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.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Things to do when you are 16% behind

Today's YouGov poll isn't cheerful reading for Labour folk.

My recipe for recovery:

  • The bits of the PLP and Government flapping and gossiping about leadership challenges would be well advised to spend their energy between now and polling day on 1 May canvassing voters rather than each other.
  • After 1 May anyone who thinks they can do a better job than Gordon needs to put up or shut up. Prolonged speculation would be the worst possible scenario. I think we would be insane to switch leader twice in under a year, and seeing as the one we have got was already Chancellor for ten years, no one can say they didn't know what they were going to get. I don't think there's anyone else both ready and willing - and more to the point with any base of support in the Party - to do the job.
  • We need to start applying a basic rule to all policy ideas before running with them: does this help or hinder Labour's primary objective as a Party and Government to create a more equal society? The 10p tax rate abolition, for instance, clearly fails this test.
  • We need to show we are listening and responding to people's economic pain - there's no point telling someone whose mortgage has just got more expensive that everything is fine. A bold plan to rescue people about to have their homes repossessed has to be a priority.
  • The basic New Labour agenda is still just as clearly where the public are at as in 1997 - combining social justice and investment in public services with keeping taxes low, tackling crime and being strong on defence. The problem is that the public are now confused about whether us or Cameron can best deliver that agenda.
  • The problem isn't with our core vote - I've spent the past couple of weeks canvassing the most deprived estates in Hackney and they are still enthusiastically Labour - it's the hard-pressed C1s and C2s who feel economic ups and downs the most because they are on the cusp of being comfortably off or completely screwed if the economy tightens up.
  • Brown needs to be himself - his core beliefs and passion about poverty at home and abroad are attractive and sincere so he should go out and articulate them and tell the image-makers to get stuffed. If it doesn't work at least he will have been true to himself and acted as PM in a way that will leave a legacy we can all be proud of.
  • We need some John Reid and Margaret Beckett type figures (not necessarily those two individuals) prepared to go on TV and radio as and when needed and robustly defend the government and kick the Tories metaphorically in the head - one of the downsides of the generational change in the last two reshuffles is an absence of those kind of senior figures.
  • Re-build the Party starting at the grassroots. We can't hope to sell a 4th Labour term to the public if we don't have members and activists out their selling it.
  • Don't Panic!

32 Comments:

Anonymous Rich said...

Give up because people don't want another Labour government....EVER.

Labour are finished....funding crisis on it's way believe me.

7:59 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Anonymous jdc said...

"* We need to start applying a basic rule to all policy ideas before running with them: does this help or hinder Labour's primary objective as a Party and Government to create a more equal society? The 10p tax rate abolition, for instance, clearly fails this test.

* We need to show we are listening and responding to people's economic pain - there's no point telling someone whose mortgage has just got more expensive that everything is fine. A bold plan to rescue people about to have their homes repossessed has to be a priority."

Hi Luke, these two contradict each other. I know you don't agree, but the runaway housing market has been probably the biggest contributor to widening inequality over the last decade.

We'd be better off banning negative equity in the style of some US states, so that at lease if people get reposessed they can plan for it and make a fresh start instead of having extra debt on top of that, rather than throwing money at delaying the inevitable crash.

Alistair Darling's pronouncements that he will do "everything possible to help homeowners" really doesn't provide much of an incentive to renters to turn out next month, and there are lots of us in London.

8:10 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

You want Brown to be himself but it is this man that is responsible for the current economic mess. They guy is a moron and needs shooting.

8:17 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Anonymous Dan said...

Yes Rich, Brown is responsible for the global credit crunch. Very convincing.

8:56 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Anonymous David Floyd said...

"After 1 May anyone who thinks they can do a better job than Gordon needs to put up or shut up."

This seems to offer an unfortunate echo of that nice Mr Major.

It's an understatement to say that put up or shut up didn't work especially well for him in the long term.

That said I agree that current rumblings are pretty bizarre if they come from people who actually want Labour to win. I haven't got much time for Brown but it's difficult to see how Labour's chances at the next election would be improved by having another leader in charge.

