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Of course Labour needs to be “tough”, but not to our own

Some time ago I wrote about the way that the right had hijacked the notion of “aspiration” as an individualist notion of personal accumulation and ambition, when it was the left that really stood for true aspiration of people towards a better shared society and that contesting this space must be a fundamental to One Nation Labour if it is to mean anything new. Another piece of rhetoric that the right have claimed is with regards to being “tough”, and the left desperately needs to reclaim it.

One hears “tough” rhetoric from politicians all the time. The Government must be “tough” on benefit claimants by cutting and testing for their benefits, “tough” on immigrants by sending them back and victimising them, “tough” on public sector workers by cutting wages. Indeed this rhetoric always pervades the discourse in the Labour Party, arguing that Labour will not be trusted unless it shows this “toughness”, indeed Ed Miliband is urged by the right in the party to be “tough” on his own base urging him to weaken the trade union link and ignore the demands of the membership for a real alternative to austerity.

Of course the pervasiveness of this “tough” rhetoric promotes a macho culture in politics which ignores real needs in favour of posing. Really it would be a lot better to hear politicians say they want to make the “right” choice rather than the “tough” choice. It all feeds into a masochistic discourse for the British electorate, forced to choose between parties trying to pose as the more brutal, more callous option.

However, frankly its not at all “tough” to go after those being attacked anyway by society and being demonised by the press. Quite the opposite, it shows a real political cowardice to go after immigrants, the unemployed, organised labour and public sector workers as it is merely going along with the right wing Thatcherite hegemony this country suffers under.

Real “toughness” would be demonstrated by standing up for those being attacked by the Tories and their friends in big business and the press and actually diverting fire onto those elitist interests instead. The Labour front bench never looks “tougher” than when it is taking on the corruption in Murdoch press as it did in the Leveson Inquiry, or when it is arguing for a living wage and makes a stand against bonuses. These are the real “tough” positions to take against a seemingly almighty Thatcherite hegemony.

Ultimately the “tough” rhetoric that the right wish to promote will only damage the Labour Party. It is near enough physically impossible for Labour to be viewed as “tougher” than the Tories on immigration, benefits and organised labour in the eyes of the electorate. Therefore at best it is a waste of time and at worst a damaging distraction from engaging in the real battle of ideas with Labour fighting for the underprivileged against the wealthy elite, only undermining our ideas by feeding the Tory narrative.

Going into the election Labour must be “tough”: “tough” on the bankers that have ruined this economy and using the nationalised banks to promote spending even if City financiers scream bloody murder, “tough” on bosses who exploit immigrant and British workers alike with low pay and bringing in a living wage, and “tough” on the powerful and wealthy who want to see the public sector whither on the vine with cuts as they want to stash more of their money from tax cuts in swiss bank accounts, never to be invested into the British economy. Labour needs to be tough, but tough on its own terms.


  1. Rob the cripple says:

    Yes your right sadly the issue is whether anyone wants to tell Miliband this, are we seeing a Gordon Brown problem shall we sack him, control him or go with him.

    I will wait to see the reshuffle we are told will happen, will Blair get a position within Labour opposition front bench will Darling will Mandy I do not know.

    To counter Ball’s I’m sure Darling will come back, maybe even Blunkett who has shoved his head about the parapet of late.

    I do not know what is in Miliband mind and that is the problem he has to come out one way or the other and state his route his plan.

    because the Tories will move ahead and they will be the ones who will be trusted.

    My problem is Miliband has made his choice already immigration we are sorry we made mistakes so we will have a Brown moment, British jobs for British people and we know that failed. We will see hammer the sick the disabled and the poorest, with perhaps Miliband saying again he will stop JSA after two years.

    I do not know does Labour have enough swing voters.

  2. John p Reid says:

    If Blunketts coming back,I’m off

  3. Bookmanwales says:

    To bring any former Blairites back would be a huge mistake. That crew are marginally less trustwothy than the Tories. Lies, spin, wars. corruption they were no different than our current crew.

    A top down re-organisation ?(well it is one of MP’s favourite sayings) would be a better option. Let’s get some real working class champions into the fray and get rid of these middle class career politicians more concerned over their “status” than representing those they are paid to represent.

  4. Rod says:

    Bookmanwales: “To bring any former Blairites back would be a huge mistake.”

    The Shadow Cabinet is already packed with Blairites – there’s no room for any more.

    But if there is a reshuffle, where’s the political talent going to come from? The PLP is composed almost entirely of Blairite clones, many of whom achieved their positions because of an inability to think outiside the Blair/Brown neoliberal agenda.

    It’s as if they’ve been genetically modified to ignore political opportunities and instead identify and pursue opportunities to accumulate non-executive directorships.

  5. Rob the cripple says:

    Ed is the leader, he was elected by the Unions not the members of the Labour party, without the Unions Ed would I think be sitting on the back benches.

    The problem for Ed he has to live with the fact the Union made him hence he’s now trying to get rid of the Unions.

    I have been told today my Union has to date this year given Labour £800,000 to keep the Labour party going through a cash flow issue.

    Laugh I nearly fell off my chair.

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