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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Self liquidating scenarios

Tory bloggers like Guido are busy exploring fantasy scenarios where Labour will "lose catastrophically" and "the party could swing to the left after a general election to Cruddas or McDonnell - condemning them to decades of opposition."

Now I'm not complacent about the possibility of us losing "catastrophically" - I think that's a real risk if we don't get our act together - but the second part of Guido's prediction would be made impossible by the first part - because if we lose badly enough to precipitate a major change of ideological direction then neither of the two people he suggests might lead it will be MPs anymore, and hence they won't be able to run - Cruddas' seat nearly went Tory in both 1983 and 1987 on far better boundaries than now, and McDonnell's seat was Tory right up until 1997.

The hard left know this. I spent Sunday afternoon chatting to amongst others a Campaign Group MP and a member of the Editorial Board of Labour Left Briefing. To their credit I did not detect any narrow sectarian reaction or attempt to get factional advantage from the Party's current troubles - they were just as horrified by the prospect of a Tory victory as I am, and know there will be no winners inside the Labour Party if we head into another long period in opposition.


Blogger Guido Fawkes said...

Good point. Which made me laugh.

Not a Tory, as you will eventually realise once they are in power.

9:37 am, May 27, 2008

Anonymous john said...

I don't understand how, if we lose, can do anything but go to the left - how else will we be able to criticise the Tories on poverty, inequality and social housing when we've done so little on them ourselves?

10:16 am, May 27, 2008

Blogger susan said...

How big was John McDonnell's majority at the last General Election, Luke??? Funny you don't mention that

11:01 am, May 27, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

John McDonnell and the rest of us on the left of the party, as you imply don't want to see a tory government. I compleletly agree with the two Johns when they say it is policy not personality. The party needs to rally behind the PM, especially as the vultures seem to be circling him.

I would suggest he appoint a Dep PM from the left to rally home new policies aimed at our core voters. This means the governement's direction and the party's survivabilty after the the next GE can be assured.

11:19 am, May 27, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


John McDonnell told the Campaign Group colleague I was speaking to that he knew he would lose his seat if Labour lost the General Election - I don't think you have actually grasped the scale of the threat we are facing as a party if you think that anyone's "personal vote" or individual political stance would save an outer London seat like Hayes & Harlington in the current polling circumstances. Tory MPs with majorities 50% higher than that John has now lost their seats in the 1997 landslide.

Please don't kid yourself that a Labour defeat wouldn't be a disaster for people with your politics as well as mine. We are all in this together and we all have to work together to turn it round. I just spent 6 weeks campaigning for Ken Livingstone - in return do you think you could do some campaigning in support of our Labour Government?

11:24 am, May 27, 2008

Blogger susan said...

I'm sure no-one is complacent , least of all John McDonnell. I was at a meeting the other week where he made it clear it would be difficult, to put it mildly, at the GE if Labour's standing at the polls didn't improve.
However, the only way in which that can happen is if this Government stops grandstanding to the right, courting Middle Englansd, and gives working-class people in their core constituencies a reason to vote Labour. Changing Leader for a different face with the same policies isn't the answer. As for camoaigning for Labour, well of course I will. But I'm not goingto be a cheerleader for New Labour and its failed policies, which have brought the Party to the brink of destruction.

12:23 pm, May 27, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I can understand and am indeed sympathetic to Susan's disgust with New Labour, but let’s face it the project is over, with many noted figures on the party talking about changing policy. In addition 88% of our funding comes directly from the TU movement and increasingly there are grumblings from them about withdrawing funding and affiliation from the party unless we move to the left.

This is reflected by people on the ground, i.e. they stopped voting for us in Crewe because they believed the Labour party they had supported all their lives no longer existed.

You point out the 10p tax, where as Susan and I could probably give you a list of where the party went wrong.

