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, May 14, 2008

Yesterday's announcement

Well done to the PM and Chancellor for doing the right thing on the 10p rate compensation - and making sure the solution also benefits hard-pressed basic rate taxpayers suffering from the credit crunch and food and fuel prices. However, I can't help wishing this had been done on April 14th not May 14th, as we might thereby have secured a Labour Mayor of London and a few hundred more Labour councillors, and saved many thousands of people from enduring Tory cuts and ineptitude at their local town halls.

Well done to Frank Field both for his dogged pursuit of this issue and for his apology yesterday which has hopefully drawn a line under the less-than-edifying exchange of insults over the weekend.

I think we are now in with a shout in Crewe - I haven't been able to get up there due to family commitments but friends who have say the canvassing even before yesterday's announcement indicated it was competitive but still winnable.


Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I agree, whilst the announcement was welcome it came too late for us on election night (mind you it might have been interpreted cynically as an election ploy).
With regards to the Crewe and Nantwich by election, the Liverpool party are going up to give support on Sunday I hope to make it with them if I can.

11:15 am, May 14, 2008

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Agreed. This announcement was four weeks late. It would have gone down a storm. We would certainly have saved one seat we lost and possibly the other. And results elsewhere were close enough that we might even have gained one or two. We would have got Liverpool to NOC for more than 20 minutes. We could have won London. And we certainly would have had a greater chance in Crewe where at least some PVs may have been returned ahead of the announcement.

I imagine the cheaper but more complicated option was what held it up.

12:44 pm, May 14, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elections apart, the 10p tax rate compensation was just a reaction to public opinion. The party remains completely alienated from the british public both in terms of popularity and in terms of being in touch with what's going on.

It might only equate to £100 a year per voter but it's cost the labour party dearly.

1:42 pm, May 14, 2008

Anonymous David Floyd said...

"The party remains completely alienated from the british public"

If the party is completely alienated from the public how and why can it be reacting to their opinions?

6:13 pm, May 14, 2008

Blogger Dave Brinson said...

"just a reaction to public opinion"

... is that always such as dreadful thing, in a democracy ?

6:38 pm, May 14, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In most democracies the PM gets elected

nulab is going to feel the foot of history up its collective arse

£2.7bn spent to save Crewe , and I'll bet its still lost , even Dunwoody Jr refused to say that gordon was an asset when asked 3 times .


7:59 pm, May 14, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Actually I can't think of a single democracy, other than for a short period Israel, where the PM is "elected" directly.

10:01 pm, May 14, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

The announcement if a joke and a political bribe that voters will not take.

Firstly there will still be around 7 million people in this country that lose out.

The PM has cost the country an additional 1.75 billion which he has had to borrow. If he just scrapped the 10 pence rate it would of only cost £750 million.

The measure is temp and people will be out of pocket come 2009.

Talk about tax credits is yet another farse and costly way of refunding money.

Another 2.75 billion to the balance sheet together with another 150 billion on bank bailouts. Labour are trying to ruin this country.

The voters actually think Brown is weak, a poor decision maker, incompetent. People literally hate the PM, if he doesn't go soon then he'll be pushed.

10:20 pm, May 14, 2008

Anonymous Alex said...

I thought Vince's calculations in the chamber estimated that it'd leave just over a million worse off than before the 10p removal? Hardly seven million... as far as I knew it was only about five million that were negatively affected by the removal in the first place.

I'd be the first to say that the 10p removal was a huge mistake -- both in terms of public opinion and with regard to what is actually right -- but I think that if the PM had reinstated it at -any- point he'd have been criticised either for leaving it too late or using it as an election ploy.

I don't quite understand how reversing an unpopular and also unjust policy counts as mere vote-chasing. Of course in reality this was undoubtedly part of the motivation, but it's also the right thing to do.

8:43 am, May 15, 2008

Blogger The Fully Clothed Civil Servant said...

Too little too late i'm afraid. I don't imagine for one minute that this will improve our slim chances in Crewe.

12:33 pm, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The party remains completely alienated from the british public"
because it takes such a vote-losing jolt before they are aware of a problem or at least before they respond to the problem. If they had really been in touch with reality they would have realised the effect the abolishion of the 10% rate would have had. The only reason for the 'U-turn' was to regain public support.

Arguably we don't actually live in a democracy. A true democracy is a system whereby the voice of the voter is heard and taken into account. With our system the government is voted in once every 4 years and then joe public is pretty much ignored until election time comes round again. Your local MP may or may not do what he can to influence decisions but this is usually very little, especially if he/she is in an opposition party.

1:15 pm, May 15, 2008

Anonymous David Floyd said...

