Frame that narrative!
History is a powerful weapon, in politics as in other walks of life. If you can frame the past in your own terms, it gives you a tremendous advantage in controlling the debates of the present. Labour have been past masters of this – witness their continued early references to ‘18 terrible Tory years’ and continued harping on about Black Wednesday. Repetition of a tendentious interpretation can, eventually, turn it into a widely believed ‘fact’.
Labour are trying it again at the moment, with their continued argument that the ‘do-nothing’ Tories opposed the bail-out of the banks and ‘called it wrong’ on the entire financial crisis. It’s worth pointing out, says John Rentoul, that this is a gross distortion of reality:
But it is a bit rich to extrapolate from the fact that David Cameron and "Boy George", as Peter Mandelson insultingly called George Osborne, opposed the VAT cut that they made the "wrong call" on "the call of the century". They did not oppose recapitalising the banks or printing money, which were more important than the VAT cut. Had they been in government, they would have done pretty much the same as Brown and Alistair Darling did, with the only difference that the state of the public finances would not be quite as terrible as it now is.
But it’s a two-way street this. He who controls the present controls the past. Labour have been able to frame the historical narrative effectively for a decade. It will be the Tories’ turn soon, and we can expect the entire Labour era to be summed up as ‘the decade of debt’.