‘The economy, stupid’

So, the revolution will be televised. Or, more accurately, the Government’s latest plan to revolutionise the relationship between the public and the organs of the state is to broadcast judges’ decisions live from courtrooms.Given that this has been welcomed by some as necessary in the wake of the recent riots, and the questionable sentencing that followed,  perhaps it is even the post-revolution kangaroo-court that will actually now be televised.

Anyway, David Cameron’s desire for greater transparency apparently knows no bounds (well, except for the Conservative Government’s possible involvement in the cover-up of police culpability in the Hillsborough disaster. Or the value of wine being kept in the Foreign Office. Oh, and the exact cost of refurbishing the kitchen in No.10.) Putting that aside, Cameron’s transparency wrecking-ball will now be crashing into the nation’s homes, and no, there will be no tangential link between that and plummeting house prices, because that would indicate a distinct lack of focus.

Mr Cameron’s desire for a ‘new age of transparency and accountability’ cuts to the very ethos of the Coalition Government. Attempting to define themselves by three simple words, the Government plumped for ‘Freedom, fairness, responsibility’. Which is admirable. Transparency was always a natural baton for Cameron to take up, and not simply because his airbrushed election posters made his forehead especially see-through. No, transparency ticks all three boxes; it promotes freedom of information, it is fair that politicians should be made more accountable, and it encourages greater responsibility of action.

Unfortunately, though, little of this really matters. Televising courtrooms may be a fantastic idea, it may not. What is certain is that this, and Mr Cameron’s entire push for transparency, will have no impact at the next election. That is why my going off on a tangent about house prices when talking about transparency was a natural instinct. That is why the general public will not be excited by live sentencing verdicts on Sky News if the yellow ticker at the bottom of the page is revealing the latest set of disappointing unemployment figures, or growth figures, or inflation figures. It is, indeed, why the Government will not be defined by ‘Freedom, fairness, responsibility’, as even they must surely recognise.

Televised sentencing: will it matter?

Since the original recess of Parliament, there have been two potential political game-changers that have come and gone without making a discernable impact on polling figures. The News of the World scandal and the riots were, of course, important events. Some, Ed Miliband perhaps, would even suggest that they are both symptoms of the real crisis facing our society. But even that, will matter little come 2015. The endless deliberation over what those two events meant, how to deal with them, and who, exactly, was to blame, served merely to fill a considerable gap in news for the TV and radio to report. The hope must now be that they can turn to a live courtroom verdict rather than subject us to a tenth repeat of David Starkey making a fool of himself.

All of these issues matter, of course. They matter to people, and they matter to politicians. But they pale into insignificance when compared to the electoral wrecking-ball that is the economy. We face a protracted and painful recovery. The Government’s deficit reduction plan is starting to hit. But it is not until 2015 that the picture will be clear.

Ed Miliband would do well to look at how Bill Clinton first got elected. This Government is strong on freedom, it is strong on fairness, and it is strong on responsibility. That is why they want to be judged primarily on those grounds. They should not. As Clinton’s strategist realised in 1992, the incumbent may well be vulnerable on the issue that matters most.

When the verdict is passed down on this Coalition, three words will define them. ‘The economy, stupid’.

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Posted on September 6, 2011, in Coalition Government, Comment, Looking Forward. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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