Osborne lays the trap. Enter Labour, not walking but running

by Rob Marchant

The weekend before last, I watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the classic kids’ film of my own childhood, with my five year-old for the first time. When the famous “child catcher” scene came on, and the children were being tempted into the evil kiddy catcher’s van with sweets and lollipops, it ended with genuine, heartfelt cries of “no, noooooooo…!” as she vainly urged Jeremy and Jemima to see the danger. The bright colours and bunting suddenly fall from the van to reveal a cage, inside which the children are helplessly trapped (the point at which, as I remember, I was usually to be found hiding behind the sofa).

This last weekend, then, on seeing the media coverage of a mooted Miliband “war” on benefit cuts, the cage metaphor already seemed like déjà vu. And the Commons statement by Ed Balls, confirming that Labour will vote against the welfare bill, seemed to be accompanied by the clunk of a big door closing.

Labour does not, of course, really think that people should be allowed to “scrounge”, and there is a genuine, balanced debate to be had on how to prevent abuses and dependency while continuing to protect the vulnerable. But there is also a realpolitik argument of ensuring that your argument can be painted in primary colours. Shades of grey can and will be twisted.

The logic is not subtle. It is not about nuance. It is about how well our subtle argument will fare in the political joust against a brutal cudgel of one: that Labour is “on the side of the scroungers”. And the answer is not very well, if the relative success of the competing economic narratives – “too far, too fast” versus “Labour maxed out the credit card” – is anything to go by.

That said, it is true that we should not base big policy positions on how our opponents will paint things. If the argument is strong enough, it can still win through. But, more importantly in this case, it fails the “gut feel” test, and this is important to explain.

The question is this: are we trusted on benefits? While we had some good and progressive policies in many areas, do we genuinely feel that, during thirteen years of Labour government that benefits dependency decreased or increased?

The fact is that most of the public struggle to say they think it decreased, and while Labour certainly got more of the temporarily unemployed back into work, it also clearly entrenched a small proportion of people into a cycle of worklessness – hardly a policy triumph. And that’s before we even start on benefits abuse. So if we can’t, in our hearts, feel that confident about our record, how on earth can we expect the public and the media to do so?

And that is a problem for Labour.

Dave Talbot highlighted here at Uncut Osborne’s adoption of Brownite strategies, but it seems that his own protégés have simultaneously forgotten them. In the early days of New Labour, Brown pioneered the attack strategy which Labour followed for the best part of two decades: his now-famous “dividing lines”.

It worked well: find the issue on which you want to fight your opponent, and point up the differences between your opinion and theirs. What is vital, of course, is not just that your position is right, robust and defensible, but that the public will come down on your side of the dividing line and not theirs. If they mostly don’t, you’re toast.

When Miliband says, “we should be tough on the minority who can work and try to avoid responsibility. But there comes a moment when a government is exposed for who they are”, well, people don’t believe it. As the Americans say, “anything that comes before the ‘but’ is bullshit”. Because this is Labour speaking, a cynical public just screens out the first few words.

Meanwhile, in la-la-Labourland, Polly Toynbee manages, as ever, to miss the point spectacularly:

“[Osborne] has devised an entirely pointless welfare uprating bill that enshrines a three-year 1% benefit rise, well below inflation, that he thinks will snare Ed Miliband into seeming to side with the workshy.”

But it is not pointless, is it? It is not pointless, because it is has a clear political end. And if Osborne thought he would snare Ed Miliband, Polly, it looks like he thought exactly right.

It’s not as if this is brain surgery. The New Statesman, hardly a hotbed of right-wing boot-boy politics, talks about a trap. The ever-sensible Jacqui Smith talks about a trap. Dammit, even the campaign group’s John McDonnell MP talks about it: “instead of falling for this grubby trap,” he says, “let’s take them on”. But what he might have more accurately said is “let’s run headlong into it”, because that’s pretty much what we seem to have done.

Here are not one, but two simple, strategic errors.

The first one is that you must not fight the enemy on the terrain of their choosing, as Dan Hodges noted on Monday (not to mention Sun Tzu, over two thousand years ago).

The second is that the winning party generally stays in the middle of the squash court. John Rentoul observes that the coalition has nudged Labour towards the margins by making a daring grab for the “squeezed middle”:

“The effect of his new measures last week is to take from both the rich and the poor and to give to households in the middle of the income distribution. Thus he forced Labour into its historic stance of defending the poorest, in low-paid work and on benefits…this, however worthy, will not be a good position for the Labour party at the time of the election.”