There's a fair chance they could be significantly worse. Charles Clarke could conceivably do a Michael Foot at the next election - if it wasn't so inconceivably that he'd actually win a leadership election.

9:11 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Blogger Dr. Duncan Hall said...

Do you think the rumblings are real? I know the IOS apparently quote an MP or two, but it's hard to imagine even Clarke and his buddies are so daft.

9:16 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

"Yes Rich, Brown is responsible for the global credit crunch. Very convincing." Oh nothing to do with Brown allowing a credit binge and letting house prices grow out of control.

Brown was the man responsible for the FSA and the Bank of England....they could of stopped this binge and Brown was warned about this over two years ago.

Oh and Brown the man who sold off the countries gold for peanuts and then continued live off the profits of oil for a decade....no thought for the future.

This Labour government has been a disaster....and you think working people are going to vote for you lot again....think again mate.

Brown is incompetent and if it was up to me I'd drag the whole cabinet out and shoot the lot of them.

9:30 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Blogger Dave Brinson said...

We need some John Reid and Margaret Beckett type figures (not necessarily those two individuals) prepared to go on TV and radio as and when needed and robustly defend the government and kick the Tories metaphorically in the head

Agree completely- and probably should be those 2, especially Margaret, who, caravan jokes aside, is still one of the big beasts. We are suffering because of the number of cabinet ministers who never served in opposition, so don't have the street-fighting skills that we're now desparate to see.

9:32 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Anonymous Michael Foot said...

Here's one

How about listening to the people

10:09 pm, April 13, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

That was my 4th bullet point so you obviously didn't bother reading the post.

8:29 am, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

With respect Luke, you talked about listening - but then narrowed it down to economics (plenty of people are still more scared of crime, though I know you're mostly sound on this) - and then narrowed it down to mortgage holders. Ignoring the soaraway prices faced by many of us for basic items (Gordon Brown not making a laughing stock of himself by going on TV to say inflation is low would help here) and falling real incomes (will be a real issue for pensioners with savings if interest rates go the way Alistair Darling wants them to).

9:39 am, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

With respect Luke, you talked about listening - but then narrowed it down to economics (plenty of people are still more scared of crime, though I know you're mostly sound on this) - and then narrowed it down to mortgage holders. Ignoring the soaraway prices faced by many of us for basic items (Gordon Brown not making a laughing stock of himself by going on TV to say inflation is low would help here) and falling real incomes (will be a real issue for pensioners with savings if interest rates go the way Alistair Darling wants them to).

9:39 am, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

John

sorry, it wasn't my intention by highlighting mortgages to ignore the very valid issues you have raised - just reflected my personal worries as someone with a Northern Rock mortgage coming up for renewal this summer (I'm not personally asking for govt help but it does mean I understand how worried people are)

9:52 am, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

Fair enough, sorry about the double post, it told me I'd got the verification code wrong.

Trouble is, so many of the things we would ideally like to do now are opposites. The pound needs to stop collapsing, to tame inflation, but it needs to fall to help what export industry we have left. House prices need to return to sustainable levels, but without causing undue pain to people who were pressured into buying during the bubble. A period of high inflation would help the government, but if we admit it the public sector unions will get stroppy at the 2% pay cap.

10:08 am, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Michael Foot said...

Gave up after "My recipe". I'm getting on a bit you know

11:10 am, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Stephen said...

A bold plan to rescue people about to have their homes repossessed has to be a priority?

The best bold plan would have been to allow Northern Rock to go to the wall and property prices to plummet; that would have stood some chance of ending the absurdity of running our economy on debt backed by no more than ever-inflating property prices.

Inflated property prices impact on us all, and there can be no justification whatever for using taxpayers money to sustain them.

11:14 am, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

I'm relieved that you are admitting that it isn't looking good....

The leadership stuff is a bit of a red herring - who would be daft enough to want the job anyway? But Brown doesn't appear to be comfortable in the role of PM

The 10p rate was a real own goal. It needs reversing.

