"the band is awful
and so are the tunes"
Tom Waits, Pasties and A G-String.
"If we can't take this lot apart in the next few years we shouldn't be in the business of politics at all."
Tony Blair, 2006.
It turned out we couldn't, but they failed to win a majority anyway.
Still, the Liberal Democrats decided that while we were still in the business of politics we should most definitely not be in the business of government* a now "this lot" are busy making absolute idiots of themselves, about everything.
What are they doing wrong? Let's go from tiny to huge:
1. Pasty Tax: If you're going to do tax reform, do it in a single big bang, not lots of little bits and bobs, that just allows every interest group around to plead their case. Frankly, I don't have a clue why VAT applies to pies sold at different temperatures. But making a piddly change like that was bound to cause an uproar.
2. Party funding: The British political funding system is borked, and we need to fix it. Every party has idiots, and we're grateful when these things are exposed. We're very, very, sorry. Here are some sincere ideas for making it better. It's not that hard is it?
3. Petrol: Government's exist to contain crises, not stoke them. So popping up telling people to be very concerned is usually a bad idea, unless they really, really, should be concerned.
3. 45p: I get the political imperative. George Osborne wants to show his party this is really a Tory government, so he can one day become Prime Minister/ensure the Tory right supports David Cameron (delete according to cynicism). Fine.
That means he needs to cut tax. Fine.
He also wants to set a political trap for Labour. Fine
So cut Corporation tax another point, with an extra cut post-dated to 2015 dependent on that £10 billion in Welfare savings being found.
Or fiddle with NI contributions, again, with further reduction dependent on Post-2015 savings.
Or pledge to raise the personal allowance even higher.
All of these would be Tax cuts that put Labour in a genuinely tricky position.
Hell, once the economy's growing again, you can take the 50p tax rate, bake it in a pie made of "I was right and you were wrong" and slap the whole confection right into Ed Miliband's horrified face, live on TV. The votes would forgive that, if the economy was robust.
But whatever you do, Whatever you do, don't cut the blinking top rate of tax until you've been proved right on the economy, and are being garlanded as a national Saviour. Once that's happenend, you can let Thatcherism rip if you want, but until there's a healthy growth rate, the line is broadest shoulders, heaviest burden, remember?
Cutting tax for the rich when things are rocky for the country is the Tory equivalent of feeding Gremlins after midnight. No good can come of it**.
Right now, George, your whole political project is wrapped up with the idea of getting Britain moving again. That's where your every energy should be. Giving a poxy tax cut to a few millionaires doesn't do that and it doesn't even put Labour in a particularly difficult trap. If there's one thing the Labour party is good at it, it is following moral outrage with a reluctant accommodation with the facts on the ground. Watch us lambast you for being out of touch, then wash our hands of the whole affair.
Pasty taxes? Top rate tax cuts? The reason you're in a mess George, is that' you've forgotten that your main job is to get Britain growing, not be lauded for clever tactics.
You might not believe government can make the economy grow, fair enough, but you're the Chancellor. Even if you reckon it's all make believe and fairy dust while the magic of capitalism does its thing off stage, you still want them to be looking at the exciting smoke and mirrors you've designed, not at tears in your threadbare stage costume.
This government? Pfft. It's the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
If we can't beat this lot, we shouldn't be in politics.
* The fact the Liberal Democrats felt that while joining the Tories would be politically painful, joining with us would be political suicide, should, you know, tell us something, and not that Liberal Democrats are self-harmers.
** Don't you quote Howe at me, sunshine. You're two years in now, not cutting the top rate from 83% to 60% in the optimistic early days. This is like 81, and Howe didn't cut tax then, did he? No, he put them up. Lawson cut top rate in the middle of the boom.