David Blackburn

The politics of hope are dead. Cameron has everything to gain by being realistic

The politics of hope are dead. Cameron has everything to gain by being realistic
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Publicly at least, Labour MPs are jubilant that Gordon Brown has agreed to appear, in principle, in a televised election debate. They give the responses to the creed first spun by Blair: that Brown is an arch-realist and heavyweight who will undo the vacuous Tories in debate. Certainly, Mr Brown is blessed with talents. As proud wives like to do, Brown’s listed his the other day – intelligence, hard work, dutifulness, diligence and patriotism. All laudable attributes, but even from environs of the cosy Labour conference, Mrs Brown did not dare suggest that her husband was in any way a realist.

Brown’s, and Labour’s, messy divorce from political reality was finalised this week when they launched a limp counter-attack based solely on crass anti-Tory slurs. The Labour conference ignored plain economic realities; the Global Statesman of the Year and Lord Mandelson offered craving delegates another hit of reckless pre-election spending; plans that are worthy of a Brothers’ Grimm fantasy, especially as the government have debated substantial cuts prior to the budget. That intellectual dishonesty is rooted in the hocus-pocus of the politics of hope.

Depressing though it is, hope is now a bankrupt political narrative. The public are aware that they are set to witness the resurrection of Stafford Cripps, not build the New Jerusalem. Politically, it is a moment to embrace that reality. Whilst Alistair Darling is the only Labour politician who vaguely acknowledges this, the Tories have been consistently realistic, stating the facts without overstating them. Obviously, the Tories want to bury discussion of the EU and its divisive hypotheticals. There is no better way to achieve that than by bringing political debate back to immediate economic problems: unemployment Brown’s culpability in our continued retraction and the cuts that are required to assure future prosperity. Despite the dogma of Labour’s spin, that approach is one of substance, and contrasts with the Prime Minister’s wilful delusion.