Labour have a problem if they regard only its council estate vote as 'core'. First, there's not enough of them to win an election, second, they don't vote in large numbers.

And the agenda as you explain it has a simple problem - it doesn't add up. The days of hoping to build the big tent and bring in people from Canvey Island are dead as a dodo.

So, Labour need to follow a distinctively Labour programme which will mean bye-bye to Essex man for good, but may be somewhat more coherent than the essentially contradictory policies of the past 11 years.

Or they can carry on as they are and the Tories will get in promising much the same. But with a fresh face.

As for rebuilding the party at the grass roots, how about all those who have left the party but won't be going back unless there are significant changes of direction?

11:22 am, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

Well, maybe this'll teach you to listen to the people who wanted a leadership challenge rather than a coronation, eh?

11:46 am, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting but not unexpected that so many of your points are about political presentation and not policy; do you really believe that a bit of presentational spin and loyalty will sort it all out?

I think that you fail to understand the seriousness of the underlying problems and the deep disillusionment with politicians in general and Brown and this government in particular. I’m not sure anyone is going to believe anything they say.

After years of gloating about successful management of the economy, attempting to shrug-off a down-turn/recession as beyond your control will not wash. Absolving Gordon from blame and putting it all down to a global credit crunch demonstrates a deep lack of understanding – the credit crunch has triggered these problems but Brown must bear a good deal of responsibility for creating an environment in which the impact is so serious.

All is not lost for Labour, the Conservatives are hopeless too. However, on that basis the country is in deep trouble.

12:33 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous observer's friend said...

Luke writes: "We need to start applying a basic rule to all policy ideas before running with them: does this help or hinder Labour's primary objective as a Party and Government to create a more equal society? The 10p tax rate abolition, for instance, clearly fails this test."

"Clearly"??? Funny that, I distinctly remember you refuting my criticism on this point and insisting that Brown's Budget would benefit such low earners.

No chance of you actually saying "Sorry, I was wrong" is there?

1:08 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Sorry, I was wrong.

1:45 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

Now can we all work together to get Gordon to follow Luke's example? An apology and details of a compensation package to ensure no one loses from abolitioning the 10p tax band are needed quickly. Hopefully, we can all agree that another review would send out the wrong message completely.

What better way to end the 'ditherer' slurs (in the circumstances) than a clear-cut decision following, say, next week's Cabinet?!

1:57 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

oops...that should read 'abolishing'....

1:59 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous observer's friend said...

Well done! You've just earned another Labour vote! (Me!)

2:18 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Luke, you make some interesting points, however I don't think we should take our core vote as a given, after all we lost control of Scotland and got a beating in Wales, not to mention the close running between Boris and Ken.

I am afraid to say this but we are in for a rough time (I think Rich has been banging on about this for about three months or so).
What I've heard is that people have lost confidence in Brown as PM and have questioned his economic competance. I feel even worse to admit this but Gordon's decision to make the BoE independent and creating that farce FSA has just added to the problem.
Your point about Cameron is well made. If we want to put forward a different prospectus to the electorate we need to have engagement from all sides of the Labour Party, in other words instead of trying to drown out the Lefties in the party you have to be prepared to listen to us, unity is strength!!

4:21 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger jdc said...

Brown needs to shut up. Today he said the economy was his sole focus. What about crime, Iraq, the environment, immigration, the NHS, and schools? Why fight solely on ground that's going to be unbearably sticky for the next year?

As for 'we are on the side of business and homeowners'. Well, that just makes me tempted not to vote for us, and I'm a member. God knows what normal people who don't do politics, rent flats, and get screwed over by business think of that statement.

4:42 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Luke: one more point. Its hardly surprising that the public don't know which of two parties are best to deliver the SAME agenda. This is the problem - the differences are really quite marginal. So, a tired and fractured government may look less appealing beside a fresh opposition, if the policies really are essentially the same.

"combining social justice and investment in public services with keeping taxes low, tackling crime and being strong on defence" - what moderate Tory would disagree with that?

