George Monbiot puts it very neatly:
The dominant Tory frame. . . is that the all-important issue is the deficit. The financial crisis, it claims, was caused not by the banks but by irresponsible government spending for which the only cure is austerity. (Guardian, 15th April)
Monbiot may be going a bit far when he claims that: "In reality the deficit should rank somewhere in the low hundreds on the list of political priorities." I would tend to put it somewhere in the lower end of the "top ten," after:-
- low productivity;
- the balance of (external) payments deficit;
- growing inequality;
- unaffordable housing;
- destitution and misery of those on the bottom rungs of our society.
The primacy of the deficit is so well entrenched that even Labour dares not speak up for the poor who suffer most from this over-emphasised obsession. And even on housing Ed Miliband last night refused to rule out discontinuing the "right to buy," one of the most damaging legacies of the Thatcher era which, astoundingly, the Tories propose now to extend to those in housing association tenancies.
Another part of the Tory frame which Labour are too timid to challenge is the revival of the Victorian concept of the deserving and undeserving poor, through "dog whistle" references to "hard working families." Twice last night, Miliband borrowed this Tory mantra is defining the people he hoped to represent.
Being retired, I am not hard working and, being single and living (quite contentedly) alone, I am not a family either. But I am a citizen worthy of representation, and I'd like there to be party which appealed for my vote on the grounds it would try to create a fairer society in Britain for everybody, young or old, fit or disabled, responsible or feckless; was honest about the true state of affairs and the limits on its capacity to alter them; pledged to defend our human rights and civil liberties; and extended its vision to include working towards a fairer world and a sustainable future.
That party ought to be the Liberal Democrats. Sadly we too have bought into the Tory frame.