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Urgent lessons for Labour

Ed Miliband at the NPFThe latest ICM monthly poll showing Labour and the Tories level-pegging at 36%, largely because of the collapse of the UKIP vote from 18% in May to just 7% only 2 months later, is a real wake-up call for Labour. The UKIP vote is extremely flaky and volatile, largely used by (but not exclusively) Tory voters as a protest vote, and likely to rise again at the EU parliamentary elections next June – though equally likely to subside again rather quickly thereafter.

But the real significance of this latest shock poll, even if it is qualified by a somewhat different showing in other polls, is that Labour is stuck at a rather modest poll level and does not seem to be gathering the support one might expect given the government’s unpopularity over austerity, pay cuts, privatisation of the NHS, and severe benefit cutbacks. It is crucial at this stage, less than 2 years from the election, that Labour asks some very hard-headed questions as to why.

The fundamental reason is that Labour has produced no alternative narrative to the Tories to persuade swing voters to go for Labour. In the absence of that – and the party’s policy review still does not look like being ready for party conference in 2 months time – the Tory attack lines at the election will go like this. If there is a significant and sustained upturn in the economy by mid-2015, they will claim that, however painful, Osborne’s policy is vindicated and they have fulfilled their promise to clear up the mess that Labour left behind. With that argument, unless Labour retaliates with a strong counter-explanation of Tory failure (which is perfectly possible and which Labour should now asserting with spades), the Tories could sweep the country.

Alternatively, if the economy is still stuck in the doldrums (which is probably the more likely scenario), the Tory case will be that Labour left the economy is such a colossal mess that it has taken longer than expected to put right, but it’s the right policy and will bear fruit eventually because there’s no other way to solve the problem and Labour hasn’t suggested any. And in the meantime do you really want to bring back the party which caused the problem in the first place? Do you trust them not to do it again? That argument too is likely to carry.

On both these scenarios the Tory arguments are downright false, but given the momentum provided by the Tory press in support of them they will still probably carry the day until Labour loudly and persistently attacks the flaws.

First, Labour did not leave any mess at all, since the debt-to-GDP ratio in mid-2007 just before the crash was at the low 3% level, and only raise to 11.6% at the end of 2010 because of the bank bail-out. In fact the economy was already recovering from Alistair Darling’s stimulus by 2010, but was then killed stone dead by Osborne’s nonsensical expansionary fiscal contraction.

Secondly, given (which we all accept) that the deficit is far too high, the way to reduce it is not endless cuts but expanding the economy, getting the unemployed back into work, and thus steadily increasing government receipts through growth. So why on earth doesn’t Labour proclaim these facts vigorously and persistently  from the rooftops (i) because they’re true, and (ii) because otherwise we’re in real danger of losing the election?

6 Comments

  1. The problem, as I see it, is that Labour, through Ed Balls has put a definite alternative to Osbourne’.s slash and burn class war. in the face of a campaign of lies and smears and anything but facts by the yellow press/media and the Tories that is not unprecedented, we have been here before with Kinnock, Foot, etc , in effect whenever Labour/Labour movement has built up a campaign that is posing a serious threat to the Tories or the establishment. We know what to expect fom the Tories and their media lickspittles, the problem we face is that Progress and 75% of the shadow cabinet and the Parliamentary Labour Party are pursuing a campaign to undermine Milliband and Balls, to minimise the opposition to Cameron/Osbournes suicidal policies, in effect because they pursued policies, while not as vicious as the Tories, but which led to Cameron/Osbourne replying that we are only carrying on with the work that you started while in office. When you see the performances of such as Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander et al, then you have the answer to why the Tories are neck and neck in one poll(for me personally I think that that poll is a one off and that the Tories are still in a bind with the voters

  2. John says:

    What Francis said

  3. Gary Elsby says:

    Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have bypassed any and all Labour policy and unilaterally made clear their intent to mimic George Osborne’s spending plans for the two years of 2015-2017 at the very least.
    Apparently for ‘credibility’ reasons.

    Why should anyone vote Labour?

    If I was George Osborne, I would laugh out loud.
    If I was David Cameron, I would stand up in PMQs and have a good old belly laugh.
    “I’m enjoying this”, I would say.

  4. Gary;You are proving Cllr. Bob Piper(Well known leftwing Birmingham Cllr and even more famous football pundit)correct in his assessment of your political acumen and nous, and also 100% correct in excluding you from his now defunct blog. Whatever Balls and Millibands faults/sins/crimes are in the grand scheme of things, they pale into insignificance compared to those two bandits you have just spoken/written so warmly about. If you cannot see any reason why anybody should vote Labour after 2-3 years of these *******s; then for once I can see/say the N.E.C. were, for once in its existence, correct in removing you from the P.P.C.s list, and not so surprisingly, Stoke swung left in choosing Tristram Hunt.

  5. Mark Thompson says:

    How come two months later UKIP byelection results mirror that of May, and 3 pollsters STILL have UKIP in the 18-20% range.

    Even yougov have said that ICM poll was a fluke.

  6. Robert says:

    Funny really from what I can see Miliband and Balls agree with most of what Osborne state. OK yes we all know the bits they argue over, but the fact is when it comes down to it Labour have stated they would in most cases do the same as the Tories or may in fact go further.
    Miliband will come out and state as he did at one conference hammer the sick the disabled and welfare worse then the Tories, we all remember his silly remarks about knocking on a disabled person door going next door and get proof the disabled person could do something, when asked by the two disabled activist what was the disabled person suffering, did you indeed ask him, he said look we will meet after the conference to silence them.

    He has made so many statement and then gone back on them or Balls has had to come in and correct him, for example I would like a referendum on the EU, Labour offered us one before and decided we would say no, so Miliband will not say yes, Balls them comes on and say well actually we may later on offered a vote, he knows people who think we should have a real vote on the EU would and may vote Tory just to get that.

    I see little which is an alternative to the Tories the spending by Labour depends on what the deficit is doing and the borrowing, it’s more about hammering the poor then hitting the rich.

    I hear little bits offered to the working class, or as labour now call them the Hard working.

    But in the main it’s Tory lite not Labour I hear.

    The reports that the Tories may now have got the borrowing under control is a good sign, whether this carries on I do not know, but people will think good, but as we all know Labour made one almighty mess when in power, the NHS and Burnham now, he looks out classed as he cries it’s down to the Tories I told them about the problem, yes but you said dam little to us about it.

    Labour now has to ask it’s self who is going to vote for it, where are it’s members and the silly made up fight with UNITE has angered many Union people, Yep are we back with a Thatcher like period in which Labour looked to be gaining but were never trusted enough.

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