Today was, by all accounts, a good day for the Prime Minister. The vast majority of media commentators agree that he did well at PMQs and his attacks hit home against a distinctly wobbly David Cameron. Even his smile didn’t seem so scary, Nick Robinson put it in his blog as a positive!
Yet already it looks like that smile’s going to fade. Tomorrow’s FT will report that according to its study of Office of National Statistics figures, manufacturing has declined more under Labour since 1997 than it did under Margaret Thatcher. At the same time, the fortunes of bankers and real estate agents (seen now as the baddies) improved.
That’ll be disheartening to Labour’s MPs, who relished the class based attacks of Gordon Brown’s swinging “they make policy on the playing fields of Eton” attack on the Tories today. Labour wants to be the party of industry, and Mr Brown has taken such pride in his economic decisions. To be criticised for his economic policy from the beginning of the Labour government will be a heavy blow.
It also raises questions of the efficacy of Labour’s dividing lines and how they are going to present their economic legacy before the credit crunch. It has previously been presented in rosy terms – American credit markets were held at fault. Tomorrow’s story by the FT will shine a different light on a legacy already apparently tarnished by what some (not just the opposition) have deemed too high levels of public spending and debt.
If the Tories were making their policies on the playing fields of Eton, Labour were making theirs on the plazas of the City of London. This is a long way away from the collieries and steel mills of Labour’s self-image.
PS. You’ve got to assume when you see the FT leading with stories like this that, come the election, they’re not going to back Labour (they have done since 1992).