There is only one democratic socialist party that has a chance to give us that "New Jerusalem" Attlee was on about and that is the Labour Party. Like Hattersley implied in the early 80s, when he was asked to leave the party (to join the SDP), I'm Labour till I die.
We on the left are only too aware of the near destruction of the party by splitists and conspirators within the ranks of New Labour which is why I am backing calls from John McDonnell to rally behind the PM and provide him with a manifesto of moderate left policies which the likes of Tony Benn and Roy Hattersley would be comfortable with.
Yes I want to see a Labour government in office but I fear we could be relegated to third party status unless we unite to deal with the Tories and the Lib Dems on, let’s face it, our turf.
On a slightly related matter, my missus is a union rep for the PCS union (civil servants) and her union are balloting their members for strike action. I am all for the right to strike and everyone needs and deserves a decent wage however I could help but ask her about what she would accomplish. The government won't cave in and the opposition have already said they plan to roll back the limited union rights we got when New Labour was elected into office if they get back in. During the strike action in Grangemouth, George Osborne said he thought the unions had too much power and he would repeal pro union legislation. His boss rapped his knuckles for it but now it is there in the ether so it is a possible Tory policy. Strike action now could damage Labour's chance of re-election in 2010 just the same as when unions went on strike in the late 70s, and we all know how that ended, not only for the unions, but the country.

1:35 pm, May 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What sort of threat is it for the unions to withdraw funding.

Follow the argument through. Conservatives get into power. Unions get a kicking.

So the unions are not going down that route.

On the other hand, if the unions -with a little help from Susan - succeed in pushing the Labour government to the left, then the electorate is going to desert you.

Unions are not going down that route.

The Labour government hasn't got any option other than to tack over to the right because otherwise it's out of the game.

The unions are going to have to shut up. The hard left is going to have to shut up.

The Labour government's trick was always to appear in the centre but smuggle into the programme lots of things from the left.

Voters have wised up. They are not having any of that any more.

3:07 pm, May 27, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

It does make sense toi include and bring together the different sides of the party. Really, triumphalism isn't going to benefit anyone except the Tories.

As someone who left the Labour party but doesn't see themselves as on the left (I'm a maverick mixture of cultural libertarian and fabian social democrat), I think that the following needs to be observed.

To the New Labour Right: it is no longer 1997, and whilst some of the NL ideas were good and were needed, some have been less successful. Stop living in the past and accept that the Government has made some mistakes and is still propsing things which will do nothing but alienate further. ID cards and 42 day detention will be unnecessarily divisive so drop them ( and I am not necessarily against ID cards but I can't see their introduction being feasible at the moment even if I wanted them !)

To the Left: you don't have a majority anywhere so stop doing what you do best - being sectarian. There are some left policies which would be popular and make absolute sense - and in fact there are some issues which social democrats and socialists should unite on against the Tories). So work with them.

To both: part of this has happened because you have underestimated the Tories. They were no more dead in the water on a permanent basis than you were. They are back and they are credible. Scare tactics won;t work - the Crewe by election tactics were ridiculous.

Their policies are full of holes.

But even so that still may not be enough to stop them being elected - but looking at their policies, do they really have any answers to the current economic problems? I don't think so.

As for Gordon - I just don't know. I'd like to think he can recover. But perhaps this media-driven age isn't going to be the best place for him to do so.

3:46 pm, May 27, 2008

Blogger donpaskini said...

Tories got more votes than Labour in both Hayes and Harlington and Dagenham and Rainham in the GLA elections. Doesn't mean it'll happen in the General Election, but supports Luke's point. And that was with a more left-wing candidate (closer to Jon and John's politics) then we are plausibly going to have leading us at the next GE.

4:22 pm, May 27, 2008

Blogger susan said...

The choice is pretty simple. Voters have given their verdict on New Labour and punished us at the local elections and even more in Crewe And nantwich.
Change the policies - or lose the next election.If we tack any more to the right we lose our core vote - and if we lose the heartlands, we've had it. Tack left with emphasis on fairness, wquality and social justice, and maybe, just maybe, we have a chance of avoiding catastrophe

4:38 pm, May 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NuLab's trick was always to appear to be on the right but use that as a camoflage so left policies could get in the backdoor.

