29 November 2008

Brown has blown it again!

I say it yet again - if we don't get rid of Brown soon, Labour is facing anihilation at the next general election. In day to day media handling and...
more importantly in making the right decisions to tackle inequality he is hopeless.

What an opportunity parties of the left had just had - the failure of neo-liberalism has demonstrated more than ever the need for the state and the unjustness and sheer greed of wages at the very top. Brown's response has been weak.

Think of all the things he could have done with £20bn announced in the PBR - not to mention the 100s of billions of pounds lavished on the banks (that still continue to pay large bonuses to their executives).

The VAT cut has been universally derided as too little. Only Brown could make a CUT in tax unpopular. Like I said, the poorest 6m could have seen a rebate in their payslips of up to £5,000 or we could have built 200,000 houses and kickstarted the construction industry and helped millions. Oh well!


  1. "Only Brown could make a CUT in tax unpopular."

    Tee hee, see also. reduction of 'basic rate' from 22% to 20%.

  2. I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one Neil. The poll in The Guardian, whilst showing an increase in support for Cameron & co., has some interesting opinions:

    Overall, more people approve of the plans announced by Darling, 50%, than disapprove, 41%.
    Labour has also extended its lead as the party with the best economic team: 46% of voters back Gordon Brown and Darling, an 11-point increase on their October score.

    The proportion of voters who feel happy about their financial position and ability to keep up with the cost of living has gone up slightly, from 45% in September to 50% now.

    All of that is good news, I think you'll agree.

    But here's the bad news:

    Only 22% agree with the government's argument that it is important to boost the economy now, even if it means more borrowing and taxes later.

    Meanwhile 74% agree with the broad thrust of Conservative criticisms, that it is important to keep borrowing under control so as not to store up problems.

    Now cast your mind back to the day after the PBR, and to the headlines, and you'll recall that they almost universally backed the "we can't afford tax cuts" argument. It would be surprising if that wasn't reflected in subsequent polls.

    You can blame Brown all you like, but there are good reasons why VAT was chosen over (the more expedient) income tax cuts or raising the threshold. We should have done a better job of explaining why (because if you don't get it, how is Joe Public expected to?)

    We've now got to explain why VAT was better for the economy, not blame Brown when the press conspires against us. The word 'deflation' and the phrase 'deflationary spiral' should have been on everybody's lips before the PBR, but we've failed to get that message across. It's easy to blame Brown for that, but you and I share some blame too. Or do you think the right-wing press will do it for us whilst we snipe at the sidelines?

  3. LM: I'm completely with you about the need for a Labour victory at the next election and also that the media will always be against us, and if Brown had actually been elected by Labour party members, maybe I would support him - but frankly he has been a disaster and the only way I can see Labour winning is to get rid of him and we can still get rid of him after the inevitable disastrous local elections in May and Euro elections in June. But if none of us make the case now, we will be stuck with a walking disaster as leader.

    As for deflation - the VAT cut will actually have a deflationary effect - so if it is deflation we fear this cut will make it worse!

  4. MW: Yeah, same with the basic rate - went and spoiled it by hitting the lowest earners by abolishing his own 10p rate. He thought he was being clever - he was being an idiot. Me and my mates laugh our heads off when people try to claim Brown an intellectual - he is not.

  5. Neil,

    If there had been a Leadership election Brown would have walked it, and you know it.

    The VAT reduction is indeed deflationary, we can't avoid deflation anyway. What we must avoid is a deflationary spiral, and the injection of £12Bn is an attempt to do just that. I think we all have our doubts as to whether this will work, but let's not rush to judgement quite yet, eh?

  6. LM,

    "If there had been a Leadership election Brown would have walked it, and you know it."

    If Robin Cook hadn't suddenly, mysteriously dropped dead, he would have beaten Brown.

  7. LM: I don't think Brown would have 'walked it'. Obviously Brown and his supporters didn't think so either which is why they were so desperate to avoid a contest. But that is almost besides the point. It is the Brownites' contempt for having a real debate about policy direction that has left the party in this directionless mess.

    You can't have democracy in a party where candidates are not allowed to speak their minds on anything, yet that is how it now is - everyone is frigtened - by the whips, by the hidden aparatchicks, by the bloody minded media spinners, ultimately you can't run on the country by following every whim of the Sun and the Daily Mail. Our party is being ruined by bullies and cowards and Brown is the biggest bully and coward of the lot. We have a robotic rump of head nodders running down the spine of our party and they are pushing the real heart and soul - the general public away from joining us.

    Obviously even a half destroyed Labour party is far superior to what the Tories have to offer - which has always been nuremberg rally anti-democracy. Nobody gets to vote on anything in the Tories, let alone have an opinion - sadly most of their members know f*** all about anything anyway - so they are quite happy with having no say.

