The Conservative party just can’t help themselves. I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for them. They’ve completely lost momentum in this pre-election campaigning, so they’re desperate to change the media narrative. What I would do in their shoes is get some detailed policy out there. Reframe the discussion, be positive and proactive, change the media agenda, and show the public that there’s more to the Tories than meets the eye. But I’m not in their shoes and, somewhat surprisingly, they’ve not called for my advice.
What strategy have Team Cameron gone with, I hear you ask? Well, they’ve run with the breaking news that founders of the Labour party provide funding to the Labour party. I know it’s a big surprise to us all, but let’s take a deep breath and deal with this scandalous situation. Everyone calm? Over the shock? Good. Then I’ll continue. This morning the Conservative party produced yet another poster (pictured below). They released an 18-page “attack document” detailing the Unite trade union’s support of Labour MPs and candidates. And they despatched Michael Gove to give a speech on the main focus of the document, Charlie Whelan, Unite‘s political director.
The idea here is to switch the spotlight to the Labour party and make the ‘floating voter’ think twice about them. But it doesn’t do that at all. Unite has just under 1.3 million members who choose to pay into the union’s political fund. They’ve all made a conscious decision to pay a few quid a month toward the Labour party. Of those 1.3 million members, I should think the majority are working class or lower middle class people who work hard, pay their taxes, and enjoy knowing they’re doing their bit for Labour. What the media, and subsequently the non-aligned members of the public, are doing is looking at 1.3 million tax payers and comparing them to Michael Ashcroft. On top of that, trying to make a big story out of trade unions being involved with Labour just seems silly. The party was founded as the Labour Representation Committee on 27 February 1900 by trade unions and they’ve always been involved in the party. It’s nothing new and nothing scandalous. Trade unions in this country are highly regulated and their donations to the party are all recorded.
This anti-Whelan campaign is not about the public good at all. It’s not about cleaning up politics, renewing democracy, increasing accountability. It’s about the election. It’s about the fact that Ashcroft is still an issue and it won’t go away. It’s about the polls closing. It’s about the Tories panicking because it’s not as easy as they thought to waltz into Downing Street. It was the great Aneurin Bevan who said
The Tories, every election, must have a bogeyman. If you haven’t got a program, a bogeyman will do.
Well, the Tories don’t have a program of policies. They evaporate under the slightest scrutiny. All they’ve got is a stalled campaign, an inexperienced leader, a disgruntled membership, and Ashcroft as an albatross around their necks. So they badly need a bogeyman. And, it seems, Charlie Whelan is it.