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.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ken '08 = Kerry '04 and Gore 2000

The big lesson of this one is that despite a campaign that was really firing on all cylinders in the final weeks (all credit to Ken Clarke, London Region Labour Party Director) left candidates can't win unless they triangulate and take the centre ground.

Just like John Kerry and Al Gore (and probably in November Obama) we got our core vote hyped up into a frenzy and turnout shot up.

But you can't win an election in London, the UK, or the USA, just by enthusing Guardian readers, students and BME communities. There are other forces in society who are more numerous and will always go one better in turnout.

You have to have something to say to the white C1s and C2s in Havering and Croydon and Bexley. I never saw anything in Ken's messaging or positioning that acknowledged that these people were Londoners too and addressed their concerns directly - and in fact we boxed ourselves into a turnout battle against the suburbs - something that we were never going to win, rather than trying to get the kind of white van drivers who voted Blair in 1997 on side.

Ken's alienation of the Jewish community through the Finegold affair and inviting dodgy Islamist clerics to City Hall was also crass beyond belief - picking a stupid, tokenistic fight with a community whose instincts are liberal, who want to vote Labour, who take their democratic duties very seriously and will turn out - probably a large slice of Boris' margin of victory was Jewish voters alienated unnecessarily by Ken.

This doesn't just apply to London - we will not win the next General Election unless we occupy the centre ground, develop policies that resonate with the suburbs, the C1s and C2s and avoid the temptations of comfort zone politics. However great the campaign, however great the candidate, you can't win without triangulating. That's why Blair and Clinton won and Kerry, Gore, and tonight Livingstone, did not.


Anonymous Rich said...


Wrong Wrong Wrong.......when are you going to listen.

If you just listened then you wouldn't be in this mess. It's too late now the next election is a done deal.

You do realise that Amicus is on the cusp of taking funding away from Labour. Others will follow very shortly....trust my words.

I have it on good authority that Mudoch is about to turn his hounds on Labour as well.

11:45 pm, May 02, 2008

Blogger ian said...

'Ken's alienation of the Jewish community through the Finegold affair and inviting dodgy Islamist clerics to City Hall was also crass beyond belief - picking a stupid, tokenistic fight with a community whose instincts are liberal, who want to vote Labour, who take their democratic duties very seriously and will turn out - probably a large slice of Boris' margin of victory was Jewish voters alienated unnecessarily by Ken.'

Yet you were happy to put up with this, campaigning for Ken. A bit late to be moaning about this now!!

Its your 'centre' politics that lost Labour this election. The population wanted radical policies.


11:49 pm, May 02, 2008

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Luke - Ken got more votes than he did last time and the percentage in London was in the 40s compared to 24% nationwide where we were 'triangulating'.

I'm glad Labour came together for the London election. Shame it couldn't last for 5 minutes after the anouncement.

I think it's very revealing that Ken thanked the whole Labour Party and said any blame for losing could only lie with himself. Everyone BUT Ken in the party should have to concede that he did extremely well in the context of a national drubbing. But you choose to blame Ken instead. I've always felt the real splitters oare on the right.

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

12:17 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Gregg said...

Wow, you've got that arse about tit, Luke. Gore lost because he spent too much time trying to traingulate, and left-wingers stayed at home or voted Green. Similarly, for ten years the centrist/conservative New Dems dominated the Democratic Party, during which time they lost control of Congress, lost the White House and became a minority party at state level. It was only when the left re-asserted itself with Dean as party chair, that the Dems regained control of Congress and now control most state governments in the US. When is the lesson going to sink in: Elections aren't won in the centre, they're won by certainty.

12:25 am, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Nice while it lasted.....Britain is broken. Time to mend it.

Brown is on borrowed time, and Ken doesn't likeNew Labour one bit. Everyone knows that.

They always come out with that crap during speeches.

12:28 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Gregg said...

Incidentally, how did Ken win in 2000 and 2004, given the lack of triangulation then?

12:33 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

What a load of arrant nonsense from someone who just doesn't know when his spent ideas are all washed up.

Ken was actually way ahead of the Labour party's performance nationally - because many people simply weren't prepared to turn out and vote for a party which doesn't appear to be anything like Labour. People in inner London voted Labour because they could vote for someone not associated with Loser Brown.

Brown needs to go. Now. He's just not up to the job. Let's be frank - he is someone who has no ability to connect or communicate - he is a disaster as PM.

Then Labour needs to meet with unions, interested supporting organisations, and its supporters who are sick to death of what's going on, and try and salvage what is a very likely loss of the next election.

