Peter Hoskin

Cameron and Miliband’s New Year message: 2011 will be like 2010 

Cameron and Miliband's New Year message: 2011 will be like 2010 
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If you want to know what British politics will sound like in 2011, then just read David Cameron’s and Ed Miliband’s New Year messages one after the other. They share a lot of the same words, but bounce along to different, if familiar, drumbeats. According to Cameron, next year will be “very difficult,” due to the effort of “putting our economy ... on the right path”. According to Miliband, next year will be more difficult than it needs to be, due to “the decision taken to reduce the deficit at what I believe to be an irresponsible pace and scale.” In other words, cuts versus fewer cuts. Just like 2010 all over again.

Cameron’s message veers furthest away from the public finances, with a warning about the present and persistent threat of Islamic terror. But, as if to underline that the economy will dominate political discourse in 2011 just as it did in 2010, Alan Johnson has popped up today to ask the government to scrap next week’s VAT hike. “The increase in VAT will hit people hard when they can least afford it,” he writes, carefully ignoring the fact that Labour would have probably introduced the same increase had they stayed in government. Naturally, the coalition’s response to Johnson has not been accommodating.

As it happens, Labour can rely on a broad coalition of support when it comes to opposing VAT hike: observers such as Guido and the Daily Mail are likely bolster their attack. Yet Miliband’s party are still playing an unpersuasive game overall. As 2011 slides into view, they are talking almost exclusively about what taxes they wouldn’t raise and what spending they wouldn’t cut. They have put a broader prospectus on indefinite hold. Perhaps that is how Opposition works. But it already whiffs of blunt opportunism – and could become even less credible should the economy start to motor before the next election.