That it will not. As of yesterday, the “benefits war” story seems no longer to be a rumour, but the position may yet be quietly dropped. We must hope so, if we believe that election-winning, rather than self-immolation, should be the objective of the final couple of years of this parliament.

If, in other words, we really do not want this to be remembered as the moment when it all started to go wrong. When we were suddenly, inexplicably left on the edge of our seats, helplessly watching the children run towards the man with the sweets.

Nooooooooooooooo…

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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32 Responses to “Osborne lays the trap. Enter Labour, not walking but running”

  1. Felix says:

    According to opinion polls, Labour won the too far, too fast argument. But I guess this is Labour Uncut, and even worse, Rob Marchant, both renowned for not letting the facts stand in the way of their blairite ideology.

  2. Felix says:

    And not a single word about the cut affecting more people in work than out of work and that perhaps Osborne overplayed his had. Now that really is too big a fact to be allowed to get in the way of Blairite drivel.

  3. Dominic Minghella says:

    Good piece, thanks. Important bit for me is the need for gettable language to convey subtler arguments.

    “Too far, too fast” is always going to lose against “maxing out the credit card”.

    The challenge for Labour on welfare, and more importantly on the economy overall, is to find accessible language for nuanced ideas.

    We are shy of this. We think it trivialises our politics. We think substance matters. We think good ideas will out.

    We shouldn’t be. We can’t be. We fail to prioritise language at our nation’s peril.

  4. Robert says:

    Labour should vote against the 1% rise and I honestly think that it will make no difference whatsoever. Osborne is not a political genius and we should not be scared of him.

  5. Rachel Walker says:

    One thing you can say about the Conservatives, they are always true to themselves. That’s why we know when they gain power, they will try to sell off anything left in public ownership, they will shrink the state, and they will blame all societies ills on the people at the bottom. You believe Osbourne’s trap is Labour siding with people on benefits. I believe his trap is proving Labour is true to nobody. 

    Ed Balls is doing the right thing. Labour has to be true to its name. It has to defend the people at the bottom of society. If not, then Labour is as morally bankrupt as the Conservatives. 

    You have to have faith the electorate will see the Tories for what they are, and come the next election, enough of us will vote for an end to this nastiness.

  6. Amber Star says:

    The intention of the trap was to have Labour agree with the freeze because the Tory strategy is to show that there’s no difference between Labour & the Tories. i.e. TINA accepted by the Labour Party to hoots of joy & endless gloating by the Coalition.

    Ed M has confounded Osborne & Cameron’s expectations. And I believe this will help Labour to consolidate our 10 point lead, thereby confounding your expectations too.

  7. LesAbbey says:

    We know Rob Marchant would never allow principles to stand in the way spin. New Labour at its worse.

  8. @Felix: glad to see you are not being judgemental about this, then.

    @Dominic: agreed. I also suspect, as someone else suggested this week, that Lynton Crosby may be behind this approach. It’s brutal, but effective.

    @Robert: I’m not sure where I said we should be scared of Osborne.

    @AmberStar: I’m glad you agree it’s a trap. But I’m stunned that you think its objective is the exact opposite of what everyone else has suggested. Ed has done well at a couple of points this year, and One Nation Labour was a good start. But this is not one of those moments, and I’m afraid your suggestion that this will consolidate our lead is hopelessly wishful thinking.

  9. @Rachel, your argument is effectively the same as John Harris’: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/12/moment-ot-truth-miliband-labour-party, which is, do this or you’re evil. This is not what we should be basing our policy approach on. Re the objective of the trap, see my answer to @AmberStar above.

  10. john reid says:

    amber star, voting against cuts may help labour have A 10% lead, but hard decisions are rewarded at the ballot box years later

  11. james says:

    I support the benefit freeze. Labour just don’t `get it`. They are stuck where the Lib Dems were about 10 years ago – in their own bubble believing their own propaganda and thought processes.

    Their real problem is that they bungled `social democracy` by creating what I call `pseudo social democracy` thus the floating voters won’t trust them at the next election. They politically tried to create a `client group` of people at the top and those at the bottom forgetting that it could provide a resentful backlash of those that are locked out of the benefits system.

