On last week’s BBC Question Time the Home Secretary Theresa May – answering questions about the government’s economic policy in the light of the eurozone crisis – stated something along the lines of, “when someone is already heavily in debt, the last thing they should be doing is taking on more debt”.
We’ve heard other similar statements from government spokesmen in recent weeks. Another favourite is, “The nation has maxed out on its credit card bill. Now is not the time to be taking on more credit cards and accumulating more debts.”
In terms of getting the government’s message across, these analogies with how households organise their own personal finances work extremely well. They have the advantage of being simple and are something everybody can relate to. Some people might not like the government’s austerity programme, but no-one can claim not to understand the rationale behind it.
On the same programme the shadow chancellor Ed Balls took issue with Ms. May, claiming that you cannot compare how a typical family should try to stay in credit with how the finances of an entire country should be run.
History will judge whether Theresa May or Ed Balls are right.
The problem for Mr. Balls is that Labour is finding it very hard to simplify its message in a way the electorate will easily understand. On Question Time, and in other interviews, Labour spokespeople struggle to match the straightforward analogy the government has come up with – one that leads voters to register straightaway what’s involved as they can relate it to their own everyday lives.
So, whatever the economic merits of either side’s policies, the government have a clear head start when it comes to explaining what they are doing and why.
Ed Balls needs to get his credit cards in order and discover his own simple, everyday explanation of the policies his party is offering to the electorate.