#10 It’s not the economy, stupid, but the hubris

Blog #1

Politicians fail to understand hubris. I remember Pete Birks once explaining that a successful CEO needed to have the memory of a goldfish, since the slate was continually wiped clean after every set of results. Sadly, for politicians, electorates tend to have longer memories than shareholders. The recent past has to be accounted for when making promises for the future. Is that really so difficult to understand?

Let me give you an example. The leader of a party which has not been in power for over for many years stands up at their conference and says they plan to build 200,000 houses during the lifetime of the next government. We can all stand up and applaud a sensible policy. However, when Ed Miliband stands up at his conference and pledges the same thing, do we all applaud? Not I think, until he answers some further questions, such as – why did the last government, of which he was a part, build so few houses? What is going to be different this time? How is this change going to happen? In fact, why exactly should we believe him?

My problem with the Labour leadership is that they seem to assume we have completely forgotten about the last government – which only ended three years ago after thirteen years in office. If the policy is different now, why have they changed and how are they going to guarantee that they really have changed? Is the Labour government that was supportive of the uber rich now a party that wants to hammer them? How has this happened and why should we believe it? For 13 years labour has been the party of the market par excellence, yet now they want to interfere with the market to freeze energy prices. Why not nationalise the Energy companies? That would fix the prices once and for all. Or inject new competition or put a stick of dynamite under the regulator? Why a 20 month freeze? Where is the logic of this position? Why should we believe it?

Are Labour a party that is ‘green’ in opposition, but not in government? Or have they given up on ‘green policies’ altogether? Do they like immigrants or hate them? How are they going to create apprentices this time when they signally failed to do so last time? Have they put their overseas adventuring behind them? Are they sorry about the excesses of the surveillance state or the outrageous nature of RIPA? I don’t necessarily disagree with their new policies (where they have them) but I need convincing that they are serious and really represent a change from their recent past.

Of course, it is a bit different for the Tories. When Therese May stands up and says she wants out of teh Human Rights Convention, we know she believes this; or when Osborne declares that he is comfortable with the filthy rich, why would we question it?

So while policies are good, and Labour certainly did need some, believability is even more important. I need to see a bit more sackcloth and ashes from the Labour leadership before I feel inclined to believe what they now say.

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