Ellie Mae O’Hagen on those disquieting austerity poll results:
This week’s crisis is brought to you by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has released a report showing that attitudes of the British public towards poverty have hardened – and the most marked shift has been among Labour voters.
These days only 27% of Labour supporters cite social injustice as the main cause of poverty, down from 41% in 1986. Conversely, Labour supporters identifying laziness and lack of willpower as the main cause of poverty rose from 13% to 22% in the same period.
Is she surprised? She claims she isn’t:
… allow me to suggest for a moment that this news isn’t surprising at all. In fact, I’d say it would be more surprising if this shift in attitude hadn’t happened.
For a start, we wouldn’t expect Tory voters to suddenly harden their attitudes towards people living in poverty, because presumably their attitudes were pretty hard to begin with… So the only significant shift in attitudes on poverty we could realistically expect would come from Labour party supporters, who didn’t hold these opinions in the first place.
Or maybe didn’t feel like expressing them before, what with the risk of being labelled as bigots by the leadership, eh, Ellie?
More importantly though, unity of public opinion is what happens when political parties develop a consensus around a certain issue. People generally agree that benefit claimants are responsible for their own poverty because in the past 30 years, Labour has generally agreed with the Tories on that too.
Yes. Clearly, to Ellie, you think what you do because that’s what politicians tell you to think.
Well, it works for her, right? Why not extrapolate?
After Labour’s identity crisis comes the inevitable speculation about how Ed Miliband should respond. It seems to me he has very little choice in the matter. He can’t promise to get tough on benefits because that’s prime Tory territory, and attempting to out-Tory the Tories will only end in failure. He can’t occupy the middle ground (the political term given to “trying to second guess what the electorate think and then saying that”) because the middle ground on this issue, as we’ve established, is basically Conservative.
So, what should he do, Ellie? Lose? He’s already doing that!
Ed Miliband must be brave enough to fight this narrative, not just for tactical reasons, but because what’s the point of the Labour party if it won’t defend ordinary people?
Oh, Ellie, Ellie, Ellie…
You just don’t realise it, do you? The ‘ordinary people’ are the ones who are saying ‘Enough!’.