28 August 2006

Labour can't afford to lose the next election.

Polly Toynbee reckons the debate about policy direction in the Labour party - whether to move to the left or right, is missing the point. She is right, Cameron is proving that spin is all you need to win votes. Cameron is thinking of every possible right on cause he can support to improve the Tories image without actually having to mention any specific policies. So he backs the ANC and Nelson Mandela (20 years too late) and talks of removing chocolate oranges from checkouts and of children's clothing being too revealing. Stuff nobody could disagree with. He talks of social justice and reducing inequality despite only ever supporting policies that did the opposite. He talks of improving the work/life balance and the environment but opposes any law that improves these things. Yet it is working - he has opened up a nine point lead for the Tories - clearly, having policies really doesn't matter!

The evidence suggests that Cameron and Osbourne and the other Major government cast offs (Redwood, Hague, Duncan-Smith, etc.) are more Thatcherite than Thatcher. A Cameron government wants 'flatter' taxes, will suck up even more to right-wing America and Murdoch, thinks charity can replace public services, will be more enthusiastic about privatising the NHS, is already in a mess over Europe and even in opposition launders money illegally from dodgy businessman abroad to fund its party. People say to me that it is a weak argument to defend Labour by pointing out that the Tories will be worse, but what sort of logic is it to support the worst of two options just because you don't like the status quo?

Peter Wilby seems to think it is already too late for Labour to win the next election anyway (and being middle class he isn't particularly bothered if they did lose). He is obviously wealthy enough not to worry too much about a Tory government.

Of course all this talk of Labour renewing itself in opposition is rubbish. We all know what happened in 1979. Then the disaffected Left thought Thatcherism wouldn't last. Of course we had to endure 18 long years of it! It is dangerous to suggest that Cameron couldn't repeat this. For a start the Tories have made no secret of their intention to gerrymander the boundaries back in their favour.

It is however going to be very difficult for Labour to turn their electoral decline around. It will take something the current leaders have shown little of - courage. The courage to lead public opinion, the courage to surprise the electorate, the courage to choose the best path to win the next election rather than the best path to please Gordon Brown.

To convince the electorate that Labour has changed they need a fresh face, someone with integrity (yet enough experience) to choose radical politics. I believe there is an appetite out there for radical policies for changing the constitution, changing the electoral system and on improving the environment. These are the policies that could renew faith in the Labour party and John Denham is the man (untainted by the Iraq war) who could deliver this. Here's hoping.

The last word I leave with a commenter on Peter Wilby's post who I think sums up the core problem the Labour party should be trying to solve;

doow "All wealth is created by men's hands, the trick is the boss class get 90% of the wealth created. The workers, the real wealth creators get 10%...The base hasn't really moved since Robert Tressell wrote The Ragged Trousered Philantrophists."

10 comments:

  1. Are you trying to get a reaction with the phrase
    "For a start the Tories have made no secret of their intention to gerrymander the boundaries back in their favour."
    Anyone with a passing knowledge of demographic trends knows that without regular reviews of boundaries the electoral system favours Labour more and more over time. To see the unfairness in the system a cursory visit to Electoral Calculus should be enough. Despite for every seven votes that Labour polls the Tories poll seven, in terms of seats Labour is still predicted to be the largest party after the next election.

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  2. I know the electoral system is unfair which is why I want rid of it. Both Labour and the Tories have benefited from this system. Ultimately you have to remember that both parties have a higher percentage of seats than their voteshare deserves.

    The current so called 'Labour bias' in the system is largely down to differential turnout - poorer more urban Labour seats have much lower turnouts, so Labour can win seats with less votes. Labour also have 'lumpier' support, with fewer votes in seats they have no hope of winning. A large part of this may be down to some smart tactical voting amongst an informed minority playing the poor system as best they can.

    Although you are right to say that over time, urban to rural migration increases the electorate size in Tory seats, this is much less of a factor.

    Of course there are also several 'bias' factors that work against Labour that are hidden and rarely mentioned. Boundaries are drawn on the basis of registered adults and Labour seats contain a much higher number of unregistered adults. This factor more than makes up for the migration effect. With over 10% of adults unregistered in some Labour seats, this means Labour seats have usually much bigger adult populations.

    The Tories plan to enlarge boundaries is a cynical attempt to make more use of their rural vote, i.e. gerrymandering the boundaries.

