How successful were Hammond and McDonnell's strategies?by John McTernan / November 23, 2016 / Leave a comment
There are two days on which the opposition can get no coverage: Budget day, and Autumn Statement day. There is nothing unfair about this. It is a defensible, indeed correct, news judgment reflecting the iron law that governments get up thinking about what they are going to do while oppositions can only think about what they are going to say. The permanent danger of opposition is of being trapped in the role of angry powerless teenager. To adapt the famous exchange with Marlon Brando in The Wild One:
“Hey Jeremy, what are you opposing?”
“Whadda you got?”
Opposition for opposition’s sake guarantees only one thing—permanent opposition.
What then is the right way to respond to the Autumn Statement? First and foremost have an analysis and an argument. You cannot know all the “sparklers”—bright new ideas—and “lollipops”—giveaways—in advance, though most will have been pre-briefed. You should know what the core issues will be because they are clear—productivity, housing, infrastructure and regional economic balance. Further, you should be able to shred any proposals that come forward as they will inevitably be inadequate—and, if you have been doing your policy work, propose practical and popular policies as an alternative.
This leads to the second point. Be witty. That is the only guaranteed way to cut through the noise. The bar, as we know from watching Prime Minister’s Questions, is set pretty low. Hammond just about cleared it. Anyone who had prepared a proper writer to collaborate with—as Harriet Harman did when Ayesha Hazarika worked for her—could have had a draft full of zingers.