Bill Clinton has been credited with perhaps the most resonant political aphorism of modern times: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
The phrase – dreamt up by a campaign strategist as Clinton ran successfully for the presidency against the elder George Bush in 1992 – seemed to tap into a deep truth about modern elections.
That is, if the economy is struggling the incumbent can be toppled (as happened in 1992). But if the economy is booming then the incumbent will win.
If this rule applies then Labour will have problems dislodging the Tories at next year’s general election because the economy is improving.
However, it isn’t booming. And though we have clearly seen something of a recovery it has left many people behind. Too many are unemployed and too many have low-paid jobs. Austerity is still a way of life in the UK and will be for years.
Yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, where the North East economy was discussed, showed big dangers for both of the two main parties.
For the Conservatives, it is complacency – the view that as far as the economy goes the mission has been accomplished. It isn’t, not when unemployment in our region is at 9.3% and working families are going to food banks.
For Labour, the danger is that they play down the recovery, which does a disservice to all those small businesses and entrepreneurs in places like the North East who are making it happen.
There’s a fine line to tread for both. But, for Labour, the more the economy shows signs of health the finer that line will be. Failure to adjust to that really would be stupid.