12:58 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

The other thing you don't realise, Luke, is that the natural place for the views you espouse is the Tory party.

The Tories are now credible again. Their natural voters have returned to them. Labour's natural voters are sick to death of Labour - and its those voters who need to be won back, not a forlorn hope at trying to win back voters who only ever voted Labour once in 97. They abstained in 2001 and drifted back to the Tories in 2005 - whilst core Labour voters continued to drift away, largely abstaining, others opting for the libdems.

Wellm that number has grown to the extent that labour are going to lose.

Perhaps this is what needs to happen - because the day Labour started letting advisers to defence companies be accredited candidates, or seeing people like James Purnell or John Hutton as suitable for anything other than the Conservative party is the day they stopped being Labour.

1:04 am, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Mike, our union is turning its back on Labour. They are now looking at lobbying as opposed to party funding.

Unions are not getting a good deal from the current relationship. Workers are being treated like porns and their pensions removed without any say.

Got to get rid of this government so the country can start to breath again. Only once Labour have been defeated will you stand a chance of changing the party.

1:10 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Andrew said...

Compare Kens vote to the Labour candidates in each of the14 consistencies and you will find he has between 5% and 15% more votes then the constancy labour candidate is that because he failed to triangulate or maybe the labour candidates are to the left of Ken. It would help if the new Labourites could open their eyes and ears ken did better because he was seen as being on the left of the party.

1:11 am, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Andy said...

Luke, you're triangulaton point is utter bollocks. The key point is, if your 40 and 50 something C1s and C2s wives are suddelnly paying £10 a month more in income tax because of the abolition of the 10p tax band, the cost of Petrol and their weekly food shop has jumped by 20 per cent, and their children, who they remortgaged their houses for to get the money to give them deposits to buy their own homes, are suddenly facing negative equity, they are going to be pissed of with us and go back home to the tories.

2:18 am, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Andy said...

Mind you, Mersyemike is talking even more bollocks. Is he still a member of the Labour Party? If he is, some one ought to collect his posts on your blog and send them to the NEC so he can be expelled.

2:21 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

No, I'm no longer a member - and like thousands of others, I left because of the illegal war in Iraq.

The New Labour experiment and the folly of huge majorities which led to unnecessary compromise for fear of losing seats which are naturally Tory in view and outlook has come home to roost. With a credible Tory party, those voters have returned to their natural home.

Problem is, that is has happened when Labour's two core voter groups are at their most disillusioned.

The first way of starting to bring them back is for Brown to have the humility to resign.

2:30 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger transfattyacid said...

The simple fact is that Ken played the race card badly and imo in a socially divisive manner.

And maybe the arrogance of power and the adulation of a blinkered press made him forget the core Labour vote.

This combination has created the shameful situation in which the BNP have a seat on the London assembly.

It doesn't help that the message coming out of Labour is 'if you don't like us then you are thick' - yeah voters might be thick but they do have a vote and they have given Labour a kicking.

It is a sign of how badly Labour have governed that people are prepared to swallow their disgust of the Tories and vote for them.

Oh and the party needs to drop that slogan about 'hard working families'.

3:30 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Kris said...

I bet Ken RUES the damn day he went back to Labour.

Your "triangulation" is Nu Lab groupthink.

But keep it up. Doing more of the same will get you a similar result.

I can't wait.

3:47 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger John Doe said...

John Kerry and Al Gore are to the right of Boris Johnson, you fucking tool.

4:32 am, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke why did Labour only 27 per cent in the assembly wide list, yet Ken got nearly ten per cent more?

9:36 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Quink said...

I think we all know the lesson is a lot simpler than the one you've drawn. Triangulation will only work if there's an underlying sense that the party in question is credible: Labour isn't.

No amount of fresh promises will appeal to voters appalled by the appalling national government and leadership.

On the other hand, hats off to you for annoying merseymike with your job. As if it mattered, ffs...

10:31 am, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems like a case of trying to make the analysis fit the results.

Kerry and Gore lost because they ran lousy campaigns. They allowed themselves to be painted into a corner, they didn't stand up for themselves when they were attacked and thought they were above using the Republican playbook themselves.

We lost this election (and many over the country) because people who would normally vote for us were demotivated. Less demotivated in London than in many parts of the UK. The question was who, in that context, could we still turn out to vote Labour. It would've taken disproportionate effort to turn out our vote in the suburbs. Messaging or positioning was never going to be enough to turn out a lot of those people. We did all we could in these elections.

