The Tories' Co-Op attacks have the whiff of desperation

With Labour's poll lead growing, the Tories are determined for something to knock Miliband off course. But the Co-Op affair won't be it.

The Conservatives' increasingly risible attempts to pin the Co-Op scandal on Labour carry the whiff of political desperation. Labour's poll lead is growing, not shrinking. Few voters know or care about the Falkirk furore. Growth has returned, but Ed Miliband’s success in shifting the debate towards living standards means the Tories have not benefited. "What do we have to do to beat them?" is the question Conservative MPs are asking. 

This sense of incredulity was well captured in a much-read column by the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan this week. "How can it be," he wrote, "that a party widely blamed for the nation’s ills – let alone one led by a politician who commands so little public respect – is in a position to measure the curtains for Downing Street? Soundly rejected, only to be welcomed back a term later: if it came to pass, a Labour win would deserve an award for most unlikely political comeback."

In these circumstances, the Tories greeted the Paul Flowers scandal as a drowning man greets a life raft. But it is likely to do them no good. The links between Flowers and Miliband and Balls (unlike those between David Cameron and those Miliband said he couldn't "talk about") are far too tangential to do Labour any harm. (Balls has never met him and Miliband held one meeting with him.) The Tories have produced no evidence to support their suggestion that either had any knowledge of Flowers's misdemeanours. The net result of the affair is only likely to be an increase in public loathing of politics in general. By obsessing over Flowers ("a clearly troubled individual," as Douglas Carswell says), the Tories only reinforce the impression that they have nothing useful to offer. 

A man walks past a branch of the Co-operative bank in central London on November 20, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tony Blair won't endorse the Labour leader - Jeremy Corbyn's fans are celebrating

The thrice-elected Prime Minister is no fan of the new Labour leader. 

Labour heavyweights usually support each other - at least in public. But the former Prime Minister Tony Blair couldn't bring himself to do so when asked on Sky News.

He dodged the question of whether the current Labour leader was the best person to lead the country, instead urging voters not to give Theresa May a "blank cheque". 

If this seems shocking, it's worth remembering that Corbyn refused to say whether he would pick "Trotskyism or Blairism" during the Labour leadership campaign. Corbyn was after all behind the Stop the War Coalition, which opposed Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq. 

For some Corbyn supporters, it seems that there couldn't be a greater boon than the thrice-elected PM witholding his endorsement in a critical general election. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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