    You are either FOR a full-scale social democratic system with its balance of rights (strong welfare, childcare, high employment) with its responsibilities (high taxes, social conformity, highly reformed and micro-managed benefit system) or your not.

    Fact: This Govt is doing more for lower and middle income workers that are locked out of the benefit system than Labour ever did.

    Fact: Labour can bleat on about `ensuring the benefits system is tightly controlled` problem is you didn’t do it for 13 years who’d trust you to do it?

    Fact: Labour cannot be trusted with the nations finances.

    Sure, like the Lib Dems of old you can win town halls, local by-elections etc – part of that is due to protest votes and the idea that you `won’t do any harm` by being elected. The tough test is when you’re challenged by Paxman for the details.

    btw forget about these `10% poll leads` in the real one last month you achieved 5% lead and a mere 3% more than 2010 percentage rating. I know it doesn’t say much about anyone else btw.

  12. Erchie says:

    There is the usual Blairite caveat here. Of course you wsnt to hurt scroungers, exceot these scroungers are a Right-Wing Labour/Tory myth.

    Incapacity went up because more people were living though illness. The “redundant mibe-worker” myth, even if true, would have been false after 1995 because they would be retired.

    DLA, a benefit paid to help disabled people lead a more normal life, e.g. For adaptations to house/workplace, had an error/fraud rate of less than 0.5%, yet Osborne demanded, and Labour supported, a cut of 20%, hurting those rhat needed it.

    If Labour meant this, and weren’t just another right-wing party, they would shout out about theblies being told

  13. @James: Well, I don’t agree that Labour cannot be trusted with the nation’s finances, although I’d accept that’s what many believe. There is much sense in the rest, though, and your ponit about the 10% poll lead is quite correct. As I blogged a week ago, no party has beaten an incumbent post-war without achieving at least a 20% poll lead at some point, which Labour has patently failed to do. It is also clear that this policy direction is not the way to do it.

    @Erchie. That’s right, there is no such thing as welfare dependency. And it certainly didn’t increase during Labour’s term in office. Might I suggest you read Liberal Conspiracy, because then you won’t find any arguments to challenge your comfortable thinking?

  14. swatantra says:

    New Labour is Old Hat. It died and was intered in 2010. Do keep up.
    Ed is doing the right thing, but he won’t get any thanks for it, because the very people Labour is out to help and support, don’t bother to vote, or vote for the Facist Parties.

  15. @Les: any arguments to bring to the table, or just the mindless ad-hominem?

  16. Fiona Gallagher says:

    1. Encourage stories in press about Scroungers and Skivers.

    2. Encourage that bastion of Toryism, the BBC to make documentaries with people like John Humphreys, bemoaning said Benefit Scroungers.

    3. Repeat ad nauseum for years.

    4. Run opinion polls asking whether Benefit Claimants are scroungers, take the results as “Public Opinion”

    5. Cut benefits, accuse Labour of being stupid because they don’t follow “Public Opinion”

    6. Job done

  17. Danny says:

    @james: I suggest you re-read the definition of the word fact. Here is an example for you;

    The Conservatives will not have won a majority in a general election in 23 years by the time the next one rolls rounds (assuming the Lib Dems don’t pull the plug before May 2015).

    The only false propaganda driving policy here is the destructive belief that everyone on benefits is happy on it and wants to stay on as long as possible. This is rubbish. The majority of them want to work.

    I live on a particularly deprived estate and see many “drawn curtains” as I walk through it on my way to work. What lies behind the majority of them are people who long to work so that they can earn more than they receive on benefits so they can take their kids on a holiday that isn’t a weekend in Uncle Roy’s leaky caravan at Hemsby. They want to afford new football boots so their son doesn’t have to play Sunday league with a hole in his heel.

    Living on benefits is not easy, and whilst there are many who are happy with their lot because improving it would mean having to work and will abuse the system with faux ailments, people who should be ruthlessly targeted with cuts and reassessments, they are a minority. And it is cruel that the image of benefit claimants that has built up, peddled by the Conservative party and the right-wing rags, has given the government a licence to further destroy an already pitiful living standard. And by and large, it has been greeted by a chorus of approval. Even from people within the Labour party.

