18 March 2008

Labour Pains!

It is a pretty miserable time to support Labour, at least it is if you judge Labour success by the recent polls.

LabourHome asks 'where did it all go wrong?', Michael White in the Guardian asks; do 13 point deficits spell the end for Livingstone and Brown? And with the recession looming ominously, how can Labour ever turn this around? Are Labour doomed to total defeat in 2010?

Despite the relentless campaign of...
smears against Livingstone in the Daily Mail owned London press, I still believe Livingstone is much more popular than the Labour government and still stands a good chance of winning the day if his policies can be heard.

YouGoV internet polls are usually slightly generous to Tory candidates (more wealthy people online?), and I doubt even they believe Johnson is really 12 points ahead.

If the campaign does move the focus more onto the issues, Livingstone's impressive record of achievement in London and radical support for environmental and equalities policies will surely sway more Londoners than Boris's floppy hair and reactionary humour. Well, at least one has to hope that will be the case.

And when it comes to corruption, nobody could accuse Ken of lining his own pockets or supporting someone being badly beaten up by a convicted fraudster friend, whereas we have Boris on tape doing just that.

Surely also, Boris's lack of competence will have to come under scrutiny at some point in the campaign - his £100m bus blunder is probably just the first of his gaffes that will highlight to Londoners the mess his ill thought-through policies would bring.

Boris has kept his head down and his profile low, but surely he cannot keep avoiding the media and tempering his views to the ludicrous extent where he constantly agrees with Livingstone policies he previously lambasted.

Will people really put their faith in a guy who will say anything to get elected despite evidence he believes the opposite? I hope not, anyway, but who knows?

It will be a sad day for democracy if the Evening Standard wins this election. I will celebrate like England have won the Football World Cup if Livingstone wins. When you consider the big money, corrupt and reactionary forces ranged against him, it will be some win.

For Gordon Brown's hopes of winning, I am even less hopeful, despite the fact he still has another 2 years to turn it around. In fact I can see the polls getting even more unfavourable.

If the polls do get worse, would Labour MPs ditch him? Lets hope so. That at least gives one way for Labour's fortunes to turn. I really can't see the Brown 'steady as she goes' approach demonstrated in the Budget, working out that well.

The only glimmer of light I can see, lies in a policy that Brown has effectively already buried. He could still use his constitutional reform proposals to reignite calls for a referendum on electoral reform - a referendum that Labour long ago promised (and there is no debate about the ambiguity or usefulness of this broken referendum pledge, unlike the EU treaty referendum). The way things are going, it is unlikely that we will ever see electoral reform.

Remember that ultimately it needs a majority of Labour members to back reform and that a hung parliament will mean an even larger number of Labour MPs would have to vote for it - electoral reform needs a Labour government to push it through, it could be a long wait for the next Labour government - so is is now or never.

I suppose the other possibility for Brown to win the election, would be to bribe the press, here I think Brown might be more forthcoming. What could he offer Murdoch and Rothermere that the Tories wouldn't? Scrap the BBC? Allow a takeover of ITV? Murdoch and Rothermere already pay no UK taxes, so he couldn't bribe them with taxcuts. Maybe threats would work?

The press have been doing their damnedest to destroy Labour, and the daily bad news seems to be finally reaping dividends. There is no enthusiasm for Cameron and the Tories, but the Labour brand, like the Tory brand in 1997 is distasteful for the vast majority. The last strand that held the Tories in government was economic competence - that went in 1992 with Black Wednesday, will 2008 be the year Labour loses their economic competence reputation?

17 comments:

  1. Neil, as you know, I judge Labour's success by what it does and the laws it enacts, not by what the polls say about it. To be honest, I am surprised by the polls as I would have thought that an impending recession would have benefitted Labour as I would have thought that Labour would still be thought as 'good with the economy' or at least no worse than the Tories. If however, these polls indicate that people no longer consider Brown a safe pair of hands with the economy, then it may well be all up. But I wouldn't write the political obiturary yet. I still think that Labour will win the next election, but with a paper thin majority and that Brown will resign 'due to health problems' within nine months of that victory.

