You know a Government is in trouble when they start slaying mythical dragons.
David Cameron announced this week that immigrants families would face being ineligible to apply for a Council house for up to five years. The Prime Minister has been under pressure from Conservative MPs since their appalling Eastleigh by-election result, where they slumped to third behind UKIP. The UKIP campaign was based strongly on an anti-immigration and anti-EU stance.
With a background of a stalling economy, poor poll ratings, internal conflict and a stress-cracked Coalition, the omens for the next election look poor for the Conservatives. With under three years to go, it would take a remarkable and unlikely turn around to reverse the trend.
So how does such a Government in this mess move forward?
They roll out their mythical dragons to slay.
For the Conservatives these are the EU, immigration, the public sector, unions, the welfare state and the so called deficit. Each is chosen for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the myth must be commonly shared. It is useful if your friends in the media will propagate helpful stories, using one-off extreme cases to demonstrate the rule. For example, a single mother with eleven children was the centre of a media storm last month. This case was used to demonstrate the ‘failing of an over generous benefit system’ , despite being a highly unusual case that represents a minuscule percentage of benefit claimants. The domination of the right-wing press ensures that such issues are rarely portrayed accurately, or with a fair evidential basis.
Secondly, each dragon should represent a group that is vulnerable and weak. This applies to immigrants and welfare claimants. These groups do not have the influence to seriously fight back.
Thirdly, the concept of scape-goating should apply. Are immigrants responsible for the lack of social housing? No, the issue is decades of not building them, while simultaneously selling the stock off. Are people on Job Seekers Allowance holding back the country and responsible for their own worklessness? No, our economy is so configured to ensure a permanent high level of unemployment to create a downward pressure on wages, and transfer wealth to global corporations and the super-rich. Scape-goating also helps to ensure ordinary workers focus their rage on those they should unite with. Why should the elite fight everyone else, when they can have ordinary people fight among themselves?
The Conservatives know that organised labour remains a barrier to eroding employee rights and creating the preconditions which would enable global capitalists to further asset strip the people of the United Kingdom. This is why the public sector and Unions are targets for slaying, not because they are bad, but for ideological reasons. The Miners strike in 1984-85 was a classic case of artificially constructing a fight, with the intention of destabilising the union movement and to justify a reduction in union rights.
The Conservatives always talk about the deficit as something Labour grew so large due to spending too much. This is nonsense, and even a cursory look at historical data blows this myth out of the water. The deficit is being used as a trojan horse to fragment and privatise our services for corporate profit.
So given the Conservatives inability to win the next election based on their performance or benefit they have brought to people, we can expect two years of further attacks on the classic Tory dragons.
Those on the left need to ensure that they fight every myth propagated by this Government, as it gets down and dirty heading towards 2015. No action should be done or speech made that gives credence to these myths.
This lesson needs to be quickly learned by the Shadow Cabinet.
Are you listening Liam Byrne?