    I am not prepared to let the Labour party become evem more like the Tories and push me away. In fact the more people like Brown destroy our party, the more determined I am to get people to join, so we, the public can take the party back. It can happen.

  8. TT: Maybe you have hit on another conspiracy story there - you never know.

  9. You cannot blame the Labour Party’s woes on Gordon Brown. The ten pence tax WAS a disaster, but that was a mistake made whilst he was chancellor, not PM. Okay, I accept that he made the mistake because he wanted a headline and a sop to the middle classes, but elections are there to be won. Nobody expects our politicians not to make mistakes, that is just plain stupid. What we need are our politicians to rectify those mistakes as soon as possible. When this ten pence tax issue came to light, it was Labour activists and Labour MPs that highlighted it and got things corrected. Why? Because when the poor turn up at surgeries, they get listened to. Imagine the same ‘mistake’ made by Tories, how long would it take to have it rectified? Never that’s when. What we have now is a terrible system flawed to the core and frustratingly slow to act, but it only about million times better than the alternative.

    People are not turning away from Labour because Brown is ‘too dour’ or whatever. They are turning away because their jobs, livelihoods and houses are under threat. You want to revive the Labour Party? Instead of in-fighting, back biting and sniping, make sure the economy gets fixed. You do not fix the economy by squirming behind whatever stalking horse has the shiniest hair or the best teeth; you fix the economy by focusing on the type of policies that need correcting. Too many people seem to think that the next election can be won if we spend time pulling down a leader and jockeying around some new pretty boy. That pretty boy is going to get slaughtered if the economy is still dragging around our ankles. We need people of substance at the helm, not someone from a shampoo advert!

    Ask yourself a question:

    ‘What have I done to take the fight to the Tories today?’.
    If your answer is ‘Nothing, I am more interested in bringing down Brown’.
    Then you are in the wrong camp. If the Tories win the next election and the smug grins are in front of you on the TV, just remember how much you helped.

  10. Jimbo: I understand your sentiments and no-one will be more gutted than me when the Tories win the next election, but we are not going to persuade anyone to vote Labour by just toeing the party line all the time - we have to face some uncomfortable truths and one of them is that Brown is not up to the job. Just getting rid of Brown will not win us the next election, but it would be a start of a process where we start to really change things for the better - which WOULD win us votes. The 10p tax fiasco was more than just a mistake - it symbolised a complete failure of imagination, a failure of any sort of idealism at all. To which we all just sighed 'what is the point anymore, this guy is not even on our side'. Give me eighteen months as PM and I guarantee things would change for the better - a referendum on the Euro, referendum on PR and enhanced local democracy, replacing the house of lords with a house of jurors, a citizens income, protect the independence of the media by regulating ownership. I could resign after all this knowing that democracy would take care of the rest. We as a party are supposed to represent 'the many' - lets make sure power is returned to them and let them do the rest. If the Tories really want 50%+ of the power, let them win 50%+ of the vote and give protest voters someone other than the Fib Dems to choose from that are electorally plausible.

  11. Neil hi,

    I am not sure I agree with you about Brown not being up to the job. I haven’t really seen a direct failure solely attributed to Brown as such. The front bench (were any leadership challenge would come from) have all been posted missing from the big debates, when things started to go wrong all I see are a row of empty suits. The charge has been that Brown has caught the ‘control freak’ bug, but where are the front bench when the chips were down?

    The Tories have been on ‘Question time’ and ‘Any Questions’ scoring points on all fronts and front bench spokesmen and women have been on the back foot. The only person who came out with positive messages was Straw. Brown has been badly let down this summer.

    A couple of examples:

    When Cameron called for a cut in inheritance tax and stamp duty during his Party’s conference, this was the clearest indication that he was going after the rich vote, and was moving away from the ‘One Nation Tory’ image he was trying to cultivate. But did anyone from the front bench pick this up? Did anyone say ‘typical Tory, always looking after the rich’ or anything of that nature? No we heard about ‘gimmicks’.

    The Crew by election. When the final nail is put into the lid on the Labour Party, those nails will come from Crew. Who allowed the Labour campaign to be based around dressing up as toffs? The Labour Party looked like a political version of ‘Life on Mars’ with a 1973 type campaign. The real irony is that the guy had weak flanks that we could have exposed. As an ex shoe shop owner we should have asked him about the percentage of British made shoes he sold and more importantly, we could have asked him about what level the minimum wage should have been set at. Cameron’s record on this issue is suspect too. Instead of walking about with top hat and tails we could have knocked on the doorstep with a placard with what Cameron thought was a fair weeks wage was.

    I see your ‘wish list’ and cannot find anything to disagree with it, however none of the likely candidates who skirted around with the idea of tossing a hat into a ring are likely to be that radical, are they? Nothing on that list could be realistically put in place and up and running before the election. Though a referendum could, it would just be another excuse ti kick the Labour Party in the groin. That may be a legitimate reason to have a referendum, but it not a vote winner (for Labour anyway), Blair should have called the referendum on the constitution rather before it had been pronounced dead.

