Leading article: Essex is not the only way, Prime Minister

Politicians are wooing the upwardly mobile children of the working class again

Share
Related Topics

Anyone who listened to David Cameron and Nick Clegg yesterday in the hope of hearing something new will have been direly disappointed. The two leaders of a Government which has just taken a drubbing in a nationwide election went all the way to Basildon and held up production in a tractor factory to repeat the same homilies, in much the same words, that they have said so many times before.

The apparent objective of this strange exercise was to answer the charge that the Coalition has been wasting its time on issues such as Lords reform and gay marriage, when it should be concentrating on the economy. That, at least, was the intended symbolism of an event conducted on a factory floor, in front of a mixed audience of workers in overalls, and political journalists. It also explains Nick Clegg's remarks that he cares much more about the economy and apprenticeships than about creating an elected House of Lords.

Those words, combined with David Cameron's significant choice of phrase, when he said that Lords reform was a perfectly sensible measure for Parliament to "consider", will increase scepticism about whether this long-overdue and often-promised act of modernisation is going to happen under the present Government. And if Lords reform is to go into cold storage, we should perhaps not expect action over gay marriage either.

The other interesting symbolism about yesterday's event is that it was staged in Essex. For politicians, it seems that truly "the only way is Essex". Just a few hours before the Cameron-Clegg double act, Ed Miliband was in Harlow to hold a question-and-answer session and stake his claim that it is Labour, not the Coalition, that is "in touch with people's concerns".

The people that the political leaders want to be seen to be in touch with are the upwardly mobile children of the working class. A large proportion of those living in Essex towns like Harlow and Basildon own their own homes and cars and can afford holidays abroad, though a generation or two ago their families were Labour voters living in council estates. They are the people Margaret Thatcher wooed away from Labour, and Tony Blair wooed back.

It can be assumed that issues like Lords reform or gay marriage do not feature high on their daily concerns, so it makes sense for the politicians to push an economic message when seeking the support of Essex man and Essex woman. It will also ease David Cameron's problems with his own party to let these matters slip to the bottom of the Government's "to do" list.

But there is never going to be a convenient or "right" time to reform the House of Lords. There will be endless constitutional complications and sullen resistance from their lordships whenever it is done. Yet all the political parties say that it is the right thing to do, and the public – when asked – agrees. So the Coalition should get on with it, as promised, and not use the poor state of the economy as an excuse for inaction. The same applies to gay marriage, which is less of a burden on parliamentary time.

The reason that the Coalition suffered such a serious electoral setback last week is not that the public is punishing them for being pro gay or anti life peerages. It is because they are presiding over a time of unprecedented economic upheaval and have failed to explain how rafts of unpopular measures, from student fees to capped benefits to granny taxes, can justifiably sit alongside an income tax cut for those on £150,000 a year.

"What you call austerity, I might call efficiency," the Prime Minister said yesterday. The danger is that the public's answer becomes: "What you call efficiency, we call unfair." Hammering out a message about the economy is a good idea – but there is some way to go.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul
 

Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living