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One of the few good things that Tony Blair did as party leader was to set up a prompt, robust and effective rebuttal machine to counter lying Tory propaganda.
It worked. Within hours of false, misleading or selective Tory claims being aired, a strong Labour rebuttal was in place in the media.
It is worrying that such a mechanism seems to have been dropped, since the last few days and weeks have seen a veritable cascade of Tory folderol which not only demands instant repudiation but offers the opportunity for a stinging counter-blast, ending along the lines of “I’ll stop telling the truth about you if you stop telling lies about me.”
But alas it hasn’t happened. The Tories are being allowed to get away with outrage after outrage.
The defenestration of Maria Miller has taken place without scarcely a word from Labour, even when the Standards Committee made the unconscionable decision to reduce her payback by 90 per cent, when you might have expected Labour to be demanding her head from the start.
David Cameron has the gall to claim the NHS has been performing better than ever before.
In fact he has nearly brought it to breakdown because of remorselessly rising pressures and mounting debts. Patients now have to wait up to four weeks to see their doctor and then far, far more than the 18-week limit achieved by Labour to see a hospital specialist for an operation.
But the opportunity for a powerful rebuttal was missed.
George Osborne makes the risible claim that he’s aiming for full employment when he himself is responsible for holding the level of unemployment at the highest level for 30 years.
This is a golden opportunity to throw back in his face the fact that not only has he kept joblessness stuck at 2.4 million or more for four years, at the same time he has hardly reduced the deficit at all — it’s still stuck at £111 billion.
Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps had the effrontery — unless it was a sick joke — to pretend that the Tories were the “workers’ party.”
But instead of being buried in catcalls that the Tories are the party of the rich, by the rich and for the rich and Tory bankers and businessmen are creaming off wealth unheard of since the Edwardian age, Labour went schtum.
Cameron has the audacity to keep claiming that this is the greenest government ever when the list of its anti-environmental measures is as long as your arm and he is turning this country into an oasis for fracking.
He solemnly proclaims that on the question of personal privacy the spooks have a clean bill of health as though we didn’t all know that actually they have been indulging for a decade in the biggest programme of unsanctioned mass surveillance in history. But from Labour, answer came there none.
It’s time for Labour to learn that if it’s going to win the election, on every one of these occasions the party must be seen going in hard and aggressively — and if need be brutally. That’s what the public expects and wants.
Michael Meacher is Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton. For more of his writing visit www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog
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