George Osborne got the front pages he wanted this morning. ‘A budget for Sun readers’ proclaims his target newspaper. But Labour, which doesn’t have very much to say about the Budget, has been celebrating Grant Shapps’ unfortunate infographic which he tweeted last night which takes a rather David Attenborough-style tone when describing what hardworking people like to do in their spare time. ‘Cutting the bingo tax and beer duty to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy’ the image says. Labour is delighted and many Tories are horrified. George Osborne has been pressed repeatedly about it on his post-Budget broadcast tour.
I’ve just spoken to a Tory source who insists that ‘there never was a poster or digital campaign, it was only intended as an infographic. We’re not going to apologise for cutting bingo tax and beer duty. It’s a desperate attempt by Labour to deflect attention.’
The source refused to comment on the use of the word ‘they’, which suggests an us-and-them divide between the Tories and these bingo-playing hordes they’re trying to attract (and understand). But when I asked whether they’ll pull the image or use it again, the source said: ‘It’s kind of been used.. these things… you use them at the time. But the idea that it’s been pulled is ridiculous’.
So this wasn’t a poster campaign. It wasn’t going to appear on billboards. But does that matter? In the world of social media, it probably doesn’t: this was effectively a twitter poster.
As for whether it damages the Tories, it certainly doesn’t help the out-of-touch image they are always trying to shake, and were presumably trying to do with this infographic. But does it boost Labour? My hunch would be that it only boosts the opposition in so far as it gives them something to talk about other than Eric Pickles falling asleep and Etonians. Labour was strikingly keen to talk about anything other than the substance of the Budget yesterday. Which isn’t very reassuring for those in the party who dream of being able to say something about how their party would solve the problems it is so good at complaining about. Labour MPs I spoke to yesterday weren’t very happy, with one saying that Miliband ‘was better two years ago’.