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  3. I don't agree with much of what you say - I think many of your facts are wrong. I urge any with an interest in electoral unfairness to read the following excellent report. The most revealing fact is that despite the fact that in May 2005 the Conservatives scored 65,704 more votes in England but got 92 less seats there. The fact is that people vote with their feet out of Labour areas (e.g. Blunkett's Sheffield Brightside) and into Tory areas (e.g. Banbury or Stratford).

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  4. In England the Tories won 35.7% of the vote and received 36.7% of the seats, so they are actually OVER-REPRESENTED in England.

    You are right to slag off the electoral system but the bias is in the Tories favour as well as Labour.

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  5. Maybe it's just as well that Cameron will be Thatcherite should he inherit an economy destroyed by a Labour Chancellor for a second time!

    Frankly, I'm not convinced of Cameron's Thatcherite credentials but here's hoping... It would be excellent if blue collar workers deserted Labour again.

    My understanding was that the Electoral Commission was responsible for boundary changes. As these are made approximately ten years in arrears, they do not keep pace with population movements across the country.

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  6. "People say to me that it is a weak argument to defend Labour by pointing out that the Tories will be worse, but what sort of logic is it to support the worst of two options just because you don't like the status quo?"

    Hence the lack of voting in your subsequent post, people are increasingly picking 'none of the above' and staying home. It is a weak argument and your lack of logic is shown in equating non-support of labour with support of tories.

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  7. Ok, there is a lot in your post I don't agree with. Which is probably not a surprise.

    She is right, Cameron is proving that spin is all you need to win votes.

    OK, as a Tory, I would rather gouge out my own eyeballs rather than admit Toynbee is right about anything. But she has a point - Cameron is all about the spin. No wonder - he learnt it from Blair.

    A Cameron government wants 'flatter' taxes

    Yes, but I think you meant that as a criticism.

    (they) will suck up even more to right-wing America and Murdoch

    Ok, prove that. Justify that in some way. In any way. Because it doesn't relate to reality as far as I am concerned.

    and even in opposition launders money illegally from dodgy businessman abroad to fund its party.

    As opposed to dodgy businessmen in the UK, who are after peerages? Come on, election funding in the UK is a mess. But don't pretend it is just the Tories who have done underhand things in the past. I mean, at the moment it is the likes of Lord Levy being arrested...

    but what sort of logic is it to support the worst of two options just because you don't like the status quo?

    A lot of people now supporting the Conservatives over Labour don't see the Tories as the worst of the two options.

    Then the disaffected Left thought Thatcherism wouldn't last. Of course we had to endure 18 long years of it! It is dangerous to suggest that Cameron couldn't repeat this.

    Seriously, Neil, Cameron is no Thatcher. I have no doubt that he will be unable to repeat the triumphs of the Thatcher years. Hell, I doubt he will even be able to touch on the failures of the Thatcher years - as I pointed out earlier, he is Blair's successor - all spin and no policy.

    I believe there is an appetite out there for radical policies for changing the constitution, changing the electoral system and on improving the environment. These are the policies that could renew faith in the Labour party

    No, there really isn't an appetite for radical policies. Foot and Kinnock tried, and helped Thatcher stay in power. Going to the left is not going to help the Labour Party, but once Blair does go, I have no idea what direction the Labour Party can move in to make it more popular. Aside from to move to the right of Cameron.

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  8. Then the disaffected Left thought Thatcherism wouldn't last. Of course we had to endure 18 long years of it!

    Wrong. We are still enduring it. This government has presided over a widening in the poverty gap. This is one reason (along with a couple of others) I left the party and didn't vote Labour last time.

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  9. With all due respect Cameron hasn't won any votes.All that has happened is after more than 10 years of regular Labour opinion poll leads some 'normalty' has returned and the main opposition party has moved ahead (nowhere near as big a lead as they should have to win the next election btw).Remember,Labour were well ahead in the mid term of all 3 Thatcher governments.

    While Cameron is ahead in the polls the disconent among Tory grassroots is contained, but when Cameron slips, and slip he will, it'll get ugly.

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  10. The electoral system in the UK favours BOTH the Labour party and the Conservative party. Let us make that clear.

    Labour had about 20% of the popular vote to the Conservative 18%. The only other political party remotely close to these two is the Lib Dems. Aside from that, the rest are nowhere and non-exisitant.

    As for the rest, well what can I say?

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