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  2. Stephen: I think there are a number of 'causes celebrite' for the libertarian movement at the moment. The parliament square restrictions are one such. Pretty harmless in themselves but they help libertarians create the impression of Labour authoritarianism.

    Like I say, I think Labour have been disappointing - especially in reneging on the promised PR referendum, but in terms of freedom - most people I know are freer than they ever were under the repressive eighties and early nineties. I know we could argue all day about this, but that is what I believe. CCTV is another point - most people, like yourself, see it for what it is - useful in the fight against crime and having little or no civil liberties implications. Yet it is cited as 'big brother' authoritarianism in the ammunition against Labour. Similarly the supposed 'threats' to our freedom from ID cards and DNA databases are ludicrously overstated. If we go back to the eighties, the same shrill voices could be heard about CCTV, they were wrong then, and they are wrong now about DNA and ID (the practical difficulties with implementation of either are another issue).

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  3. Stephen: As for the polls, they are volatile, which suggests people have not made their mind up about any of the parties. I think the poor poll ratings are only surprising in that it is taken this long for the daily 'bad news' press to wear down Labour support. I think the Tory press scent blood and this time it is going to be very difficult for Labour to turn things around. Either a new leader just before the next election, or more hopefully some radical constitutional reform which includes electoral reform for Westminster is the only way I can see things turned around.

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  4. The parliament square restrictions are one such. Pretty harmless in themselves but they help libertarians create the impression of Labour authoritarianism

    What creates the impression of Labour authoritarianism is Labour authoritarianism and its contempt for civil rights. You are a pretty signal example of that comtempt if you think that the denial of the right to protest is 'pretty harmless'.

    Similarly the supposed 'threats' to our freedom from ID cards and DNA databases are ludicrously overstated

    The case against ID Cards and the universal DNA database is that they are garbage ideas that won't do what is claimed of them and are proposed by people who have a comtempt for freedom of conscience and association.

    Labour is deeply authoritarian because it cynically calculates that will give it electoral advantage. Except is does not reckon with social liberals like me who would rather vote Tory than see a reactionary anti-freedom Labour party returned to power.

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  5. The parliament square restrictions are one such. Pretty harmless in themselves but they help libertarians create the impression of Labour authoritarianism

    No. What creates that impression is daft authoritarianism. Exactly the sort of thing Blair rightly railed against in opposition.

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  6. Urko, Stephen: As it happens, I hear the parliamnet square restrictions are soon to be lifted. But come on, are you trying to tell me that it in anyway stopped criticism of this government. This government must be one of the most overly criticised in the world. What makes me mad, is that when the Tories are getting an easy ride from the press once in government, you lot will be silent.

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  7. What makes me mad, is that when the Tories are getting an easy ride from the press once in government, you lot will be silent.
    What makes me mad is that in all the time I have spent commenting on your ridiculous blog, you haven't taken on board a single thing I've said. Trying to subvert demorcarcy by controlling the population was wrong when Maggie did it (I have mentioned this on here before) - so it isn't any better when this lot are doing stuff Maggie could only have dreamt of.

    ID cards? A policy dreamt up by "Something Of the Night" Howard and opposed (correctly) by Blair. I was against it then, I still am, you are the turncoat sell-outs, not me.

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  8. Urko: Unfortunately, Labour have been as guilty of political opportunism while in opposition as any party. Me personally? I have always wondered what all the fuss was about CCTV and DNA databases and was previously fairly ambivalent about ID cards, but in principle I have always thought ID cards were a good idea, in practise there may be difficulties but I think biometrics could be useful. I suppose you also think Livingstone's proposed £25 gas guzzlers charge is an infringement of liberties too far. Personally I think people's quality of life is more important. This is where you have diverged from what it means to improve people's lives. It is easy to argue for an opposition party position that only works in abstract theories, more difficult to argue for them when they have to make hard choices. It is not me who is the 'turncoat'.

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  9. .....Me personally? I have always wondered what all the fuss was about CCTV and DNA databases
    That's because you think the state has a right to licence and control your identity and behaviour at all times. You feel the State should be the dictator of your life choices, not a servant of them.