5:33 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

As far as I am aware Tories don't support social justice and investment in public services, and because they won't invest in public services they don't do much for tackling crime or for defence either.

5:58 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke you said:

"As far as I am aware Tories don't support social justice and investment in public services, and because they won't invest in public services they don't do much for tackling crime or for defence either".

What I think we may be seeing for several months is growing evidence of a collapse of public trust in in Labour's competance. This is a dire and almost inevitably fatal affliction to befall a party. The reasons I'm coming around to this view includes the experience of what has happened in Scotland. It was clear that the party was becoming seriously detached from people - but those in charge either did not listen or genuinly could not comprehend or understand. Devolution clouded the issue awhile but the competance factor looks possibly like a double-whammy for Scottish Labour.
It was a factor in tilting votes against Labour after an uninspring run of nothing-very-competent
Now the SNP are in power and the roof has not fallen in. Moreover, whilst the SNP doubtless has its cronies and selfish self-aggrandisors these are not nearly so glaring as was with Labour after so long in power.

Consequently, many ex-Labour voters
may be hardening in their recently/newly found affiliation to the SNP.

But even more striking is how
Labour (the Scottish MSPs and Councillors or Westminster Scottish MPs) seems incapable of meaningfully addressing what happened at the last Scottish General Election. That tells me, by inference, that the same type of unkowingness and lack of comprehension may well exist across the UK party (otherwise why has not Brown, brother Alexander etc., etc. not 'come up north' and sorted it out? devolution was supposed to 'Kill the Nats stone dead' and retain Scotland for Labour).

The underlying UK situation is much more fundamentally negative than you seem willing to concede. Now at this stage in Gordon Brown's tenure of No 11 and No 10
we have the mortgage crisis, increasingly likely economic downturn (yes I know it's all the global market - aye sure)and the state of public services in England. On the presentational front it's blunder after blunder - who the f**k told Brown to go on a USA talent show to flash his whitened teeth and end by saying 'God Bless You'!?!?

Faced by this the ordinary punter must be saying to him or herself that "this should not be happening at this stage of the Labour Government". If Labour is losing the competance trust test, it will be far, far easier for Cameron Torys to play down their inate inequality agenda and instead spin the line that they are the guys to do better on the now-critical-again economy front.

8:01 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Ravi

Yes I have been banging on about this for sometime.The reason I have is because every month I have to meet up with local community leaders and this is what they are telling me. As a local business man I can only dish out so much charity.


Millions of working people are really struggling now and it's time for the government to act. Unless we want the return of the slums we really have to do something quick.

If you are a couple with no kids then under Labour you over taxed. Talk to these people and they resent having to support jobless families with children.

Labour need to strike a balance and they need to make sure that working for a living is worth while.

Labour are just producing great figures but the reality on the ground is very different. Poverty and deprivation is growing at an alarming rate.

What we need is tax cuts for those earning less than £15,000 a year and a slash in fuel duty. Why don't they allow working people offset travel expenses against their tax.

11:11 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

The problem is, Luke, is that the Tories have pledged themselves to retain spending at our levels - which all sounds very familiar.

There has been a good deal of convergence, and whilst I am under no illusions as to the Tory 'conversion' , I do think that Labour have made some major mistakes and overall have moved too close to a Tory agenda.

Dealing with this can't be done unless some of those who you are so desperate to keep on board are lost , accepting that White Van Man of Castle point really should be voting Tory given his opinions.

11:28 pm, April 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We need some John Reid and Margaret Beckett type figures (not necessarily those two individuals) prepared to go on TV and radio as and when needed and robustly defend the government and kick the Tories metaphorically in the head."

Now what's wrong with the lovely Hazel? Her defences of the Govt are robust to the point of stupidity.

"As far as I am aware Tories don't support social justice and investment in public services, and because they won't invest in public services they don't do much for tackling crime or for defence either."

This is what we call mythology. Mrs T isn't in any more you know, and the sidelined Tory nobodies are always up in arms at "Dave" hugging a hoodie and the like.

8:33 am, April 15, 2008

 

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