What should ministers do when everything’s bu**ered up?
Like many PBers, no doubt, the inclement weather is having a big impact on my life. As I write this it is -11C outside, our pipes are frozen up so that we’ve no water to even flush the loos, and for the third day running we might have to postpone our long planned family Christmas get-together.
These are just about the worst winter conditions that I’ve experienced in the UK in my life-time. The big “crisis” was that the snow-level in our garden is greater than our cat’s height which means that she’s completely engulfed when she tries to go out. Fortunately we managed to struggle out yesterday and buy one of the few remaining packets of cat litter at Tesco.
But in a broader sense will all this have a political impact? Do people blame the government and elected politicians when their lives are disrupted. Is this something that the coalition can’t blame on “the defifcit”?
I like these observations from Iain Martin in his WSJ blog:-
” Labour spokesmen, such as shadow chancellor Alan Johnson, have been accused of political opportunism because they are asking if the government is doing enough to deal with the snow. Johnsonâ€™s critics are missing the point â€” of course there is opportunism involved. The Tories know this, and used to do the same themselves during snow, floods etc. There isnâ€™t all that much fun to be had in opposition, but after 13 years of being the party that had to produce spokesmen to go on TV to look out of touch Labour is currently enjoying playing â€œI blame the governmentâ€. There arenâ€™t all that many votes in it when something like the weather is involved (unless there is obvious incompetence, as there was with the SNPâ€™s transport minister who had to resign). But apply the right kind of pressure â€” as the street-wise Johnson is â€” and all kinds of temporary havoc can be created in a government.”
The main target is the transport secretary, Philip Hammond, who is one of the smartest cookies in the government and would have been Osborne’s number two if the blues had won a majority. He’s well able to look after himself.
A bigger notion that might come into play is that appalling weather does demonstrate the need for government and this is something that Labour will latch onto if they get an opportunity.
Meanwhile, in the big by election battle in Oldham, the parties are sending out messages to supporters throughout the country saying that the “roads are clear here”. Getting the last pre-Christmas leaflet out could be critical!