During the election the Tories were very keen on painting Labour as a negative party, who wanted to whip up unfounded fears about the Tories’ secret and malicious plans. On cancer tests, cuts, and Sure Start, among others, the cry of scaremongering went up from Dave, George and co.
It’s an effective political technique that undermines the credibility of criticism by arguing that it is extreme and that those making it are desperate, with only the power of fear to play on.
Such a skirmish took place on the housing front. People who pay attention to housing will remember this in Inside Housing April 2010. Rattled by Labour claims that the Tories would hike social housing rents and abolish security of tenure, Mr Cameron came out to bat himself to rebut such claims.
He said these claims were part of a ‘scare campaign’, Labour’s allegations were ‘simply untrue’ and that the Conservatives believe in the ‘security [social housing] provides’.
Within months of their election they are set to abolish security of tenure and allow social housing rents to rise to 80% of market rents.
Regardless of if you think these measures are good or bad, they broke their promises and were perhaps even telling porkies at the time.
Anyway, it’s an unattractive habit of political people to rake over lost election claims, seeking retrospective justification. But does this episode tell us anything about our government now and in the future?
Didn’t Clegg and others jump to say Labour were scaremongering over housing benefit cuts compelling people to move out of their communities? Remind me, what was Eric Pickles’ response to the (Tory-controlled) Local Government Association’s assessment of the impact of cuts on council services? Scaremongering?
Just a thought: Rather than scaremongering being the last resort of desperate parties, aren’t accusations of scaremongering becoming the first resort of our government when they’ve been caught bang to rights?