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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pride in Labour's present and hope for its future

I'm less interested in some self-important retired civil servant's silly comparisons of Gordon Brown with Uncle Joe (though enjoying the fun the cartoonists are having with it) than in what the allegedly "stalinist" (which usually in British political abuse means well-organised or good at winning, rather than "supporter of a dictator who was responsible for 30m deaths and the Gulag" which is what it should mean) Mr Brown is acheiving through the way Lord Turnbull alleges he conducts government business.

According to most of today's papers, he is going to announce an extra £1 billion to tackle child poverty in the Budget today. The Guardian says this will lift 200,000 children out of poverty and he will also make "an announcement that education will be the biggest winner from this year's spending review, with extra resources earmarked over the three years from 2008 to start bridging the gap on spending per pupil between state and private schools."

The Guardian also says that "After nearly doubling in the 18 years of Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997, the number of children living below the poverty line had fallen by 700,000 by 2004-05, the last year for which figures are available. A further fall is expected when the data for 2005-06 is announced this month."

This in itself - forget everything else we have achieved - justifies re-electing Labour at the next General Election. I have a great deal of difficulty understanding people allegedly on the "left" who can't summon up enthusiasm - or in some cases are actively hostile to - a government which is taking this kind of action on child poverty and education. I can only assume that there own experience of these issues is limited.

As to the future, there was an interesting piece in the online version of yesterday's Guardian saying Blair was urging Gordon Brown to promote seven young Ministers - some Brownite, some Blairite, to the Cabinet. The names are actually similar to those tipped in a Sunday Telegraph article last year as being admired by Brown too: Liam Byrne, Yvette Cooper, Ed Miliband, Jim Purnell, Jim Murphy, Pat McFadden and Caroline Flint.

There are actually more young Ministers (and backbenchers) than that who are serious talents for the future, but that list is a good start.

They all have sensible - but radical - politics, they are all bright and have proved themselves in office, and they are all basically normal people who the electorate can identify with.

This stands in sharp contrast to the Old Etonian clique around David Cameron profiled today.

The fact that after 10 years in power we have renewed ourself in office and have a coming generation of highly electable politicians who (in contrast to the tail end of previous Labour governments) don't look knackered by years in office and are coming up with fresh policy ideas, has got to be good news.

Even better was that on close reading of the article most of the ideas Blair was praising them for coming up with about "public service reform" aren't the simplistic marketisation solutions I was worried were meant by that phrase but are more imaginative ideas that are compatible with keeping public services universal and public.


Blogger HenryG said...

Totally agree Luke, particularly with your last point.

8:56 am, March 21, 2007

Blogger jdc said...

This is right, and almost certainly the most important thing we've done, but we mustn't let the great statistics (and the real world effects for a lot of people that they represent) lead us to a self-confidence that doesn't relate to people's ordinary lives.

Tax credits have been a great thing for most people claiming them, but many of those dealing with previous overpayment which is no fault of their own are genuinely suffering. Child poverty has fallen significantly but a fair proportion of that is families moving from slightly below to slightly above the poverty line, without a really radical transformation of their prospects, and a large number at right at the bottom are still very poor indeed. Investment in education has increased massively but we've overspent on rebuilding (probably because we were rightly angry about leaking rooves and outside toilets) and been too slow to address the crisis of discipline and collapse of socialisation amongst a minority of young people.

You're right about marketisation too. The Government isn't Tesco (and any Minister who thinks it ought to be probably doesn't do their own shopping).

9:25 am, March 21, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

"Well organised and good at winning" = Stalinist? I thought that was "roundhead" by your reckoning recently? So, tankies and Brownies are roundheads? And, cameroonies, Blairites and Trots are cavalier? Anal or flighty?

But it was a non-story and it's about mandarins wanting to be back in charge. Long may they complain that the politicians are taking decisions.

Actually dropped in to see what I shouldn't be thinking about today's budget ...

