In an attempt to demonstrate their credentials as the takers of â€œtough decisionsâ€, British Labour leader Ed Miliband (whom I backed as leader) and his shadow Chancellor Ed Balls have been telling the world that a future Labour government canâ€™t guarantee to reverse Tory public expenditure cuts, and favour a public sector pay freeze, and even pay cuts for public sector workers (to save jobs, apparently). Well it is a funny world where a sign of your toughness is your willingness to pander to the right-wing commentariat.
Toughness in political jargon has always been about how much you are willing to screw the defenceless and poor, how much ship you’re willing to heap up on those at the bottom of society. It’s never about taking on multibillionaire newspaper owners, or forcing harsh new taxes on banks that threaten to move out of the City if their directors have to pay so much as a parking fine or anything else that actually takes guts. Instead we get this whole charade in which a supposedly leftwing politician has to regretfully acknowledge that it’s no longer realistic to expect that…, that the current economic climate makes it imperative to rethink…, that the challenges facing the country leave him no choice but… all to appear realistic and tough to an audience that, as Chris dryly notes, is not his friend in the first place.
It’s easy to see what the rightwing wurlitzer gets out of it; the pre-emptive nobbling of a rival to their champion; while for “impartial” journalists it’s at least a man bites dog story even if this particular man has bitten more often than even the most aggresive rottweiler has managed in its lifetime, but why does an Ed Balls or Milliband join in?
Obviously because they’re not as leftist as their supporters would like them to be and this provides good covering for them to move rightwards; it’s not that they want to move, it’s that they’re forced to. Whether or not anyone believes them is unimportant: it’s the appearance that counts, the willingness to participate in this theatre.