But if you think we could've got Labour-inclined C1s and C2s in Havering and Croydon and Bexley to turn out (or even persuaded Boris voters to vote Ken instead), you have to tell us more than "I never saw anything in Ken's messaging or positioning that acknowledged that these people were Londoners too and addressed their concerns directly" - you have to tell us exactly what would've won them over, and how much time and effort it would've taken.

10:51 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Anonymous-the-last - I agree, although our defeat across the country wasn't just because our people stayed away (they did) it was that their people came out in droves to kick us.

But Labour, in the past, used to see a high turnout as good news for us. It's always good news for democracy. Triangulation would be a recipe for trying to get some of the Tories to stay at home too, for them to feel they don't want to kick us so badly. That might have worked once, when our vote was holding up okay. It doesn't work today.

(In fact, our vote came out pretty well in London - sometimes it really is the other guys who win it).

11:01 am, May 03, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

From the moment Ken pissed in my flat the other day he was doomed. It's all my fault. I'm Labour's face of failure.

Just kidding! It's all Ken's fault. He doesn't triangulate hard enough.

1:46 pm, May 03, 2008

Anonymous English Teacher said...

rich said: "Workers are being treated like porns and their pensions removed without any say."

I think you mean like "pawns" rich-unless you mean that they are being literally shafted...

2:30 pm, May 03, 2008

Blogger Kris said...

Oh and by the way, Kerry was never a credible candidate - and that just what the democrats themselves thought. Kerry blew it at the Dem convention when he stood up and the first words out of his mouth were: "I'm John Kerry reporting for duty".

Jesus H Christ that was a howler.

Shall I now tell you where Gore blew it? Cast your mind back to his debate with Bush. Bush was blathering on into Gore time.

Gore, like an absloute fucking moron, squared up to Bush. Bush looked him up and down and laughed.

How you manage to contort the reality of the above to explain Ken's loss is astounding.

Ken lost because we have had enough of everything Labour, especially Gordon Brown. We did it because Gordon needed a swift kick in the crotch to remind him from where his power comes.

And whilst I'm on a roll, perhaps a PR guy like yourself could advise Labour that the old "lessons learned" line is tedious in the extreme. We don't owe you a living and you have no right to rule. We're not running a school for dumbkopfs.

2:54 pm, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you attracted the usual bunch of hard left losers and crypto-racist Tories with that one!

I'm not sure about triangulation - a tactic not a principle - but yes to the point about the centre ground.

And it is not just C1 & C2 voters - think AB also.

4:34 pm, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

English Teacher.....Both we have been shafted haven't we. Workers have been denied access to democracy.

Labour (Tory)
Conservative (Tory)
Lib Dems (Tory)

What choice is there?

I voted blue and will continue to do so until this vile bunch are in power. When we've kicked this middle class bunch of nutters out it will be time to get a proper Labour party elected.

5:02 pm, May 03, 2008

Anonymous David Floyd said...

"Compare Kens vote to the Labour candidates in each of the14 consistencies and you will find he has between 5% and 15% more votes then the constancy labour candidate is that because he failed to triangulate or maybe the labour candidates are to the left of Ken."

I agree that Luke's thesis is wrong in the sense that if Labour had put up a middle of the road Blairite who had triangulated more than Ken, they would still have lost the election by more than Ken.

It's a hypothetical question whether someone who matched Ken's personal appeal but also had more centrist policies could have done better because this time around that candidate didn't exist and it's not clear what those policies would've been.

The problem with wanting to appeal to the suburbs is that hiking up taxes to fund public transport and introducing the congestion charge is against the short term interests of many people in the suburbs. Particularly those people who are mostly like to vote.

You can't really run a campaign that tells people that this is not true.

If, as I think Luke does, you believe these policies to be right, it's difficult to see how any Labour candidate triangulates their way round that.

7:26 pm, May 03, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken might have got a few more votes if he had cut Jasper loose ,.... and had not confessed that he was a conman (over the Olympics) on question time ...(not a good idea to brazenly tell people that you will lie your arse off to get your own way , when your going for a position of trust, ok, its politics, but there was no need to shove it into peoples faces)

..but it was the Browns 10% was the real motivator that got the waverers out to vote against him .

Brown makes Foot look good ... you don't need to compare to the US for reasons , just the past.!


11:01 pm, May 03, 2008

Anonymous TL said...

What is a 'white C1 and C2'? One of Clive Sinclair's prototypes for the C5?