"A true democracy is a system whereby the voice of the voter is heard and taken into account."

Well, aside from elections, there are few accurate measure of what the 'voice of the voter' is.

Should the people who happen to be angry enough about something to write letters to newspapers or phone radio phone-ins have more of a say in what happens than those who aren't?

Either way, even if it worked perfectly representative democracy wouldn't just be based on MPs or councillors doing their best to do what they think most people want.

It's based on the complicated process of coming up with policies that combine your ideals with what's actually possible then putting the argument to the people that your compromise will be better for everyone than the one offered by the other side.

1:42 pm, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many measures of the 'voice of the voter' - feedback to local MPs, opinion polls, on-line petitions and the others that you mention - and there's nothing to suggest that these arn't accurate.

Perhaps those people who do speak out are those who actually have an interest - ie those who vote. Just because only a selection of people speak out is no reason to ignore public opinion.

I see no evidence that 'the people's voice' is taken into account when formulating policy.

2:27 pm, May 15, 2008

Anonymous John said...

You guys still don't get it do you? Your party is finished.

Your post Luke shows everything that is wrong about Labour... quote: "I can't help wishing this had been done on April 14th not May 14th, as we might thereby have secured a Labour Mayor of London and a few hundred more Labour councillors"

Hey, how about wishing it had been done before (or even avoided altogether) because it was hurting real people and not just that it damaged your party's electability? You call yourselves socialists? You don't give a s**t for ordinary people. You just care about your own skins and holding on to power at ALL costs.

There are still 1.1million low paid who haven't been helped at all and every other tax payer has now been saddled with a deferred £2.7bn tax rise. Way to go Gordon.

As for Crewe, forget even getting close to winning there. I'm an ex-labour voter who is now proudly campaiging on the streets every day to make sure your voters know the truth about this bankrupt Government. Here's a sample, out of every 10 people in Crewe I've spoken to, 4 are telling me they voted Labour last time. But only 2 of them now say they will, the other two are voting for other parties. Almost all are calling the tax u-turn a con, an election bribe... none of them are pleased or believe Labour has done the right thing. In fact you're in a bigger mess now than you were last week.

As for Dunwoody's daughter? What a joke, what a total ruination of a once proud name in politics. She wouldn't get elected in a safe Liverpool or Manchester seat nevermind in a marginal like Crewe. Her campaign has without doubt been the most pathetically organised and misguided in a generation. The Crewe tories are practically bursting at the seams with laughter.

Is there any hope for Labour nationally? There might have been, there might even still be... but the longer Brown sits at the top the lower the rest of the party sinks. Even Brown's relaunch, recent policy announcements and constant appearences on the tv screens are irritating the hell out of everyone. No one if fooled now, they know he's offering nothing new. "Best man for the job"? What good is that to the millions suffering to pay their bills?

Honestly, a real bad wind is about to blow economically through our country... within a month, maybe two, Labour will have toppled over the edge. I for one will be pleased to see it go and it looking like millions of others are feeling the same way.

Sorry to be so negative here but you're completely out of touch with the real feelings of the people. Sure, your supporters might smile at you in your strongholds, the idiots in charge might talk the talk in London but great swathes of the country have stopped listening to you now. Many are even angry and getting more so by the day.

History is about to repeat itself... see you again in 2029 (but I wouldn't count on it).

8:03 am, May 16, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said John -

Come back Old (socalist) Labour - those were the days!

9:52 am, May 16, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I really can't see how Brown can stand up and admit he has just lost over 1.5 billion pounds and keep his job. This is a huge sum of money to throw away and he is doing it to try and keep his bum at number 10.

Do you realise that the cost of his decision could have been used to help the 3 million families facing repossession orders or boosted the NHS.

What also about the millions of businesses like mine that now have to pay accounts again to reconfigure the tax system. This will cost me 1000s.

Surely it would have been better to reverse the 10 pence rate in 2009.

Joke Brown, Joke government.

5:57 pm, May 16, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

John: whilst I am critical of new Labour, I haven't rushed out to join another party. Have you? You seem to suggest so. If so, which party - because the problem to my mind is that the other mainstream parties are offering a programme not very different. Certainly not the Tories!

Or is your critique from outside the mainstream?

12:33 am, May 17, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Personally I think the conservatives are offering working families a lot more than Labour. Hard work should mean financial and social rewards and the conservatives are offering this.

Labour have done nothing at all for the working man. Many working families would be better off not working full time and just claiming credits.

