One of the reasons why people close to Gordon Brown have been thinking about a smear campaign is that the Labour Party is in a desperate situation. In general, when things are going well for a party, they don't feel the need to indulge in those sort of tactics. If you're confident of victory, why risk things by engaging in dubious tactics?
But if you want to know just why Labour is in such desperate straits, have a look at the latest wheeze from Brown: compulsory "voluntary" service for young people. Now let's leave aside the fact that if something is compulsory, it can't in any way be seen as voluntary. Let's look at the merits of the scheme.
Firstly, why single out young people? Doubtless it is good for them to be involved with their communities, but surely the same also applies to everyone. Why not just make it compulsory for everyone to do a certain amount of community work per year?
Next, why would such a scheme require a new National Youth Service? There are already plenty of opportunities for people, young or otherwise, to do things in their community, whether it's coaching a sports team, working in a charity shop, working for a conservation body, helping care for an elderly relative and so on. A National Youth Service just seems like a bureaucratic means of controlling things so that the community service is channelled towards things our New Labour masters approve of.
Also, what about the contribution young people already make towards our communities? Not all young people are drunken, promiscuous, knife-wielding, drug-addled, granny-bashing hoodies. Many young people already play a significant role in their communities - how would that be recognised under this new scheme?
And why does such a scheme need to be compulsory anyway? Gordon Brown doubtless thinks that because it's a good idea for young people to be involved in their communities, it's a good idea to make them be involved. That's the Labour mindset: force people to do something that many are doing anyway but some have no interest in doing at all. Rather than encouraging young people to feel they're making a contribution, Labour wants them to feel they're doing something because they have to.
All this shows that Brown and the Labour Party just don't get why they are so disliked. They don't accept any responsibility for the big things they've got wrong, like the economy. And on the smaller things, all too often they don't think things through.
That means they're likely to remain widely disliked until being kicked out of office next year. And that unfortunately means they're likely to indulge in more dubious tactics in the months to come.
A walk through Montpelier, Bristol
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