  12. Have you seen the latest poll Neil? The one with us trailing by 1%? Forget the headline figure (although it's the best since January) and take note of this post-PBR effect:

    Labour support among the lowest social group (DE) has increased by 16% to 51% since last month.

    Labour's backing among C2 skilled manual workers has grown from 23% to 35%.

  13. LM: You mean we are back to the position before Brown became leader! Wow! What a magical guy Brown is! What an effect! And this is him at the 'peak'. What rubbish.

    Look, this is a famous 'rogue poll'. Nothing to get too excited about. We are probably still about 10 points behind in reality and with Brown at the helm in a general election we would probably lose votes over a campaign. So the Tories are still heading for a majority.

    What this does show however, is that if we really did start doing some serious redistribution and got someone plausible as a leader who actually knew what he/she was doing, votes would quickly come flooding back. Almost anybody could do better than Brown - Denham, Cruddas, Johnson, even Harman or dare I say it, Darling.

    Still, I hope I am wrong and you are right. Lets hope Brown can pull it off, if we are going to be stuck with the dullard.

  14. Jimbo: The funny thing is, there are all these excuses about how it takes years to change stuff, but devolution and government for London, Scotland and Wales was all done in 18 months, so was the minimum wage.

    I think the speed of the recent tax changes show how quickly we could redistribute wealth with a citizen's income. I also see no reason why a couple of referenda couldn't happen by this summer - maybe at the same time as the Euro elections in June. We would have to start the campaign straight away and not dither about like we usually do, but it is well possible. With the recession biting and the EU president saying we meet conditions for entry - there is a perfect argument to make about how the Euro - as a strong world currency could insulate us from the worst of the world recession (and future recessions). And I think the fair votes argument is even easier to make, especially as all the parties bar the Tories would support reform. The Tories would be left defending the indefensible - that 35% of the vote on a dismal 60% turnout should 'win' you an election. What fun we could have with them on that argument.

    Your stuff about the disasters of Crewe etc is correct - but this was Brown's tactics - he ok-ed this sort of dismal campaign. As for the front bench going hiding - include Brown is that analysis. The guy is never to be seen half the time giving Cameron a clear run. Finally he brings back Campbell and campaigns in a by-election - but the guy is too leaden footed. In a GE, Cameron will make mince meat of him.

  15. Neil, we could bat this about for two weeks and neither of us will change ground, so I will post this up as my last contribution to this debate at least.

    I hope I haven’t given the impression that I think Brown is blameless. I fully accept that some, but not all, of Labour’s unpopularity is down to him. Brown made a serious miscalculation when he underestimated Cameron.

    Too many Blairites/Brownites are still fighting battles from five years ago when the real battles are today and every day until the election.

    Labour really has to tighten up their game and start putting the Tories policies under the spotlight. Last week they announced that they are dropping Labour’s spending commitments; surely that is where Labour should be focusing their fire? Every time a smarmy Tory starts talking about ‘saving when the sun is shining’ on the TV/Radio his opposite number should be bringing up the name of his local hospital and asking about how many wards closed or nurses sacked or cancer drugs withdrawn or hip operations should be cancelled or why only the rich can get treatment. We should be asking him why we wants to close schools or sack teachers.

    Sitting in studios briefing against each other is a tactical mistake. Once the mud is thrown about in these cold war leadership battles, some of it is going to stick. Do you really want a Milliband/Benn/Brown/Alexander/et al squabble exposing every personal weakness for the next three months to people who have just been made redundant at the time when Northern Rock’s bailiffs are at the front door?

    The fightback is not going to be easy, I accept that, but the stakes are high, I say let us not waste what time we have shuffling chairs. Let us use those few weeks and months getting to our real foes and leave the sniping to the biographies twenty years from now.

  16. Jimbo - "Do you really want a Milliband/Benn/Brown/Alexander/et al squabble exposing every personal weakness for the next three months?"

    Yes. Everybody said the Obama/Hillary spat would damage them - but actually it tested Obama and made all the nasty stuff old news. In the end the battle established Obama as the lead candidate against McCain - he came out of it stronger - this is the real test of leadership mettle.

    A Labour leadership battle would do wonders - really getting people thinking about what Labour could offer them and the candidate that survived would be in a better position to face the Tories and sock it to them - remember how Cameron's profile benefited from all the publicity of a Tory leadership battle.

    I am not saying have the battle now, but we have to forget Brown - he is a surefire loser - people will be ready for a leadership challenge after we have lost heavily in the Euros in June next year - that is the time to save the Labour party by having the battle and the publicity will strengthen us and carry us toward hopefully a victory in an August/September general election.