  18. kev says:

    Why is it, after two and half years into the coalition government, December 2012, rather than say, June 2010, that the decision was taken that ‘something has to be done’ about welfare?
    Would it have something to do with the fact that the economy is sluggish,house prices are flat, growth remains illusive, and the coalition is going to fail reaching any of it’s own projected targets by May 2015? The coalition has failed comprehensively in it’s economic management of our country.
    George Osborne has proved that he is not the master-tactician that we are led to believe: witness, amongst other things, the introduction the ‘pasty tax’. The benefit cuts have been introduced as a tactical ploy, and a none too subtle one at that. Even Lynton Crosby’s ‘shirkers’ and ‘strivers’, which have been imported wholesale from Australia have entered the lexicon. However, there was no room for the term ‘bludger’!
    However, I would question what I take to be an omission in Rob’s piece. It is looking quite possible that amongst those who will be effected by these cuts are the working poor. These strivers, and their families are going to hit, and hit hard by cuts to their living standards. That is bad enough in itself, but the net effect is these families will have even less purchasing power, with further demand for goods and services been sucked out of the economy.
    The Chancellor’s budget in March at first appeared quite succsessful, it soon unravelled. I believe that Ed Miliband was correct to criticise these cuts, and if there is one thing I am not going to countenance it is when Conservatives talk of ‘fairness’, and then proceed to cut the benefits of the poorest.

  19. Jono says:

    So what do you think of the Ipsis Mori poll showing a clear majority who believes Osborne was wrong to increase below inflation? Funny ol’trap we’re in.

  20. Amber Star says:

    @ Rob,

    Have you seen the MORI Autumn Statement Poll?
    As it stands, Ed’s view is shared by 69% of the voting public; Gideon’s by 27% (see below).
    So it’s the Tories who need to win the public over to their world view, not Labour.

    Do you have any comments, Rob? Have you anything with which to refute the findings of this poll? Or has Ed confounded the received ‘wisdom’ once again?
    ———————–
    The majority of the British public do not agree with the Chancellor’s plans, announced as part of the Autumn Statement last week, to increase working-age benefits including Job Seekers Allowance and Child Benefit by less than inflation:

    11% think that benefits should not rise at all
    16% agree with the Chancellor that they should rise by less than inflation
    59% think that they should continue to rise in line with inflation
    10% think they should rise above the rate of inflation.

  21. Greg says:

    @rob

    I don’t have a problem with your analysis of this so-called trap, although I don’t agree with it, but you’ve completely failed to propose an alternative. On twitter you suggested “Anything but this response from Ed”, which as I said, is less a suggestion, more a Dan Hodges article.

    So, how would you respond? There are basically two approaches if you want to stand by your claim that Labour must respond clearly and unambiguously to issues. One is to accept the cut, the other is to oppose it. If you try to fudge it, I agree with you, the position will be completely lost.

    So I can only conclude that you think Labour should accept the cut. But then how on earth do we differentiate? We are in a position of saying we accept benefit cuts (which will make no difference whatsoever to the deficit since benefit spending is rising despite cuts in levels of tax credits etc) then what? How do we position ourselves versus the Tories in terms of protecting working people?

    I have no issue, as I say, with your analysis, but you must tell us what you think Labour should do, otherwise we can’t make a rational choice.

  22. Amber Star says:

    @ Rob

    RM: I’m glad you agree it’s a trap. But I’m stunned that you think its objective is the exact opposite of what everyone else has suggested.

    AS: A trap isn’t a trap if you can see it from a mile away. I still maintain that the plan was get Labour on the same side as the Tories regarding social security; less differentiation means it’s more likely that the incumbents will be given another term. But it’s all academic now because the IPSO-MORI polling suggests that Ed’s strategy isn’t as stupid as you thought it was.

    RM: Ed has done well at a couple of points this year, and One Nation Labour was a good start. But this is not one of those moments, and I’m afraid your suggestion that this will consolidate our lead is hopelessly wishful thinking.

    AS: We’ll see, Rob. Meanwhile, I’ll keep hopefully wishing & thinking that the people of the UK are less mean-spirited than the Tories (& you? & Dan Hodges?) think they are. :-)

  23. Robert says:

    Rob, the point I was trying to make is that voting against the 1% rise will not harm Labour, so Labour should not be scared of doing the right thing.

  24. John P Reid says:

    Amber , you can quote opinion polls, It was like when there were those in 1983 saying to Michael foot that his policies were ‘leading labour to massive defeat’, but Foot pointed out that his speeches in halls were getting standing ovations, He pointed this out to his critics, to which they replied ‘but what about the views of the people outside those halls.’

