James Forsyth

Five lessons for the coalition from today

Five lessons for the coalition from today
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The coalition has had a bad day today. It has been knocked all over the park following the IFS report that labeled the Budget regressive. Now, I’m sure the coalition will say that if it had to pick a day to take a hammering, one towards the end of August would be what they would have chosen. But I think there are five lessons that the coalition needs to learn from today if it is to navigate successfully through the political shoals of the next few months.

1). It needs a stronger narrative about what it is doing. Mark Hoban was woeful on the Today programme this morning. He had no come back to Justin Webb’s lines. The coalition needs to say that it is giving everyone a chance to get on, making working pay and restoring fiscal sanity.

2). Take the left’s language not its metrics. I’m all for raids on the left’s linguistic territory; there’s no reason why Labour should have a monopoly on the words ‘fair’ or ‘progressive’. But the right’s definition of it must be different from the left’s. It can’t all be about redistribution.

3). The coalition needs to do a far better job of making the case for inter-generational fairness. It needs to constantly stress that more deficit spending is just going to heap more debt onto the young and generations unborn.

4). If the coalition isn’t careful it is going to find itself caught between two stools. The Guardian will attack it for being regressive and The Daily Mail will complain that it is balancing the Budget on the backs of the middle class. Again, there needs to be a clearer narrative.

5). Welfare reform is the key to the cuts being politically sellable. If the government can say that it has made work pay, it will have a convincing response to the kind of lines that Justin Webb was hitting it with this morning.