Margaret Hodge was on the Today programme yesterday morning on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee. She lambasted the Government for its policies on the widening of the M25. Money had been wasted, we were told, because the option of using the hard shoulder had not been pursued. Moreover a shocking £80 million had been spent on consultants. She was also disobliging about PFI.
Many may agree with this. But what was not said was ‘Which Government?’ Ms Hodge carefully said ‘They’ at all times. What she meant of course was ‘We’. It was the Labour Government of which she was a member that made these dreadful decisions.
This is a classic example of what may be termed the Politics of Amnesia. We all expect time to be a great healer. It was not surprising, for instance, that the illegality of the Iraq war should have faded as a factor in the 2010 election despite having been potent five years earlier. People are remarkably forgiving of their politicians even while claiming to be cynical and disillusioned.
But the Hodge episode is a new phenomenon – denying responsibility for very recent acts and policies which are on the record as yours, in the confident hope that no-one will notice.
There are other examples: the debt crisis is portrayed as entirely a world phenomenon, despite the fact that the UK deficit was worse than most other countries and despite the fact that Darling’s growth forecasts were criticised at the time for being wildly overoptimistic (we now know that Brown – and presumably Balls – was behind this disastrous manipulation).
Likewise, it was Labour who instituted Lord Browne’s review of Higher Education and it was Labour who first introduced tuition fees – but without the mass demonstrations now organised by its student arm, the NUS. And Labour was planning to end the Education Maintenance Allowance.
But how do they get away with it? Partially it is unforced errors by the Coalition. If you are going to turn tuition fees into what is effect a graduate tax then say so and reap the plaudits for a much improved policy.
The rest lies with the media. We don’t expect most papers to love us (although the now ridiculous Guardian is perhaps the most disappointing in its partisan coverage). But we do expect the BBC to be a bit better.
In the morning’s programme, there was no challenge to Ms Hodge over her government’s failings. No questions about hypocrisy.
But perhaps that is not surprising from an organisation which has decided to back the No to AV campaign by ordering its journalists not to talk of electoral ‘reform’.