown blogger Jim Hancock pointed out last week, they will clean up in the local council elections on 3rd May. But, if a week is a long time in politics, then three years is ample time for Cameron, Osborne and the economy to recover. Many more weeks like this one though, and the Tory grandees in grey suits will be paying the ‘toffs’ an unwanted visit!