The need for a broad left narrative was explored at yesterday’s Compass West Midlands meeting at the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. One speaker recommended an article by Jonathan Freedland.
It described a series of mantras ‘unleashed’ when the Conservatives returned to power – assisted by ‘a press that almost uniformly leans to the right’ – ‘a megaphone amplifying their message’. Simple phrases have been repeated and accepted unquestioningly, becoming assimilated into the collective consciousness. They include:
- the last government ‘maxed out’ the nation’s credit card;
- Labour failed to mend the roof when the sun was shining.
And in their own favour:
- we’re clearing up the mess we inherited;
- we are determined to balance the books;
- we will live within our means and
- we are the party for hardworking families.
Freedland said that there was no memorable, easily understood response to the charge that Labour’s incontinent spending, rather than the global crash, had ballooned the deficit.
‘Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left. Kind regards and good luck, Liam.’
But an attender at the Compass meeting suggested one: he said that when Liam Byrne left the traditional informal note to his Treasury successor (see Maudling’s missive) he should have added a truthful rider:
‘Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left, the bankers have had it all’.
However, as the Compass facilitator said, it is easy to criticise; what is needed is a positive, attractive broad left narrative.