Answering the wrong questions
What's striking about the policy reactions to Glasgow East, such as the statement yesterday from Compass, is that many of them are just recitations of the writers' pet hates, not attempts to address voters' actual concerns. Voters are angry about the credit crunch, knife crime, unaffordable housing, fuel prices and fuel tax, and food prices. The Labour left are talking about hostility to ID cards, Trident, 42 day detention and public services reform and PFI, issues where the public support the Government or just don't care. For instance the involvement of the private sector in public services matters a great deal to staff who may get a new employer, but is likely to be judged by ordinary voters who use the service on a wholly pragmatic basis i.e. Will the service be better dellivered for me, will my tax go down because the service costs less? In any case the resonance of issues like health and education is dropping like a stone in the polls as voters refocus on the overriding economic issue of can they afford the cost of living.
Where solutions to the real problems facing voters are offered they seem 50 years out of date culturally: a massive council house building programme is mooted by many on the left, but younger working class voters don't want to live on council estates, they want to be able to afford to own a home of their own.
Or solutions are imaginative but with huge unintended consequences. Compass is calling for a windfall tax on energy companies but surely increasing taxes on any private sector company just as fears of recession grow would be deflationary and cause job losses, and how would you stop the energy companies passing on the cost of the tax to consumers by putting fuel prices up?