Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Labour's lack of consistency on BAE

Political analysts and commentators frequently talk of the need for political parties to develop a compelling narrative. People often talk about how essential it is to be strategic. This is true but, in my experience, as is refusing to be opportunistic.

In opposition, eager junior shadow ministers insist on churning out press release upon press release, quote after inane quote, in the hope to achieve the magic 'cut through' with the voters. The believe is: if you throw enough mud eventually it will stick. This is seldom true and, all too often, things said in the desire to provide an effective 'rapid rebuttal' operation come back and bite you on the bum.  

Consistency is what is really needed to ensure an opposition party develops that narrative. Repetition of message, as well as making sure it is the right message in the first place.

Labour's reaction to the bad news of 3,000 job losses at BAE Systems demonstrates they are far from getting it right. This morning Yvette Cooper has been accusing the government of not doing enough to prevent these job losses and challenging the Government "to respond to this and say what they are going to do about it."

However in February this year, when the Prime Minister undertook a tour to boost exports and sign new trade deals - precisely the kind of activity that secures jobs in the longer term - this, in Labour's eyes, was also wrong with them pouring criticism on Mr Cameron for undertaking the trip.

So which is it? This is a fundamental skill of opposition. Once you crack it you can begin to look like a government in waiting, but not before. Perhaps Tom Baldwin, Labour's director of strategy, should send a memo to Labour's shadow ministers?

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