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.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Labour left - completely out of touch with the British people

My post below about today's ICM poll bounce for Labour has led to predictable howls from the Hard Left, which seem to imply they think John McDonnell would have been more popular than Gordon Brown with the public.

They should read the detail of the poll. Then they might recover from the delusion - created by public opposition to the single issue of the Iraq War - that there is public support for a substantial shift to the left by Labour.

Asked:
"When people talk about politics, they sometimes talk about left and right and the centre. Where would you put yourself on this scale?" the public answer:
Very left wing 3%
Fairly left wing 6%
Slightly left of centre 13%
Centre 43%
Slightly right of centre 9%
Fairly right wing 6%
Very right wing 2%

That's why elections are fought in the centre ground - not just to win a small number of marginal seats - important though that is - but because that's the politics that the vast bulk of the public believe in.

McDonnell's campaign was based on policies that appeal to - if this poll is correct - about 3% of the population.

20 Comments:

Blogger Owen said...

Luke,

The number of people who regard themselves as ideological - like me or you, for example - is very small. Most people like to regard themselves as moderate, sensible people who want the best for themselves, their family, and society around them.

Indeed, most people resist being boxed into what they regard as meaningless or abstract labels.

However, polls also show the following:

- A majority oppose the privatisation of public services;

- A majority oppose the war in Iraq;

- A majority support an independent foreign policy;

- A majority oppose tuition fees;

- A majority oppose the renewal of Trident;

- The vast majority of Labour voters want better workers' rights;

- Around three quarters of the British population want the renationalisation of the railways.

The fact is, most people regard such policies as eminently sensible, mainstream and moderate. These people - who, as I say, are not ideological by disposition - still regard themselves as somehow in the "centre". However, support for these policies - which were the policies advocated by the McDonnell campaign - place the British public far to the left of the New Labour government.

Take Scotland, where our party recently received a battering. In a recent poll, over 50% of the population placed themselves to the left of New Labour. I bet you that, if we did a poll of Scotland, most people would still place themselves in "the centre." If we lose Scotland (just as an example), we will lost the next general election.

So, this poll is an oversimplification which obscures the real issues. The fact is, if being in the "centre" means bombing third world countries into the Stone Age in alliance with hard right US administrations and selling off our services to the highest bidders, then most of the population are leftwing zealots. And yes, it places you to the right of most people.

5:34 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Anonymous duncan said...

Well Owen has said a lot of what I was going to say anyway, but a couple of other things. First of all, Luke - you massively misrepresent what was said on the previous thread. You yourself argued that the party's increased profile had caused a poll boost, and I made the entirely logical post that the increased profile would have been greater and longer had we had a contested election for the leadership. I suspect most people outside the party (and quite a few in it) have already had more than enough of Brown's self-indulgent tour, and the dull-but-worthy deputy contest. So I was merely suggesting offering a different interpretation, following on from your logic.

As for your other poll - as Owen says, it entirely depends on how people define the centre (and indeed on how they define left and right). It makes far more sense to look at things in terms of policies. John McDonnell's programme appears to be very popular when you look at polling evidence. Of course there will be areas that aren't currently so popular (as there are in Brown's programme - there isn't a massive appetite for a new generation of nuclear power stations, you know!) - and part of the job of politics is about changing people's minds.

6:11 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Blogger Neil Harding said...

Was going to make the same point as Owen but he beat me there.

Luke you are clearly on the 'extreme right' of Labour supporters let alone the electorate.

6:12 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Anonymous duncan said...

Also, Luke - sorry to harp on - it was you who made the entirely spurious connection between the recent poll and the McDonnell campaign (presumably intending to make some manner of 'point') - so to talk of 'howls' from the 'hard left' is frankly absurd.

6:15 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Blogger el Tom said...

Got to agree with Owen there, I'm afraid.

Also, look at the impact not just on the UK parliament, but also the devolved authorities.

6:53 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Anonymous Centre Ground said...

Is it possible to agree with both sides here? Or perhaps to disagree. Just because people choose to identify their politics as being on the "centre ground" doesn't mean that we have to slavishly pursue the most moderate programme possible. There is much evidence that shows the electorate in 1945 was not radicalised and was not suddenly commited to socialism, but still many of the features of that left-wing Labour government proved immensly popular and longlasting. Sometimes I think we need to regain the courage of our convictions. Socialism need not be the preserve of the far-left. Which brings me onto McDonnell. Because even though I have no doubt that much of McDonnell's programme is popular (populist?) his supporters simply cannot pretend that he would not seem left-wing to the public. McDonnell's the most rebellious Labour MP and he associates closely with ideological hard-left groups such as the LRC. The press would have had a field day presenting him as a left-wing extremist and this would have undoubtedly influenced much of public opinion against Labour. My two cents.

7:02 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Anonymous duncan said...

'Centre-ground' - predictably I agree with the first half of your comments and not the latter (what is the 'far left' anyway?)

Yes, I'm sure some in the press would attack John McDonnell and present him as an extremist. Let's face it, some in the press are going to attack Gordon Brown and present him as an extremist (or as a Stalinist, or a geek, or a control freak, etc, etc.) - there's no accounting for the tory press' determination to demonise all comers! Anyway, that is not, currently, what is at issue. The question was, would the party having an open and comradely debate about all these issues have helped boost us in the polls, and I would say the answer is an emphatic yes.