11:27 pm, May 03, 2008

Blogger Steve Horgan said...

It isn't about triangulation, it is about actually doing things for the mass of the British people. Politics has to be more than segmenting the population and then mathematically targeting policy until you achieve enough support for electoral success. Ken was deliberately divisive, calculating that he would end up with the biggest division, and that was contemptible. He deserved to lose for that reason alone.

11:59 pm, May 03, 2008

Anonymous lola said...

Could it just be that you've been rumbled as expensive and ineffective? Your 'core' Socialist vote is now bolstered only by dependents. Citizens dependent on state profligacy. Luckily (in my view) they are still in the minority.

8:03 am, May 04, 2008

Blogger Man in a Shed said...

As an organisation you have a deeper problem. You have a leader whom you allowed to bully his way into office, even when the senior people who knew him to be unsuitable and fully understood his character flaws and the likely consequences.

Your organisation is very close to insolvency (if anyone in the NEC knows its insolvent and allows it to continue then they are most likely committing a criminal offence - no wonder you can't find a gen-sec) and has no signs of recovery.

In common with the other major parties - policy is no longer made with reference to ideological, philosophical or even strategic strategic considerations. But rather is cooked up by a secretive group around the leader. Party members (of all 3 main parties) wake up in the morning to discover what their party believes - today. This is determined by the process of media manipulation, narratives (yours for this week is listening and learning) and the triangulation you propose.

In short your party is broken and can no longer function as a political party, but only a leaders supporters club with an over draft.

Add to that the hollowing out of your party in local government and its membership and you might conclude that the most urgent need for the Labour party is to take a break from government (what are you really achieving anyway?) and sort yourself out. Then you can present the public with a thought through manifesto and perhaps be in power again.

Why use the next two years just to dig a deeper hole and destroy your party ? Call a general election now and the next Labour government (which actually knows what it wants to do and how to do it) will be 2 years closer.

11:16 am, May 04, 2008

Anonymous Andrew F said...

Absolute nonsense. Livingstone out-performed the rest of the Labour party by a huge margin. Lots of the damage in this election was the result of shit centrist policies like abolishing the 10p tax band.

Add to that the fact that Livingstone won as a left-wing independent in 2000, with the Blairite getting a tiny proportion of the vote.

You've just applied a load of New Labour rhetoric to a case-study with which it is fundamentally inconsistent.

3:02 pm, May 04, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Which Blairite stood in 2000? The Labour candidate was Frank Dobson, who was on record saying "I am to new Labour what Norway is to Eurovision: nul pointes".

David, I didn't want us to run a "middle of the road Blairite" (for a start off there wasn't a credible London candidate fitting that description) I was quite happy for us to run Ken, I just think he should have developed a political strategy for winning votes in the suburbs as well as the inner city.

3:33 pm, May 04, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Luke: that wasn't going to be possible given the national swing and the fact that those suburbs (or at least, some of them - the Bromleys and Ruislips of this world) are always going to opt for a Tory in a year when they are strong and Labour are struggling.

What Ken did manage to do was hold together most of the Labour vote. Nationally, that wasn't the case - look at Wales, the north-East, and even much of the north-west. And that's because out two groups of core voters were disillusioned, and because White van Man has returned to his natural home when there is a credible Tory option. They are not coming back to Labour whilst the Tories remain credible and you need to face up to that reality

This is not 1997. Then, the Tories were loathed and despised. new labour really was 'new'. Now, Labour appear tired and people are unimpressed - and rather than look towards re-engaging with those who at heart support Labour, you still chase after those who gave their vote to Labour once and once only. You can't chase after both groups, Luke. They want diametrically opposed things.

4:44 pm, May 04, 2008

Blogger Phil said...

Much as I despair at the "iron-law" of leftists, namely that ANY state of political affairs on the ground indicates that centrist leadership should turn leftwards IMMEDIATELY - I do now believe that revenues should be raised from the super rich and redistributed to both the poor and the middle-classes.

It is possible for the labour centre top be myopic too -and this is currently the case.

6:49 pm, May 04, 2008

Anonymous Andrew F said...

Get a grip on the facts: Dobson was Blair's first secretary of state for health, helped initiate PPPs (one of the flagship New Labour policies), was pushed into his candidacy by the government and heavily endorsed by all the heavyweights. He lost the popular vote within the party, and then Livingstone was expelled for standing against him.

Of course, you know all of that...

6:52 pm, May 04, 2008


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