30 July 2008

Fantastic Policies Can Still Beat Vague Tories

There was a survey yesterday in the Times that said...
45% of people 'didn't care what policies Labour pursued' - they still wouldn't vote for them.

I can well believe that. People switch off when they hear politics, and even political people switch off when they hear policies associated with a party they dislike. The most disliked used to be the Tories after 18 years of grinding down the poorest, now it is Labour after 11 years of lacklustre progressive policies distorted through a hostile press day after day. Those who like the Tories either never had to live through their policies, avoided the worst of them or have short memories.

All this is dangerous for democracy, I have written before about how the power of the right-wing press has made left-wing government almost impossible. New Labour decided the best way round this was to have Stalin-like Tory 'discipline' in the party - kicking out anyone who dissented, hide progressive policies and pander to a tabloid agenda with some high profile right-wing policies. This has ended up alienating traditional supporters while only part pleasing the swing voters. People forget Labour lost 3m of its 4.5m lost votes between 1997 and 2001.

The myth stil prevails that this flawed strategy (coupled with Blair's obvious presentational genius) won Labour the election in 1997. I still believe that Michael Foot reading out of a telephone directory could have won in 1997, just as vague Cameron with his policy-lite approach may do for the Tories in 2010.

Although people say 'policies don't matter anymore' - I still believe that people will sit up and notice if a real obvious difference emerges. At the moment, the false impression given is that there is little between Tory and Labour policy - so people are thinking 'who looks more competent'. Since the press have made Labour appear unable to organise the proverbial piss up in a brewery, it is no surprise they are thinking 'what the hell, the Tories might be better'.

Cameron is being very careful about his true agenda - even putting across a vague social democratic image - one that initially disturbed his right-wing support - but Cameron is very Euro-sceptic (laughable policy on leaving the EPP) and his speech in Glasgow was traditional Tory - blaming the poor for their lot. It is clear this guy is on the right of the Tories, let alone to the right of new Labour.

Yet, for Labour to turn this around is going to require an enormous change, it is clear Brown cannot do it, and it is not even clear that any other Labour leader would have the political courage.

I will leave my outline of what Labour should do for my next post.


  1. Given the fact that Labour only needed just over 35% to win the 2005 election does it actually matter if 45% say they won't support the party?