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David Porter » Articles at Suite 101 » Reading Between the Lines of the Party Leaders’ New Year Messages

Reading Between the Lines of the Party Leaders’ New Year Messages

Originally published on Suite 101 for New Year 2013, it is republished here as I bring articles across from that site to this one. While details have often passed now, the point is still valid about reading between politician’s lines.

It’s always sensible to look for the hidden messages behind Party leaders’ annual New Year greetings to the electorate. This year is no exception.  

The end of one old tired year and the welcoming of a shiny new one is a golden publicity opportunity for politicos to put out best wishes to one and all and to say how brilliantly his or her party has done and how marvellously bright the future is under their auspices.

Or how badly the government has done and how much better it would have been/will be under them, depending on whether the leader is in power or opposition. Its a political game, and why not. A new calendar year does focus peoples minds on both the recent past and the immediate future.

Cameron’s On the Right Track Optimism

Prime Minister David Cameron straddled that past/future angle. He talked of debts and difficulties built up over many years. The phrase we inherited…. introduced the huge budget deficit, the out of shape welfare system and a mediocre education system.

He spoke of the progress on debt reduction, family incomes, reforms to welfare, half a million more in work than a year ago and more academies, more discipline and better results in more credible exams plus changes to tax, freezing some council tax and increasing pensions.

Trigger feel-good words were the Queens Jubilee, the Olympics and Paralympics and the global race against countries like China, India and Indonesia. What was missing was reference to tensions within the Coalition, the self-inflicted battle scars to redefine marriage and the spectre of Europe.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I still have time to get away with the things we have handled badly (the 2012 Budget, marriage, European referendum, mixed messages on economy, spending and clear direction) and win the next election, if Clegg holds his nerve. But if I can find a way to get the new boundary changes in, that will help a lot!’

Miliband’s One Nation

It was a clever stroke from Miliband to lay claim to the old Tory mantra, One Nation in his Party Conference speech in October 2012. He pressed that button again in this New Year address, which interestingly the BBC labelled as directed to activists, rather than the whole nation.

He promised to support young people, particularly those not going to university, small businesses and families struggling to make ends meet. He spoke of the people forced to do two jobs to survive.

He promised to use the year ahead to set out concrete steps on making his vision a reality. In other words, we can expect a release of policies on key areas over the coming year, which will form the basis of Labour’s election manifesto.

Trigger words included social responsibility and companies needing to pay their fair share of British taxes in a global economy. A quite effective piece of sloganising was that the coalition is a bad government that is letting down the good people of this country.

What was missing was much on state and personal pensions, council taxes and services, taxes on high-earners, health service inflation, schools/academies and an in/out Euro referendum.

BETWEEN THE LINES: ‘One of the few beauties of being in opposition is that I don’t have to dot every i and cross every t two years or so from the election. I can sit back and watch the Coalition bleeding support while they bite the bullets of unpopular measures. People seem to have forgotten the things that went so wrong when we were last in government.’

Clegg’s Easier and Fairer Life

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg must tread a difficult path between leading a party philosophically opposed to the Conservatives and being obliged to hold a Coalition with them in place by being mainly supportive.

Many would say he is caught between a rock and a hard place and opinion polls suggest the same, with many of his people transferring to Labour and disaffected Conservatives going to UKIP. His message reinforces how difficult it is.

He confirmed that dealing with the economy was the main priority and made his principle thrust that Liberal Democrat input into the Coalition had softened extreme Conservative policies in the interests of spreading fairness.

He enthused about taking low paid workers from income tax, support to schools and young children.

Trigger words included difficult decisions, pensioners, rebalancing the economy, green jobs and growth. There was no mention of Liberal-Democratic talisman issues that have fallen by the wayside, like European integration, Parliamentary reform and universal worship of wind farms.

BETWEEN THE LINES: ‘Have I been too supportive of the Government while simultaneously distancing us Lib-Dems from the Tories? Have I let Labour off the hook too easily but then might we need them for a different coalition in 2015? What we are doing is not easy but right, does that sound convincing?’

Farage’s Punchy Swagger

UKIP’s Nigel Farage, leader of a once very fringe party now enjoying opinion polls and actual election results of around 14%, ahead of the Lib-Dems, understandably blew that trumpet to start his message.

He then went on to lambast Miliband for finally admitting mistakes on immigration as some Labour voters defected to UKIP and then Cameron for his cast-iron guarantee on a Euro referendum which didn’t happen as some Conservative voters jump on Farage’s bandwagon.

He thought the 2013 big issue for UKIP will be the 2014 entry to the EU of Bulgaria and Romania, where millions live below the poverty line. That led into fairness of social services, benefits and jobs and implying a catastrophe as money simply dries up across Europe.

Trigger words included Europe, minimum wage, small businesses, excessive regulations, referendum, being part of the world. There was no mention of detailed policies about education, health, defence or fiscal policy.

BETWEEN THE LINES: ‘I’m punchy, in-yer-face, straight-as-it-is sort of man, and I’m unashamedly riding high so I’m making the most of it. The gloves are off, I’m not in statesman mode, I’m in battle readiness mode. And if you don’t like it, tough. Increasingly, millions do like it. So there!’


The Prime Minister’s Office, David CameronsNew Year Message

The Labour Party, Ed Milibands New Year Message

Liberal Democrat Voice, Nick Cleggs New Year Message

UKIP Hillingdon, Nigel Farages New Year Message

Related articles:

Time to Change the Script in EU-UK Comedy Before It Becomes a Full Scale Tragedy, David Porter, 31 December 2012

Thinking the Unthinkable: Britain and a New Europe, David Porter, 29 November 2011

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