    Maybe you should also ask Dan Hodges directly what he thinks

  25. LesAbbey says:

    @Rob:

    We know Rob Marchant would never allow principles to stand in the way [of] spin. New Labour at its worse.

    @Les: any arguments to bring to the table, or just the mindless ad-hominem?

    Ad hominem, possibly yes, but hardly mindless. To me it sums up our differences. Whereas I would look on New Labour’s wasted 13 years in government, you would doubtless look on its achievements. Whereas I would feel guilty for negotiating away principles, you would see this as just an acceptable part of realpolitik. And whereas I would see Alistair Campbell as a bully living in the gutter, I’m quite sure you would have a far different view.

    So to you, not to stand and fight Tory attempts to impoverish those most in need is just a tactic to not get on the wrong side of public opinion. You have learnt well Rob.

  26. @Greg:

    It’s a little more sensible to have a debate in the comments rather than on Twitter.

    My principal problem with Labour’s approach here is that in pretending that any criticism implies a supporting of the Tories’ facile “scroungers” approach (it doesn’t), we are failing to mention the elephant in the room: that welfare dependency (note that lack of judgemental language) is a problem. It is a phenomenon which ultimately ruins peoples’ lives, because the perverse incentives it creates do not make for escaping from it. It is a phenomenon which the public sees as a problem. And it is largely a phenomenon which got worse under Labour. That is the problem.

    So this is not about strivers versus scroungers, it is about Labour failing to hold up its hand and say, this got worse on our watch and this is what we intend to do about it. No, whatever the attempted subtlety of its message, it is

    Now, about your suggestion that I have not outlined my alternative solution. You are quite right. First, this is a blog piece about political strategy, rather than about the individual policy choice and how “fair” or “unfair” it is, thoroughly subjective though those words might be. My intention was not to give a policy solution here, merely to highlight the daftness of this as a strategic move for the two reasons I listed above. Politics is about strategy: if you’re a rubbish strategist, you’re in the wrong game.

    What should Labour do? I’m a blogger, not a policy wonk, so if you’re looking for a detailed policy proposal, that’s not me. I can, however, outline a political approach, which I think is more important.

    Labour should start by saying welfare dependency is a problem, rather ignoring it and moralising the overall issue by casting themselves as doughty defenders of the poor. They should say, welfare dependency is a problem, and frankly we didn’t do enough to fix it, but Labour is now under new management and clearly this Tory bill is clearly not the solution. Our proposed solution is this: [insert thought-through and costed policy idea]. For this reason, and secondly for the cuts to other benefits which hit the vulnerable, we will vote against the bill.

    The Tories cleverly bundled up some unreasonable cuts with some more reasonable cuts which the public will buy into. We have to separate them properly and deal with both, not just one.

    There. Bet you didn’t expect me to criticise New Labour, did you? These things are not as black-and-white as they seem.

    Finally, you made commented on Twitter about some of us being too focused on the middle class. Well, you may not be aware of the Social Attitudes Survey from last year, which said an astonishing 70% of Britons now consider themselves to be middle class: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/class-exclusive-seven-in-10-of-us-belong-to-middle-britain-2247052.html

    Why do you think Ed is talking about the “squeezed middle”? Why was the whole US election about who won the middle class? Because they *are* the many, not the few. This is not to say you should ignore the vulnerable, that is not Labour. But you fail to weight things appropriately towards the middle class at your peril. It’s not political strategy – it’s maths.

  27. Amber Star says:

    @ Rob

    “There. Bet you didn’t expect me to criticise New Labour, did you? These things are not as black-and-white as they seem.”
    —————————
    I know you occasionally criticise New Labour, Rob. But then you offer a New Labour approach to cleaning up a problem which was ignored or exacerbated by New Labour!
    It wasn’t the policies which New Labour got wrong that I object to, Rob. It is the belief that you all know what ‘Middle England’ is thinking.

    Well, IPSO MORI has a poll which shows that if ‘Middle England’ are thinking what you & Gideon are thinking, then ‘Middle England’ is only 27% of the vote. And it’s probably the 27% who would never, ever, vote Labour anyway. So even from a narrow, electoral perspective there’s not much reason to pander to them, is there?

  28. @AmberStar: Yes, I do have some comments on the polls.