    .... I think biometrics could be useful

    Of course you do - like all of the unthinking advocates of this technology, you have no real idea what it is, how it works or what it's for, but it sounds good.

    I suppose you also think Livingstone's proposed £25 gas guzzlers charge is an infringement of liberties too far. Yes, you suppose a lot,don't you? No I don't think that's what it is at all. It's a cynical and misguided attempt to jump on the green bandwagon. It isn't high enough to stop the people he pretends to be targeting, but it is enough to bring in extra cash, that's all. If Ken was serious about this stuff, why not start banning the vehicles that cause the worst effects on air quaility? Oh hang on, that wouldn't raise any money, would it?


    It is not me who is the 'turncoat'. Sorry I confused you with a supporter of Blair for a minute. Blair was just a crappy opportunist with no real principles when he opposed ID cards - that's it is it?

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  10. Urko: "You feel the State should be the dictator of your life choices" - I believe in electoral reform to prevent that, but I also believe that the government should pass legislation to protect us from the anti-social activity of the few and this frequently entails curtailing their freedom to be anti-social. Even you accept this principle in a number of areas (when it suits).

    "biometrics" - I know enough to know it is not black and white, any technology has uses both good and bad.

    "cynical and misguided attempt to jump on the green bandwagon".

    Does that go for the £500m the CO2 charge will raise to be spent on cycling routes?

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  11. Does that go for the £500m the CO2 charge will raise to be spent on cycling routes?

    Yes - Ken could have found the cash from somewhere else for this if he'd wanted. What he is saying is "it's fine to drive these things and pollute the London air as long as you pay for some extra routes so cyclists can breathe it all in" If these vehicles are causing serious pollution issues he should have the guts to ban them and clean up the air.

    No answer on turncoat/opportunist with no ideals Blair I see

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  12. Urko: Considering the limited tax raising options the Mayor has. What better way to raise £500m than to tax owners of big polluting cars?

    You would have to ask Blair himself, but he probably was being opportunist - what opposition leader hasn't been? It is a proven strategy unfortunately. It worked on you didn't it?

    I think Blair was probably the best PM we have ever had, but there were still a number of things I profoundly disagreed with him about, but you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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  13. It is a proven strategy unfortunately. It worked on you didn't it?

    Yes. Why didn't I realise he was lying opportunist scum? Oh yes, I remember now, he said it would all be different and better - a new way, a third way. He lied.

    As I've said before that "we're lying opportunist scum, but not quite as bad as the Tories" argument doesn't cut much ice with me.

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  14. Urko: "we're lying opportunist scum, but not quite as bad as the Tories" argument doesn't cut much ice with me.

    It's still true, though, Labour are better than the Tories. This "the Tories are worse than Labour, but lets have the Tories in power instead" argument doesn't cut much ice with me.

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  15. It's still true, though, Labour are better than the Tories

    Not if you care about civil liberties, which I do and you don't. It's not even true in economic terms, where Labour pursues the same liberal economic dogma as the Tories, raises income tax for the poorest and makes university education a privilege that must be paid for rather than a right.

    This "the Tories are worse than Labour, but lets have the Tories in power instead" argument doesn't cut much ice with me

    But that's not the argument. The Labour party is a populist right wing party that has lost control of the political agenda. It is mired in corruption and it no longer looks competent. From my perspective, the Tories look like a better bet. I am foremost a social liberal and Labour's authoritarianism disgusts me. Labour cynically calculated that it could survive without the votes of people like me and rely on the votes of neanderthal Daily Mail and Sun voters. Thus we had a succession of illiberal policies - ASBOs, cutbacks on legal aid, unconditional support for US imperialism, even, good god, the criminalisation of pornography featuring consenting adults. But guess what, the voters Labour thought that it would woo with such policies have started to turn against it. Well tough. Labour shat on its liberal supporters and it is not getting us back unless it changes.

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  16. Stephen: I think you paint a very simplistic picture of what is going on.

    On redistribution of wealth, I refer you to this chart. This government has (with tax and benefit changes) surprisingly redistibuted more than any government since the war (including the Atlee government).