8:14 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Blogger Chris Paul said...

Do you REALLY think McDonnell's programme was in any sense "very left wing"?

The terms used in the particular semantic differentiation test you quote are truly crappy. "Centre" is just so very appealling as an option for anyone who considers their views "Normal".

If we're going to nod to this dim poll and go for the centre let's have the centre, the normal if you like as in say Sweden or Finland.

Centre and normal should for example be TOLERANT and PROGRESSIVE on immigration rather than being SCARED OF BEING WEAK and REGRESSIVE. Just one example.

Owen has listed a good few areas where NL are not in tune with the centre or the majority at all. And this poll was as usual fairly meaningless on this question you've focussed on. That one's just for a piece of fun.

John is great in many ways but for my money he was always entirely the wrong shade of awkward to pull off a real challenge in this real world, with the real rules we work under, and with the opposition we face - unless that is he had been picked in a primary with a collective programme. And that the left/CL challenge had a strategy from way out, including negotiating (not battering) the rule changes that were needed.

10:36 pm, May 24, 2007

 
Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Parties in the spotlight ALWAYS get a poll boost. The post-Thatcher leadership tussle in the Tory party in 1990, and the leadership challenge by Redwood in 95, both upped the Torues' poll ratings, even though on both occasions the Tory party was in a desperate state.

Luke's willingness to make an uber-BlairBrownite reading of any and every poll suggests New Labour's intellectual confidence and coherence is even more frayed and desperate than I thought it was.

12:00 am, May 25, 2007

 
Blogger Benjamin said...

To me the issue of McDonnell's leadership bis is fundamentally about denocracy: that should be an unbreachable principle. Leaders stand in contested elections before the party members and trade unionists who have a ote.

It is also about issues, some of which were raised by McDonnell in the only contested debate allowed by the Party at the Fabian Society.

These include PFI, immigration and asylum, inequality, trade unions, Iraq, Trident, taxes etc.

In the Comminust style hustings that Brown is now engaged in, where no democratic contest is allowed, these issues are unlikely to be discussed in rigorous debate.

Luke's objective, like Brown, was to close down debate and deny members a vote on in the first leadership change in 13 years, by manipulating the PLP nominations process, Communist style.

This forestalling of democracy was successful. The PLP fulfilled its "obligations" to the Brown machine, but betrayed basic democratic principles, and betrayed its role in what should be the first phase in a wider democratic process.

There is no way of getting round this one, Luke: a commitee that only nominates one candidate engages in undemocratic politics.

A party that stops members from voting engages in undemocratic politics.

It appears that Brown simply was not telling the truth when he said he welcomed a contest, and apparently actively campaigned to deny democracy: according to one report he personally persuaded Gavin Strang to vote for him. The gang of Brownites also did similar.

Of course there was no need for Brown to campaign in the PLP to secure nomination: Brown's nomination was in the bag within hours of nominations opening.

Any further campaigning in the PLP was strictly Communist style: to nominate ONE candidate and stop democracy in the party.

And Owen is spot on (first post in this thread.)

2:44 am, May 25, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Benjamin says Brown "personally persuaded Gavin Strang to vote for him". I doubt he had to. Gavin Strang is one of Gordon Brown's oldest political allies.

8:04 am, May 25, 2007

 
Anonymous Ian Kingston said...

In reply to E10 rifle the post thatcher Tory party did get a boost in the opinion polls so much so that it translated into a general election victory and 14 million votes a year and a half later.

10:05 am, May 25, 2007

 
Blogger grimupnorth said...

Chris, in which "primary" was Gordon Brown picked? Presumably that collective which gathered in the Granita restaurant in 1994. A fine example of democracy. I dispute ( well, I would) your definition of John McDonnell as "the wrong side of awkward." Whichever left candidate tried to stand up to Brown would have got the same steamrollering.And trashing by the media.We just have to accept there is no easy way round operating politically in a world which will always aim to destroy people with real socialist values.
The Fabian Society debate illustrated why John IMHO was the best candidate. He could stand up to Brown intellectually and politically and he came across well. Too well( see Alan Simpson's website). As far as rule changes go, have you EVER tried negotiating with the Conference Arrangements Committee. My CLP's rule change to 7.5 percent threshold is now on the agenda for 2008 in Manchester. hopefully.

12:16 pm, May 25, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

A few facts Owen convenintly forgot to list:-

A majority oppose massive hikes in income tax;

A majority do not want the Government to be soft on crime;

A majority abhor terrorism and couldn't give a hoot about the "human rights" of those cretins ...

12:56 pm, May 25, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

Sham,

Always a pleasure never a chore!

"A majority oppose massive hikes in income tax;"

Eh? What does "massive mean"? Hikes on whose income tax? Do you have evidence that the majority oppose increasing tax for the wealthiest people in society (i.e. about 10% of the population), decreasing the tax on the poorest in society, and keeping everyone else's income tax the same? Yes? No?