    1. I rather reject both the polls, the YouGov and the MORI, for the following reason: they are based on silly categories. If you move someone’s answer a fraction of a per cent, they change from one category from another to another. So the difference between 0% and -0.00001% in the MORI poll is a category jump. At minimum, you should categorise as follows, e.g.: (a) More than 2% less than inflation (b) up to 2% less than inflation (c) 0% (d) +0-2% (e) +>2%. So you can differentiate between those who think those on benefits should be really hurt from those who think they should be about the same as they are now, a bit more or a bit less.

    There are two other big problems.

    2. What my excellent colleague Hopi Sen would call the “do you want a pony that someone else will pay for?” problem. It is very easy for people to spend other people’s money on increasing benefits. It does not mean you would do it if it was phrased around how you personally would end up paying for it. You can get almost whatever answer you want by phrasing the question.

    3. All this presupposes that the vast majority of the voting public even understand what a real terms increase is and what it really means in terms of pounds and pence. I think this is certainly not 100% of the population. I would suggest that it is put in much simpler language than that used.

    All in all, I think both the surveys are a bit meaningless. I would go with the gut feel (and focus group evidence from both Labour and Tories) that this is an issue which bothers a lot of people and on which the public is rather fiscally conservative (i.e. don’t spend too much of my tax money on this).

  29. @Les: ah, the old left trick: those who disagree with me are morally bereft. Not simply having a difference of opinion.

    Despite your best efforts to portray things otherwise, you do not have a monopoly on principle, Les.

  30. Amber Star says:

    @ Rob

    I would go with the gut feel (and focus group evidence from both Labour and Tories) that this is an issue which bothers a lot of people and on which the public is rather fiscally conservative (i.e. don’t spend too much of my tax money on this).
    ——————————
    I think that Lord Ashcroft’s polling is fairly clear on this; that if the Tories can succeed in making Labour look exactly the same as the Tories when it comes to low income, hard working families, the Tories will have a chance of being the largest Party next time around. But Labour retaining this group will mean a win for us (absent the boundary changes).

    Labour needs to keep the voters which it has; & they include people who are worried about losing their jobs as well as people who are receiving in-work credits. Polling & focus groups suggest that Labour can win by standing up for the low paid & unemployed.

    And, BTW, it’s always interesting to have a ‘dispute’ with you. There’s always a nice balance of facts + gut-feel; I genuinely like it that you don’t see them as mutually exclusive.
    8-)

  31. Robert says:

    Many of the problems with the welfare state and poverty are due to mass unemployment. Governments of both parties have failed to achieve full employment since the 1970s, which suggests that it might not be possible. A realistic target could be a million unemployed and when that is achieved we can start thinking about welfare dependency.

    To be fair to the coalition, the Universal Credit and raising the amount that people earn before they pay tax might help the low paid. The Lib Dems also deserve some credit for ensuring that benefits will rise by 1% but there is no way that Labour should vote for a rise that is below inflation. My inclination is for Labour not to propose any changes to welfare and to concentrate on reducing unemployment.

  32. LesAbbey says:

    They should say, welfare dependency is a problem, and frankly we didn’t do enough to fix it…

    There. Bet you didn’t expect me to criticise New Labour, did you?

    Interesting that you should use the same argument that someone like me would make on the lack of New Labour action on welfare dependency during its time in power.

    That the deindustrialisation carried out under Thatcher created the problem we would probably agree on. (And this highlights the short-termism of both that government and those which followed. We just need to look at Germany and France for alternative options.)

    That the Blair and Brown governments didn’t do enough to tackle it I didn’t think we would agree, although obviously we would have different ideas on they should have gone about this. It took the financial meltdown to force Brown to look at Keynesian answers and turn his back on neo-liberal economics. If only a dozen years before we had looked for a different answer on how to get people back to work.

    Still even with the fault resting with our politicians they will still try to blame the victims for the crime. She was wearing too short a skirt m’lord.

    @Les: ah, the old left trick: those who disagree with me are morally bereft. Not simply having a difference of opinion.

    Ad hominem Rob? Is it those dreadful ‘left’ after you again? Do I think you are ‘morally bereft’? Probably I do Rob, but I also think that The Thick of It is a bit too close to the truth on the thought processes used by the political class. As for being part of the ‘left’, I suspect I’m a bit like Hattersley; I haven’t moved (or if anything moved to the right), it’s the rest of you running past me that puts me here.

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