    30 years ago, people would have been horified to think there was going to be cameras on every high street recording our movement - now people campaign for them to be introduced in their street. Can you tell me, how in practise, this has been detrimental to anyone?

    It is not that Labour have turned their backs on liberal voters, but to win under any electoral system (but especially this one) meant they had to win Daily Mail and Sun readers over. Yes this is bad, but unfortunately it was necessary.

    Only electoral reform and media reform will solve this. Which party is more likely to deliver this?

    The Tories only today announced they were going to scrap impartiality on broadcast news if they are elected - so 'shock jocks' and Fox news can make our TV and radio just as depressing and inaccurate as our press.

    The next general election is going to be a battle for the heart of our democracy. Even the London Mayor contest will be a battle between what is actually right and the what the rightwing press suggest is right.

    Labour have now backed down on privacy laws to appease Murdoch and the Daily Mail - this cowardice is more important that ID cards and DNA databases will ever be - yet this is not what seems to concern you the most. At least now you admit you prefer the Tories. Fine, at least we now know you are not a true liberal.

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  17. On redistribution of wealth, I refer you to this chart. This government has (with tax and benefit changes) surprisingly redistibuted more than any government since the war (including the Atlee government)

    No they don't. They simply show the % increase in income, which has little to do with redistribution. For example, the percentage increase in the income of the poorest during the Major years is almost double the percentage increase of the richest, where for the Blair years it is almost the same. And no one would claim that the Major administration were great levellers. The most telling one is the chart from Thatcher's time and that reflects the huge cuts income tax for the rich she made. Once made however there wasn't much more the Major administration could have done thus the rather more reasonable figures for the 1990s. We should rememeber also that Labour has presided over an economic boom so it should have done a lot better than Major. Actually these charts compare that it hasn't.

    30 years ago, people would have been horified to think there was going to be cameras on every high street recording our movement - now people campaign for them to be introduced in their street. Can you tell me, how in practise, this has been detrimental to anyone?

    Why are you telling me? I don't oppose CCTV from a civil liberties point of view. They are simply a collosal waste of money and have been responsible for some disgusting TV programmes.

    It is not that Labour have turned their backs on liberal voters, but to win under any electoral system (but especially this one) meant they had to win Daily Mail and Sun readers over. Yes this is bad, but unfortunately it was necessary

    Well unfortunately it is necessary for me not to vote Labour to achieve improvements in civil liberties.

    Only electoral reform and media reform will solve this. Which party is more likely to deliver this?

    Electoral reform might help. But neither Labour nor the Tories will introduce electoral reform that threatens their dominance. It will only happen if there is a hung Parliament, which is another good reason for not voting Labour.

    The Tories only today announced they were going to scrap impartiality on broadcast news if they are elected - so 'shock jocks' and Fox news can make our TV and radio just as depressing and inaccurate as our press

    We don't have impartiality now but I would not want the situation to get any worse.

    The next general election is going to be a battle for the heart of our democracy. Even the London Mayor contest will be a battle between what is actually right and the what the rightwing press suggest is right

    Really? I think it will be a 'battle' between two sets of managers, each claiming that they can administer our liberal low wage economy as 'efficiently as possible', that is to say in the best interests of the elite. This is how Labour sells itself and who I am to dispute its own self image?

    Labour have now backed down on privacy laws to appease Murdoch and the Daily Mail - this cowardice is more important that ID cards and DNA databases will ever be - yet this is not what seems to concern you the most

    Come off it Neil. You don't believe in private data. You have posted that medical data should not be private and have said the same in response to several queries by different posters, so there can be no doubt as to what you intended.

    At least now you admit you prefer the Tories. Fine, at least we now know you are not a true liberal

    You are attacking me for the spinelessness of Labour in appeasing Murdoch over privacy laws! That is pretty fucking rich. I am consistent. Private data belongs to the person to which it refers, not to the government and not to some slimeball Labour supporting newspaper that has stolen it. Of course I am appalled by its actions. But there is so much of Labour's policies be appalled about it is difficult to take the time to give all of them due prominance.

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