The electorate gets the government it wants. Alex Norris takes it personally.

We’re braced for cuts in Nottingham. As a city, we have rebuffed Conservative advances year after year since David Cameron’s election as leader. But with Cameron now ensconced in Number 10, we’re starting to feel the full force.

The Future Jobs Fund, which has helped 960 unemployed people back in to work in Nottingham alone, was the first to fall. Now we fear for the future of our tram expansion, an expansion set to put thousands into work, millions into the local economy and Nottingham into the picture as the UK’s leading “science city”.

I take what the coalition government is doing very personally. I’d like to voice my opposition to everything they do as loudly as possible at all times. But this is a self-indulgence we cannot afford.

The electorate is remarkably adept at getting the government it wants. This was no less true in 2010 than it was in 1992 or 1997. They didn’t want David Cameron and his Tory party to have unfettered access to the Whitehall machine, but they did want change. They wanted a new government that worked in new ways. And they expect the opposition to do the same.

Harriett Harman was right to pledge that Labour would not merely oppose for opposition’s sake. Rather, as an opposition we must be a champion. We must be the champion for every good cause or policy trampled down by a government obsessed with process. We must be a champion for every front-line project that is dismissed as waste.

The Government, and to a lesser extent the public, expects us to retreat into dogma in opposition. They expect us to be pedantic and parochial in Parliament and to descend into an internecine struggle for our leadership.

We must shun these temptations and instead show the creative thought that makes us the true progressive choice. We need to establish totemic policies that show the electorate what we are about, such as opposing anonymity for defendants in rape cases, moving towards a living wage and the rebirth of manufacturing by harnessing green industries. In doing this we can re-emerge not just as a party of fighters and believers, but of principles and ideas.

Tony Blair’s greatest strength was not that he had all the answers to all of the problems, but that he shone brightly in contrast to the dull pessimism of the Conservatives. Our time to shine brightly has come again, and if we embrace it we can get back to where Nottingham needs us to be.

Follow @AlexanderNorris on Twitter.

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