Tory Bingo: This depressing display of all-round political incompetence not only patronised the working-class — it let Labour off the hook

Ed Miliband’s response to the Budget was disastrously bad

It wasn’t a great Budget. George Osborne is far too political. Worse than Gordon Brown in the way he recites slogans that bear no relation to facts. He made one important reform to one kind of pension, but the rest was trivia, some of it of a populist kind.

Nothing wrong with a bit of populism. The Conservative Party does have a problem with older working-class voters who have defected to Ukip, and so a penny off a pint of beer and a halving of the tax on bingo might have been effective naked politics.

But the advert put together by Tory HQ last night to promote the beer and bingo tax cuts was one of the most embarrassing political campaigns ever seen. Not only did someone come up with the line, “To help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy,” but it went out on the Twitter account of Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, without anyone spotting the crashing condescension of the “they”.

The message could not have been clearer if it had said: “WE sophisticated sons of the high-born play at politics; THEY drink beer and play bingo.” Everything about it was disastrous. Its pronouns bore the same unconscious elitism of the Second World War poster that was much disliked at the time: “Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory.” And that was 75 years ago.

It was much and rightly mocked the internet over last night. No sooner had people worked out that it was not a spoof itself than the spoofs started to appear: “I say, you there! How is your whippet? Jolly good, jolly good. Carry on.” 

It wasn’t just the patronising assumption that the Conservative Party was granting the right of “they”, the working class, to enjoy their simple pleasures that was wrong. There was also the “help” for people to “do more” drinking beer and playing bingo. After the Chancellor’s reference in his Budget speech to “responsible drinkers” the idea that he was promoting “more” drinking was as foolish as it was unconvincing. A penny off a pint? Let us go down to the pub and drink one per cent more than we usually do.










Yes, all right. It was only one Facebook advert, a silly mistake. The row about it might even have drawn more attention to popular tax cuts. Beer drinkers and bingo players were resolutely un-offended on the radio phone-ins this morning.


But it did distract from what might otherwise have been the greater embarrassment of the Labour Party. Ed Miliband’s response to the Budget was disastrously bad. He failed to refer to any measures in it at all in his free association of “Bullingdon”, “tax cuts for the rich” and “cost of living crisis”. Ed Balls, meanwhile, managed to avoid the most obvious political trap, by saying that Labour would not vote against capping the cost of welfare, but even this morning could not decide whether the pensions change was good or bad.

What a depressing spectacle of political games-playing, incompetence and utter uselessness all round.