13 February 2006

Lessons from Dunfermline and West Fife.

Cameron's insult of Brown as a 'speak your weight machine' may have demonstrated Cameron's lie about being 'above punch and judy politics', but Cameron has hit the nail on the head about the image problem that Brown has.

Brown has rightly won praise for steering the economy clear of the 2000ish world recession by upping public spending at the right time, thus guaranteeing us the longest period of growth on record, but he is as dull a politician as they come, and Labour forgets this at their peril. If Labour wants to stand any chance of winning the next election (as opposed to the predicted hung parliament), we need to do a number of things. Unfortunately, having high growth, low unemployment, and record public service investment is not enough to win elections.

1. Skip Brown and get a leader whose image matches or betters Camerons, (Hain?, Miliband?, Denham?).

2. Shed New Labour's mostly incorrect image as authoritarian (see here). This is mostly down to ID cards (which for technological reasons will almost certainly not happen and would need another Act of Parliament after 2009 to become compulsory anyway), the Iraq War (which has cost just over 100 British lives but our influence has probably restrained Bush and saved more Iraqi lives than this) and anti-terror legislation that would have been introduced by any government, certainly the only other choice of government we get under FPTP i.e. the Tories.

3. Start emphasising the policies that have improved society and helped the least well off. Most Lib Dem members misconceive the Lib Dems as 'left of Labour' on economic issues, but this is rubbish as their opposition to the minimum wage demonstrates. Don't think the minimum wage would have been risen by more than the rate of inflation (or even have been introduced) under the Lib Dems. People also forget that Tuition Fees redistribute from the well off to the poor.

4. Embrace electoral reform and incentive voting to do something about the 3.5 million people who do not register to vote and the pathetic 60% turnout of those who do bother to register. If we want to call ourselves a party that cares about the poor, we need to address this nearly 10% of the electorate (mostly poor and urban) that fail to register. Labour has the most to gain from getting the poor to vote, since they mostly vote Labour.

Even with 75% of the press against it, Labour should be able to get more of the electorate to vote for it than the Tories. It's a sad indictment of Labour's political skills if it can't get the 25% of the registered electorate that would give it a comfortable victory (it gave a landslide in 1997). Sadly people who support this electoral system claim this is democracy.

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