Speaking to the needs of the squeezed middle

October 20, 2010 2:22 pm

Fresh CutsBy Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

Today George Osborne had his second go at playing the axeman. A few cursory chops in the budget – the likes of which we might have called savage in a gentler age – were outdone today by the scale of economic decimation he unveiled. Hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs, a slew of services (few of which were announced in full today) will be cut – and capital investment appears limited to road improvements, combined with crippling rises in train fares. And this from a government who promised to be the greenest ever.

Nick Clegg sat behind the chancellor, stress etched across his face. He has seen the polls – even those in his own constituency – which point to a future electoral meltdown for the Lib Dems. He only perked up during the mention of the ‘pupil premium’, but the gloomy face was back as the taxpayer’s contribution to higher education was decreased, and EMA was scrapped. Behind him on the government benches the Tories loved every minute of this budget. As Osborne sneered at “these children” (those who will be left in Sure Start centres) the Tories whooped and cheered, barely able to contain their excitement. So many of them have waited their entire political lives to hack at the state as Osborne did today. His claims that these cuts are not ideological was laughable, but bold.

After a long speech in which the chancellor’s voice appeared to crack several times, the shadow chancellor, the new (old) boy to this game stood up to speak. Some had derided him for his lack of economic experience, but his quick thinking was tailor made for today’s events. Whilst many in his position might have fallen back on economic jargon whilst formulating their critique, Johnson spoke directly to those who will suffer the most from these cuts – the poor, and those squeezed in the middle of society. He also spoke to the country about the things they care about – jobs, homes and security. Responding to the chancellor, Johnson said:

“Today is the day that an abstract debate about spreadsheets and numbers turns into stark reality for people’s jobs and services. Their pensions, their prospects, their homes and their families.”

Today did not vindicate entirely Ed Miliband’s decision to appoint Alan Johnson as shadow chancellor – that will take time – but what we did see in parliament this afternoon were some of the reasons why he was chosen. A cool, calm head on a stormy afternoon. A man who can address the concerns of ordinary people. And someone who can craft a narrative that explains why what this government has planned is so wrong. Alan Johnson spoke to the squeezed middle today. He spoke to the people who will suffer most.

While Osborne played to the Tory gallery, Johnson spoke to the country. It’s the country that will decide the next election. The campaign to win that election starts today.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • News Scotland Candidate selected to replace Alistair Darling in Edinburgh South West

    Candidate selected to replace Alistair Darling in Edinburgh South West

    Ricky Henderson has been selected as the to fight the Edinburgh South West seat as the Labour candidate for this year’s election. The seat is being vacated by retiring former Chancellor and Better Together chair Alistair Darling, who has been an MP since 1987. Ricky Henderson, 53, has been a councillor in Edinburgh for 16 years. Speaking after the selection tonight, he said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been chosen to succeed Alistair Darling as Labour’s candidate. He will […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Video SNP surge “is real” – Lord Ashcroft speaks ahead of Scottish polling announcement

    SNP surge “is real” – Lord Ashcroft speaks ahead of Scottish polling announcement

    Labour activists, MPs and strategists will be paying close attention to Lord Ashcroft’s polling of Scottish seats (which should be out in the next few days), but for a taster on that – and the impact of UKIP, watch this interview of Ashcroft from Sky News’s Joey Jones:

    Read more →
  • News Roy Hattersley defends Miliband over NHS election focus

    Roy Hattersley defends Miliband over NHS election focus

    Former Labour deputy leader Roy Hattersley has leapt to Ed Miliband’s defence, after the current leader received criticism from former ministers this week for relying on the NHS too much as an election issue. Alan Milburn and John Hutton made public their scepticism about Labour’s plans for the NHS, with former Health Secretary Milburn saying “major reform” was needed in the health service. Following Neil Kinnock’s call for an end to “sniping from behind”, Hattersley has also come forward to attack […]

    Read more →
  • News Wales Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy announces retirement

    Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy announces retirement

    Paul Murphy, MP for Torfaen, has announced he will stand down from Parliament in May. Murphy has represented the constituency for 28 years, since first being elected in the 1987 election. He served as Secretary of State for Wales twice, under both Blair and Brown: his first stint between 1999 and 2002 was followed by another 18 months in the role between 2008 and 2009. He also served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2002 and 2005, and […]

    Read more →
  • Featured We must ensure that disabled people get to cast their votes

    We must ensure that disabled people get to cast their votes

    By Stephen Twigg MP and Kate Green MP There are around 11 million disabled voters in the UK. In a few weeks, they will have the opportunity to go to the ballot box and have their say on the future direction of our country. Between now and May 7th, it is imperative that we do all was can to ensure their voice is heard. Our democracy is becoming increasingly inaccessible. Over the last year, as the Government have rushed the […]

    Read more →