Thursday, April 20, 2006

More Dave the Chameleon

It seems as if Labour's attempt at an attack advert is going to backfire badly. Almost everyone I've spoken to about the Dave the Chameleon advert finds the idea hilarious, but then comes out of it thinking much more highly of David Cameron. According to Iain Dale's blog, this has happened because Labour was trying hard not to make the attack appear too nasty. I hope that's true.

Part of the reason that we don't have an intelligent political debate in this country at the moment is because personality has become a substitute for policy. It's got to the stage where despite the fact that Blair and Brown are wasting money hand over fist in our public services, the Tories have completely failed to capitalise, because they are too busy constructing narratives for their leading figures. This isn't to say any party deserves absolving from the blame.

The Labour Party have perhaps been the most vicious in their attacks over the last ten years, with their denunciations of Hague having nothing to do with policy and everything to do with personality; their treatment of Howard and Letwin at the last election following suit. But the Liberal Democrats have fudged policy for years because Ashdown and Kennedy were popular, relaxed figures, and the Tories' attempts at attacks have been emphasising the shiftiness of Blair more than the manifest failings of Labour policy.

There is a genuinely important debate to be had on many, many issues. The threat of global terrorism is changing the terms of foreign policy debate - more than that, it is changing the shape of how dividing lines are drawn. Labour's insistence on pouring money into public services as a panacea is coming under more and more strain, especially with NHS cutbacks being highly publicised, and yet there is little constructive debate on the direction in which public service policy should go, and what nature reform should take. And that in itself raises many questions about the running of the economy - but there is precious little debate to be found there either.

I hope that every single attempt at character assassination from here on fails. The only way to combat cynicism about the political process is to reintroduce policy; the only reason that it is so easy for our civil liberties to be washed away is because posturing as "tough" is considering preferable to making a case for change. It stinks, and it's about time it changed.