Within the sound of Big Ben, heated conversations were going on between stylists and clients about how the Government was intent on privatising the NHS, how disabled people were going to have to choose between enforced work and penury, and how cuts in benefits were going to drive "the likes of us" out of London.Well, obviously what’s being discussed in Mary’s hairdressing salon is also on the minds of milkmen in Derwent, plumbers in Devon, and used-car salesmen in Gwent, I think you’ll find…
I happen to disagree. This is not how I read government plans at all, and I have access to the statements and other primary sources to support my quite different and more benign interpretation.So why don’t you put them right?
But you don't start challenging the consensus in the hairdresser's. You don't start arguing with your taxi-driver either, at least if you want to get where you are going…Funny, I’ve often said ‘Actually, no, I believe that…’ and remained unscalped and not abandoned in the middle of nowhere.
So it can be done.
Evidence for this, other than the overheard conversation? None. It's just Mary's 'sixth sense'.
All right, so a couple of anecdotes taken from a single day hardly warrant elevation to the status of a MORI poll as evidence for the state of the nation. But there are times when a sixth sense tells you that the weather is about to change.
And mine tells me that, after a relatively quiescent nine months, give or take the odd student demonstration, the Coalition has started to lose its battle for voters' hearts and minds.
And I don't get the same picture from my friends and colleagues.
It might be objected that there was never a time when the Coalition really had the public on its side; that its Conservative-Liberal Democrat make-up was always a minority taste, well before it embarked on any policies. Anyone who believes that, though, must explain why autumn and winter have both passed so peacefully, despite a host of threats from a wide variety of vested interests, and why, through all these months, Labour was unable to harness so many malcontents to its cause.I think you’ll find that, despite the best efforts of those malcontents, spring and summer are going to be the same.
Efforts to drum up indignation on behalf of those who really will lose from next month – parents on higher-rate tax who will forfeit child benefit, households with double the average income who will no longer qualify for tax credits, those whose pay falls within the new threshold for higher rate tax – generally failed dismally. The higher personal tax allowances produce far, far more winners – which is why George Osborne in his Budget on Wednesday repeated the trick for the next financial year.Indeed. And this weekend, we have the unedifying spectacle of the Labour Party and their hangers-on wreaking havoc in London, in a few hours from now.
And if you think that the tide is turning against the coalition, just wait until you see how quickly it’ll turn against the demonstrators, should last march’s disgusting scenes be repeated.
So why, if the consensus for benefits reform, in particular, was demonstrably there, and ministers generally did a good job of highlighting the ample opportunities to reduce waste in the public sector, has the public mood changed?Maybe because it really hasn’t. And you’re wrong?