I can also refer you to several polls where the majority support an increase in tax if it produces better public services, if you like?

"A majority do not want the Government to be soft on crime;"

I think that's indisputable. If you created an opinion poll with the question: "Do you think that the government should be soft on crime", I don't really think that many people are going to say "yes", are they?

The problem we face at the moment is that the rightwing tabloid media whip up hysteria with scare stories which aren't actually representative of the actual proble. Furthermore, I believe that it's crucial to attack the root causes of crime (particularly those arising from the massive social dislocation caused by Thatcherism) - like poverty, long-term unemployment, broken communities, leaving drugs in the private hands of gangsters, etc. And no, I don't think just banging people up in prison without tackling the root causes will have any impact - hence the high level of reoffending.

Of course it's going to be difficult to have such an approach in the atmosphere of fear encouraged by the tabloid media. However, as your mentor often says, politics is about difficult decisions, isn't it?

"A majority abhor terrorism and couldn't give a hoot about the "human rights" of those cretins ... ""

Yes, and obviously the left is a big fan of innocent civilians being blown up on trains on the way to work.

In case you didn't realise, the vast majority of the people in this country believe that there is a direct link between the invasion of Iraq and 7/7. Indeed, most people accept that the war has made Britain more of a target for international terrorism. That is just one reason why the majority of people in this country think that the war was a mistake.

Clamping down on the civil liberties of an already besieged and marginalised community - as well as stirring up hate stories about them as an entire community - only further deepens the alienation and anger felt by many Muslims and thereby creates an atmosphere where terrorism and extremism thrive.

In case you hadn't noticed, the reason that Islamic fundamentalism has grown so much isn't because of "left appeasers" - it's because of a combination of a violent foreign policy that has disproportionately affected Muslim countries; attacks on civil liberties which have disproportionately affected the Muslim community; a climate of hatred stirred up by the tabloid media; and the widespread (and yes, disproportionate) poverty and unemployment suffered Muslims in this country.

Sham - putting the brains back into Blairism...

2:25 pm, May 25, 2007

 
Anonymous angus said...

"A majority oppose massive hikes in income tax;"

Firstly, nobody has proposed 'massive hikes', just that high earners should pay a fairer share. Secondly, the British social attitudes survey showed in recent years a majority thinking high earners paid too little tax. As most people would benefit from the public spending raised by such measures you appear to be suggesting most people are deeply irrational...Tory proposals to reverse any such tax increases at the next election would need to explain what spending cuts would be introduced to fund them.

2:34 pm, May 25, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

Do you have evidence that the majority oppose increasing tax for the wealthiest people in society (i.e. about 10% of the population), decreasing the tax on the poorest in society, and keeping everyone else's income tax the same?

Great! Let's tax the rich until the pips squeak. You may not have realised this Owen, but if an ultra-Left government were to impose a series of vindictive tax increases on the wealth creators in our economy unemployment would actually increase and employment decrease.

And no, I don't think just banging people up in prison without tackling the root causes will have any impact - hence the high level of reoffending.

Exactly! Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime ... now, can you remind me who coined that phrase?

Yes, and obviously the left is a big fan of innocent civilians being blown up on trains on the way to work.

Maybe not yourself but many elements of the far-Left applauded the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7, as well you know.

And don't even get me started on Hezbollah.

In case you didn't realise, the vast majority of the people in this country believe that there is a direct link between the invasion of Iraq and 7/7.

The logic of your point being that the Government shouldn't do what it feels to be in the national interest for fear of the reprisals.

That's not strong leadership; it's raising the white flag.

In case you hadn't noticed, the reason that Islamic fundamentalism has grown so much isn't because of "left appeasers" - it's because of a combination of a violent foreign policy that has disproportionately affected Muslim countries; attacks on civil liberties which have disproportionately affected the Muslim community; a climate of hatred stirred up by the tabloid media; and the widespread (and yes, disproportionate) poverty and unemployment suffered Muslims in this country.

Ah, this terrible foreign policy of ours!

The policy which stepped in to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Muslims by Milosevic. Opposed by you ...

The policy which overthrew the vile Taleban regime in Afghanistan. Opposed by you ...

The policy which got rid of Saddam Hussein and gave the Iraqi people democracy for the first time in their history. Opposed by you ...

Owen - living in a McDonnell wonderland! (Even if no one else is!)

8:32 pm, May 27, 2007

 
Anonymous noel said...

If you needed any proof of the decline of the Labour Party then you need look no further than Sham's nonsense, and hey Luke for those of us in Hackney who'd like to have a house we could afford, any chance of you and the rest of the crooks at Hackney Council actually not selling off or gentrifiying this area for the benefit of the rich?

For those who want to look outside the Westminster bubble…

from British Social Attitudess the most comprehensive survey of what people think bar none…

http://leninology.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-popular-are-new-labour-values.html

11:16 am, May 28, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

"Leninology" ...

Says it all really!

8:46 pm, May 28, 2007

 
Anonymous Kevin F said...

Luke,
I've just realised you do this deliberately.
I agree with all of Owen's policy points and i'd regard myself as 'centre'.

7:39 pm, May 29, 2007

 

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