Posts Tagged ‘aspiration nation’

What does “one nation” mean? Anyone?

25/03/2013, 09:31:11 AM

by David Talbot

Dark warnings permeated throughout Westminster last week that the chancellor had been put on final notice. Osborne, it was said, had been politely but firmly informed that restless Conservative MPs had earmarked his fourth budget as the last opportunity to restore economic and political credibility before the countdown to the general election in 2015. In marked contrast to last year, the chancellor and his team imposed tight discipline on his preparations to ensure none of the headlines contained a variant of the word “shambles.”

To that end, the chancellor can be relatively pleased. In the run up to the budget he had made, and had deliberately been seen to be making, a concerted effort to court long-neglected Conservative MPs. The frequency with which Osborne systematically name-checked colleagues in marginal seats, who had miraculously succeeded in planting their pet projects into the budget, would suggest a chancellor who, firstly, knows he is unpopular and secondly, who rightly recognises that the government is dangerously listless.

The “aspiration nation” is the Conservative response to Ed Miliband’s much-heralded “one nation” Labour party. It’s difficult to envisage a way in which you could abuse the English language more efficiently, but clearly the Conservative elders are pleased with their effort. For they desperately need something – even a slogan – to inject impetus into a moribund government that is fighting itself, rather than for the country.

The catalogue of errors that are now strewn across the government’s record is now so damaging it threatens the basic concept of governance. Cameron capitulated over Leveson, despite having established the inquiry. Under pressure last year at PMQs he announced the government will force energy companies to provide cheaper tariffs, with no idea how. In 2010 he came into government promising no top-down reorganisation of the NHS and has embarked on precisely that. He emptily vetoed the EU budget last December, and under pressure from UKIP promised a referendum – raising the prospect that the UK might leave the EU, a prospect he is on record as saying he does not want to happen.

The biggest beneficiary of all this buffoonery has been Labour. But the strong national polling figures mask the poor intellectual shape the party is in. As the Eastleigh by-election proved, where the party added a dismal 0.2% to its already bad 2010 total, the warning signs for Labour are there.

“One nation” may have played well to the media and the party faithful, but its lack of policy grit is beginning to hurt.


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