A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Who is Labour supposed to represent?

Without fail, the Guardian's columnists manage to wind me up. Today, step forward Jackie Ashley with her absurd claim about "Labour pitching its appeal to the centre right".

Having strong policies on crime, defence, immigration and terrorism is NOT a characteristic solely of the right.

We have spent the best part of 20 years trying to convince the public that it was not a characteristic of the left to be soft on crime and defence.

Has Jackie Ashley ever canvassed a council estate and asked Labour's core working class voters what policies they want in these areas?

Why do people like her want us to go back to the days when voters had to choose between jobs, schools and hospitals on the one hand and police and defence on the other?

I never want voters to be put in the position again, as they were in the '80s, of liking Labour's social policies but feeling unable to vote for them because of our weakness on security issues.

The average voter wants a government that will fund public services AND keep individuals and the country safe.

Ashley talks about the "liberal middle classes" as a component of Labour's coalition. That's correct but this tiny segment of the electorate must not have a veto over our policies.

I want the "liberal middle classes" to vote Labour because they care about our agenda for tackling poverty and inequality and providing high quality public services, not because we sold-out working class concerns about crime and security to appease them.

The clue is in the names of the parties:

Labour - set up to represent the interests of the working classes because the "liberal middle classes" of the day were hot on free trade and devolution but not prioritising trade union rights or the fight against poverty.

Liberal Democrats - set up to represent the interests of the "liberal middle classes".

Not content with having one entire party dedicated to their interests, the "liberal middle classes" want to dictate the policy agendas of Labour and the Tories too.

As a democrat I resent the undue influence of this small segment of the population and the attempts of Jackie Ashley et al to contemptuously dismiss the concerns of Labour's core vote as "centre-right".

Elsewhere in the Guardian a reminder of Neil Kinnock's 1983 leadership acceptance speech had him quoting Nye Bevan on Labour's leaders needing "to speak with the authentic accents of those who elected them". To my mind that means that when our core supporters tell us they are concerned about crime, ASB, immigration and terrorism, we listen, and we act.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, what is so "right wing" about wanting to be tough on crime? If we follow Bobbio's definition of right and left - ie the left strive for a more equal society, then a society that protects those less well off from the ravages of crime seems pretty left wing to me.

It is harder to make that argument about immigration, I accept. But then - when did you last see a Lib Dem arguing for their policy in public. Fair and firm rules may not be very liberal, I grant, but they are better than the right alternative: if they're blackm send em back (which, no matter how they cover it up, is the policy of UKIP and Tory right)

1:04 pm, October 02, 2006

 
Anonymous Janine said...

I'd agree that taking up the issue of crime is not right wing - and have written and said so myself - but Luke, it's how you do it that's the point, eh?

And how come you are concerned to reflect the views on the doorstep about crime and immigration, but not those about privatisation or war?

3:01 pm, October 02, 2006

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

For the same reason I wouldn't reflect the view on the doorstep about capital punishment.

4:17 pm, October 02, 2006

 
Anonymous Duncan said...

To a certain extent, Luke, you answer your own article with your comment about capital punishment. Speaking with the 'authentic accent' of our constituency is one thing, but it is not - and should not be - just a case of following, but sometimes taking a lead. And Nye Bevan and Neil Kinnock would both probably agree with that (to different degrees and in different ways).

Crime is not a right-wing issue. Being safe is not a right-wing concept. But many right-wing policies intended to make us safer actually do the very opposite. And right-wing policies aimed at tackling crime often exacerbate the problem. In other words we need to hone and present a left-wing alternative to the sort of knee-jerk authoritarianism that the right spout on issues of crime and security. After all, you will hear lots of people suggesting capital punishment as an answer; the trick is surely to hear what the concern is, but not necessarily embrace the proposed solution. Well that extends beyond capital punishment.

5:45 pm, October 02, 2006

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Duncan I don't disagree with "hearing what the concern is but not necessarily embracing the proposed solution" - hence a quick google search will reveal I took a very high profile stance on immigration (my criticism of inflamatory remarks by the Tory MP I stood against got into the national media) when I was PPC for Castle Point which almost certainly lost me votes as it was way to the left of most of the electorate there. My beef is with people like Ashley who suggest that it is right-wing to accept that people have legitimate concerns about security issues and to seek to address those.

8:26 am, October 03, 2006

 
Blogger Benjamin said...

Luke

You were PPC at Aldershot and then Castle Point, both pretty hopeless seats for Labour to win right now (looks like the Mr. Spink is securely back in charge at Castle Point after the Essex seat had a brief fling with Labour in 1997.)

Where to in the next election? I am not sure how these things work, but I guess you will hope for an easier seat to win?

10:25 am, October 03, 2006

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

How these things work is that the members in a seat with a vacancy pick a new candidate, so it's very much up to ordinary Labour members whether I get to run anywhere next time.

11:51 am, October 03, 2006

 
Anonymous Duncan said...

Luke - wasn't suggesting that did disagree with that! On your broad point here, I broadly agree with you. I was just pursuing the notion of why crime and security issues can sometimes be considered right-wing issues, and how that ground can be occupied by the right.

7:20 pm, October 03, 2006

 

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