26 Jan 2015

Cameron/Osborne: behold Greece and vote Conservative

George Osborne was out up and early this morning to try to make sure the Greek drama folds into the Tory election narrative. He repeatedly dodged Today programme questions about whether Syriza was wrong to seek a different path (eventually conceding it would be “very difficult” for them to deliver their campaign promises and possibly “incompatible” with eurozone membership). Instead his focus was on how this was not the “defeat of austerity” but a sign that the UK must continue on track with his policies in an ever more uncertain world.

The usual courtesies of rushing to welcome a newly elected head of government in a friendly state were thrust to one side in pursuit of political opportunity when the PM tweeted last night: “The Greek election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe. That’s why the UK must stick to our plan, delivering security at home.” David Cameron in Eastleigh underlined that message answering media questions after a speech.

Ed Miliband was today at one of the question and answer sessions which are populating his diary in the run-up to the election. This one was in Cannock Chase. The Labour leader’s started taking questions in “groups of four or five”, which substantially reduces the possibility of a sharp exchange in these “meet the people” moments.

The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said earlier: “Hope has won!” By contrast, Ed Miliband, gave the following reply, which I reproduce in full:

“I want to deal with Hannah’s question because I think it is in important question and some people will be wondering just about what’s happened in Greece and so on. Hannah, the thing I would say to you is that, just like our elections are a matter for the people of this country, so I think the elections in Greece are a matter for the people of Greece.

“They’ve got to make the choice about who should be ruling them and I think it is the responsibility of the British government to work with the elected government of Greece for the good of Britain and the good of Europe and not to play politics with the issue.

“And then I think it is up to each country to choose its own path to deal with the economic and social challenges that it faces. Now we’ve chosen our path in Britain. I believe we can balance the books and reduce the deficit each year an create a fairer more just country. And that’s what we’re going to do. Let’s take another round of questions.”

It was a tricky wicket for the Labour leader today. But the contrast with the blatant opportunism and attack mode of the Tories is striking and not one he can afford to see repeated too much in the 101 days to 7 May.

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