Compass does its bit to lose Labour the next election
I predicted on Monday that Compass calling for the overall tax burden to go up from 37.8% to 50% of GDP was likely to be the policy equivalent of our canvassers dumping on each voter's doorstep and then sticking a flag in it saying "sorry you were out, the Labour Party called".
Unlike the lunatic fringe, who at least don't pretend to have any influence, Compass write long pamphlets that look semi-official and make out (falsely in my view) that they have some kind of inside track to Gordon Brown.
Hence their ideas will get quoted in Tory leaflets in all the seats we need to win in the General Election to actually get Brown a full term as PM, probably with graphs attached showing exactly how much extra people in that constituency will pay.
It's started already - my hits log reported yesterday that Tory Central Office were googling for the words "Gordon Brown + Neal Lawson" to seek to link Compass' shooting from the hip ramblings with the official Treasury line.
And today we saw the first salvo against Labour, using Labour-manufactured ammunition, from the Daily Express: http://www.express.co.uk/news_detail.html?sku=1092, saying
"HARD-WORKING families could be hit with an extra £6,000-a-year tax bill under a Gordon Brown government it emerged last night.The Chancellor’s supporters have given warm backing to a report calling for swingeing increases to make Britain “more equal”.But last night experts warned that the shock plans by Left-wing think-tank Compass would be equivalent to raising the basic rate of income tax to 62 per cent."
Compass has hit back, disputing the figures :
Unfortunately, most Express readers don't check what they read in their paper against the Compass website, so the damage has been done.
Compass dismisses the Express as a rightwing tabloid. Yes it is - I can't bear what it stands for - but actually on stuff like this it also reflects the concerns of its readers, who just happen to be disproportionately the kind of people who won us the last 3 elections - so that we could deliver the schools, hospitals, police and jobs our core vote needed - and could lose us the next one. On the doorstep as a PPC in 2005 the kind of people who read the Express told me they struggle to keep afloat and pay their mortgages as it is. Telling them they are going to see their tax hiked up is not much better than actually walking down to the polling station with them and putting a "X" in the Tory box.
If I sound angry, actually I've toned the language down.
I am incandescent that this stupid little clique of middle class theoreticians and hobby factionlists can have given such a gift to the Tories.
Labour - specifically Gordon Brown - worked for years to win the trust of the British people on tax and the economy. Compass does not speak for Labour or anyone in it in anything approaching a position of responsibility.
Most of us learnt the public's views on tax the hard way. I learnt it having doors slammed in my face on poverty stricken council estates in Avonmouth and Southmead in 1992 by our core voters who thought Labour was going to give them a tax "double whammy" and at the count in our target constituency of Bristol North West watching the tears on the Labour people's faces as we lost by 45 votes after recount after miserable recount.
Some of the people in Compass are too young to have learnt those lessons. I hope for their sake they never do. I particularly hope it for the sake of the working people Labour represents, who won't get the redistribution Compass calls for, but years of Tory cuts.
But the head honcho at Compass, Neal Lawson, did learn those lessons. He lived in Bristol when we lost Bristol North West by 45 votes. I sat there in an upstairs room at the TGWU SW HQ with him at the LCC (Labour Co-ordinating Committee - Compass' predecessor) inquest into why we lost that General Election. He has no excuse for publishing own goals like this.
I used to think Compass were a joke. Now I think they constitute a serious threat to Labour's chances of re-election. Their arguments need to be taken on. Their members need to be argued with to persuade them to quit. Government ministers need to stop attending and giving the stamp of credibility to their events. To quote Cyril Smith's comments on the SDP, "as an organisation it should have been strangled at birth".