The week Uncut: supping with Banquo’s ghost

This was the week David Cameron and Ed Miliband supped with Banquo’s ghost. Savage Tory cuts cheered by gleeful knights of the shire. Labour’s metropolitan factionalism dragging it to electoral defeat. One nation Conservatives professing shame at the callousness of their party. Ineffectual shadow ministers unable to capitalise. Margaret Thatcher and Ken Livingstone united in one final danse macabre.

Cameron was first to feel the icy touch. As the blade fell, the baying of the mob echoed around Westminster. And beyond. The coalition was blooded. Jobs, homes and benefits lost beneath Osborne’s cold steel. Innocence and optimism too. Cameron and Clegg had once yearned for a new politics. It was savage awakening.

Then, amid the waving arms and fluttering order papers, the prime minister noticed her. A woman. Elegant. With stately bearing. She smiled. A hard smile. And was gone.

Labour’s young leader was next to notice a stillness in the air. But not before being forced to watch the flower of a new generation cut down before him. Wave after wave of Labour MP’s hurled themselves ineffectually across the commons chamber. And as each new charge was repulsed, the Bullingdon butchers taunted: “We are the masters now”.

It was not over. A tortured sleep interrupted. More cruel tidings. The citadel of Tower Hamlets breached. Treachery suspected.

Again, the vision was fleeting. An elderly figure, slightly stooped. But with eyes that still burned. One hand resting on an old walking stick. The other clenched in defiance. Then he too had vanished.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband are similar in many ways. Anointed ahead of their time, they have a mandate, and an imperative, to break with the past. Yet this week history out-ran them both.

Cameron can afford the cuts. Indeed, they form a key part of his narrative. A nation united in hardship. A coalition united in leadership.

But his chancellor’s blade cut that narrative in two. Doing hard, dirty work is one thing. Whistling while you do so is something else. This was not the politics of the big society. This was the politics of those who once told us society had ceased to exist.

Ed Miliband was also slammed back into the future. Fiscally, the CSR took us back to the mid-70s. But the Tower Hamlets debacle was pure 80s. A local party riven by divisions. A flagship Labour council seized by political extremists. The leadership of the party seemingly paralysed and impotent.

There though, the equity in the parallel ends. Because history is written by the victors. And we are the vanquished. As it was in the eighties, so it is now.

Images of Tories cheering cuts are toxic for Cameron. But images of extremism, division and indiscipline are potentially terminal for Labour. The issues in Tower Hamlets may seem a quarrel in a far-away borough between people of whom we know little. But couple them with the broader challenges we face, and they represent a real danger to Labour’s future electoral success.

This week both David Cameron and Ed Miliband were haunted by visions from the past. It’s Ed who should feel most afraid.

Here are half a dozen of Uncut’s best-read pieces of the week.

Siôn Simon says the Labour right needs a new leader

David Prescott says Ken must go

Tom Watson says goodbye to Walworth Road

Nick Keehan on an alternative to the Tories’ seedy foreign policy

Kevin Meagher says it’s wrong to hate Margaret Thatcher

Dan Hodges says the CSR was a disaster for Labour

Jessica Asato on the Tower Hamlets debacle

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