4:41 pm, March 21, 2007

Anonymous Michael said...

Why dont 'lefties' snuggle up to new labour? Someone on cif said-

"NewLabour realises it is losing ground to the conservatives for the precious greedy middle classes so it takes money away from those who are always going to vote labour, if they vote at all. I am appalled."

That answer your question? That plus the endless Pfi scandals which will take generations to pay off (and WHO will foot the bill hmm?) the total ignoring of conference policy perhaps? The iraq war perhaps? The billions wasted on hte NHS IT system and management 'consultants', ignoring Unison policy perhaps? Subsidising the privatised rail industry to the hilt perhaps? And WHO footsthe bill? Your right, I just do not have the faintest why people insist on criticsing us!

And if you respond do so properly dont just scream loony leftie (yup, all those luny lefties voting for conference policy, mad our membership is, mad!) k? k! One more thing, i will always vote for labour over lib dems and tories, so there.

9:47 pm, March 21, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


as I read your comment, I listened to Newsnight's economics editor say that the biggest gainers from today's budget were the country's poorest children.

Some of the issues you raise not only have no resonance with me as a Labour activist, they have zero resonance with any - literally any - of the electors I have ever canvassed. I must have spoken to tens of thousands of voters over the last 2 general elections and local elections in between and since - in a good mix of areas politically - and no-one, repeat no-one, has ever raised PFI, NHS IT, funding of railways or whether Labour's Conference determines government policy or not. Iraq yes, obviously - the other issues just are not on the public's radar.

11:02 pm, March 21, 2007

Anonymous Michael said...

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. And some people dont know that their arteries are slowly but surely inflaming within them and furring up to the point of congestive failure- the fact that since they do not know this does not mean that there is no reason for concern.

I concur that, especially with the 1bn for kids, this has benefitted many, but new labours achievments need not be alongside the (apparentyl invisible) problems from the electors you encountered, they could be minus them. The good policies are not dependent upon the bad and it is this which infuriates. People can vote themselves off a cliff if they want - that doesnt mean we should provide the push.

On a personal note I think Brown did a good job, especially in light of the civil servants 'stalin' remarks, easily making light of them wheras Cameron made hard work of them - constantly making the same jokes over and over and over until he sounded like a toff arnie scwazenegger constantly saying how he'll 'terminate' this and that. Seriously if cameron gets some nose warts and gains a few pounds the tories are sunk - that is the fundamental level of his appeal.

12:10 am, March 22, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

On the Westminster stage (detached of course from the real world) Brown’s performance was good grandstanding. But I just can’t see how the budget is all that great.

Less Corporation Tax to big business? Is this so that they can continue to increase their fat cat bonuses? Once again a sexy looking income tax cut? Yes but once again a Brown budget that does virtually nothing about the growing, yes growing, inequality under Labour (I think this week someone’s quoting “1997 the richest 1% owned 25% of marketable wealth, 34%. The poorest 50% went from holding 6% of the nation’s wealth in 1997 to 1% today.).

The movement of children out of poverty that you mentioned the other day Luke is a great achievement (even it is actually very marginal on closer inspection) – but it pales into insignificance against these greater inequality figures.

The whinging and carping among the young lower earners and the small business people has already really got going, at least here in Scotland. Surely these are important target voting groups that Labour should be courting and not clouting?? And Brown has done nothing to prepare the ground for higher ‘green’ taxes that the electorate will not just see as another Brown (soon someone else’s) stealth tax

I’m not harshly criticising the budget but it really leaves me unmoved – and a bit bemused; would there have been all that much of significance left unchanged had Gordon just ‘done nothing’ yesterday?

12:30 pm, March 22, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Less Corporation Tax to big business might be so they can compete internationally and not off-shore jobs to India and China, so they continue to be incorporated in the UK rather than in more favourable tax regimes and so they can expand and employ more people at higher wages ...

1:35 pm, March 22, 2007


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