The pity is Brown has proved such a cack-handed conductor of this sleight-of-hand - read Tom Bower in The London Standard today, oh my Gawd - that the punters have worked out the trick.

Identity cards, 42 day detention, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all ... he's been oh so bloody smart that he's shanghied himself.

Right or left it doesn't matter now. The economy is going into recession (Greenspan reckons the US is odds-on to retreat so we're almost certainly going to follow suit).

And in a couple of months, the courts are going to start handing out the repossession orders in volume as house prices fall through the floor.

Few spirits are going to be lifted by appeals to "social justice", "equality" and "fairness".

5:12 pm, May 27, 2008

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

One thing I agree with Luke about is that we're all in this together and a Tory victory would be equally disastrous to all wings of the party. (At the moment I don't think the swing is going to be such that MPs with 10,000+ majorities like John McD are going to be routed, but that isn't really the point, and nobody should be complacent).

So yes, we're all campaigning like mad (I know, Luke, that you have a 'narrative' of the party's left that we don't campaign, but it simply isn't true, and indeed there are a lot of CLPs where we're pretty much it now, as far as the activist base is concerned). And we're also giving out a lot of advice. I actually get the impression some of its being listened to, and I say this to any left comrades who read your blog - we won't get any credit, but that's the least of our concerns; if some of the policy areas we've been promoting end up in the programme (fourth option on council housing, equality for temporary and agency workers, etc.) - let's welcome them wholeheartedly.

But it isn't enough to just campaign for Ken Livingstone (we'll all be campaigning for whoever our candidates are in every election from now on, just as we've been doing all along) - we've got to allow the party to work as a party and not just a roundhead division. I know what you're thinking, Luke - the voters don't care if party members have a say in policy making or not. You're right, I'm sure they don't. But as much as we'll all try and get the troops out at every opportunity - left, right and centre - we have to face the reality of the erosion of our activist base and we have to reconnect them. It's not a case of naval-gazing instead of action; both are necessary if we're to get the rank and file out next time. A lot of less active members - and I'm not referring to the left here, particularly, who it's not really possible to disillusion any more - are feeling detached, disillusioned, outside the tent, and some of them aren't convinced they want to get back in.

So yes, Luke, we'll all campaign like mad, whatever happens. But, if we're careful and clever, we can get people passionate again.

And I'll keep trying to get the party to turn left; you'll keep trying to get it to stay right!

5:51 pm, May 27, 2008

Anonymous Gilbert said...

I see the Tories are proposing the setting-up of special 'boot camps' for the unemployed if ( God forbid ) they win the next election. Does this mean they expect unemployment to become an issue again if and when they regain power?

6:23 pm, May 27, 2008

Blogger Chris Paul said...

The Tory boot camps are very "lite". They're using boot camp as short hand for job training ...

Good to see Luke reaching out to the left instead of spitting feathers.

9:04 pm, May 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our boy Luke was supporting Livingstone, for God's sake.

I thought he was left.

Susan, the grand witch of Hebden, describes Luke as right.

I bet he describes himself as centre left. Which probably means to probably defects to the Conservative left, any time now.

9:18 pm, May 27, 2008

Blogger susan said...

"grand witch of Hebden" Actually, no, I'm the Mayor. Nice to see misogyny alive and well. And, as usual , it's an anonymous post.

6:08 pm, May 28, 2008

Blogger John Wiseman said...

Lets just say we need to unite and get rid of this new conservativism, and show what they are really like and stop the inter personal sniping.


10:13 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous Gordon Baschnevski said...

"Self-liquidating" is putting it a bit strongly. Isn't there enough evidence yet to suggest that the policies of the past few years have been the ones that have contributed most to Labour's poor poll ratings. If we are to move forward we need more liberal policies like these and possibly to shift the focus of political attention more towards better understanding of foreign affairs, especially those involving Iraq and Afghanistan. Then I think we will regain the trust and support of former Labour voters.

3:38 pm, June 02, 2008

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