As well as keeping the tax avoidance row going for as long as possible (something that is worrying Tories, who think their party needs to find a way of moving the conversation on from a toxic issue as quickly as possible), Ed Miliband also unveiled a potential new campaign message at his speech today. He talked about ‘a better plan for working people, a better plan for Britain’. The 79-page document that launched alongside it was entitled ‘Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity’.
So far the Labour party has struggled to find its equivalent of the ‘long-term economic plan’ - when I quizzed frontbenchers about this recently, none of them were sure what they were supposed to be saying to communicate what Labour would do for voters - but today’s ‘better plan for Britain’ might well be it. Up to this point, though, Miliband’s aides had been suggesting that advisers and ministers should focus on something along the lines of ‘an economy that works for working people’.
Whatever the message, the Labour party does need to settle on one line and stick to it, partly so backbenchers feel they are working together on a common purpose, and more importantly so that it can have a chance of sustaining the slim poll lead it is currently enjoying. Tory message discipline is very strong, and at some point the conversation will move back from tax avoidance to something else that Labourites struggle on.
The conversation could move back from tax avoidance sooner than Labour hopes, thanks to Ed Balls's decision to talk less about super-rich Tory donors minimising their tax bills and more about cash-in-hand, which he should have known from the last back-to-tax-basics row doesn't work out well for anyone, whether Tory or Labour.