If Labour wanted to keep the working vote they should have changed the National Insurance Scheme to act like an insurance scheme, so that it would offer real insurance for those who have paid in. They should have offered free dental care and prescriptions to those who are contributing. They should enable workers to claim back tax spent on travel to work, green home improvements and offered financial grants for home owners to improve existing housing stock.

House prices should have been controlled via interest rates. Brown simply allowed a frenzy of cheap credit to keep the British economy booming with not a care for working families trying to get on the housing ladder. A families across the UK now have £1000 a month mortgages to keep and their children have little prospect of owning a home. At the same time while a crash is needed if we get one it will cause misery for years to come.

Brown promised us that if you work hard you will get rewarded. Well so far working hard means being trapped in debt and children being brought up in day nursery because their parents are too busy working.

9:09 am, May 17, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah - how come people can get free GP care (at the moment) but not free dental or optical care?

11:58 pm, May 17, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

You think about it. I personally pay well in excess of £1000 a month just in income tax. Yet I have to pay for my own dental care, optical care and when I need a new passport it costs me £80.00.

How am I getting value for money? I don't actually mind high taxes but I want something for my money. I think most working people feel this way at the moment.

I'm paying another £100.00 a week just in tax to fill my car, god knows how much in VAT and in excess of £200.00 a month in council tax.

Yet it still costs me over a £100.00 to catch a train to London, and they are even talking about taxing bins in my local authority.

Where the hell is all the money going MR Brown.....is it the wars, or the bank bailouts because it certainly isn't going towards the NHS or our roads and both are in a right mess.

5:58 pm, May 18, 2008

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Merseymike you hit the nail right on the head when you ask ‘what other party would you rush out to join?’ The fact that in ex-Labour voters’ populist terms, the SNP provide an apparent answer ‘yes’ in Scotland is what makes Scotland so important to the debate around UK politics.

If many Labour members (especially Scottish Labour MPs) could just get their thinking to go a little further than a bigoted, visceral hatred of ‘the Nats’, they would perceive how ex-Labour voters believe they are being offered a social democratic alternative in Scotland -

Free care for the elderly, anti-nuclear power station building, a halt to PFI/PPP, no public-fund-supported elitist foundation schools run by rich loony Christian businesspeople… it goes on and on. Now we can all debate and harrumph around whether Nationalism is a regressive and divisive ideology etc. But that ideological terrain has been denuded in British politics, not least by New Labour; consequently, it is not productive terrain in which to win votes for now. Instead, many ex-Labour voters in Scotland just look at the list I gave above and they think “yes, that’s what I’m wanting, that’s what Labour used to do”.

On top of that, these Scottish voters get constant reminders of how badly lost Labour has become – Michael Martin… need I say more… beyond parody… but the constituency he has for so long dominated is unfortunately not beyond parody; it just remains one of the poorest in Western Europe on almost any measure. But at least their MP Michael Martin and now his MSP son are doing all right. The electorate are not wholly stupid, they do get all this after a while.

Incidentally, the SNP seem to be making impressive headway in the notion of a civic nationalism – something else that seems to have escaped the likes of Labour MP David Cairns who you may remember derides such things as ‘the McChattering classes’ – goes down very well with the average Scottish voters that does (I don’t think).

I cannot help but think that the re-branding and narrative thing that Cameron and the Tories are experimenting with is with the aim of finding the presentational package that will enable a sufficient number of voters to see them as an acceptable (if not ideal) alternative to Labour in some fields that once were wholly Labour provinces. The SNP have shown what is possible.

9:47 am, May 19, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Quite right Ted.

Much of what Labour used to be about the SNP are now executing in the public domain.

I was at a Labour fundraiser on Friday and in Crewe on Sunday, and I tried to put this view across adding if the tories get in, it could mean the break up of the union. The response I got was that they were quite relaxed about independence!

When I told them if Scotland ceeded from the UK it would leave the rest of the country in perpetual conservative government because Scotland is pretty much a tory free zone it was like I was talking to a plank. It is this appartent ignorance of our core voters that will cost us dear!!!!!

11:57 am, May 20, 2008

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Ravi I know what you mean about the perception just not being there on 'the left'. We could end up with a couple of adjacent countries each marked by an even- more-petty streak of backward looking nationalism. Meantime, I repeat that there are crucial messages for 'British' Labour t0 be learned from what has happened to Scottish Labour if this is not to be repeated across the UK (indeed I argue that it's already happening).
And, as you say, there are implications for England that Scottish indpendence would bring that do not yet seem to being being comprehended.

Without change from the 'Westminster top' I do not now believe that Scottish Labour can reform and regenerate itself.
I have posted elswhere that IMO the typical Scots voter in voting for SNP in no way (until now) has been voting for independence. Rather they perceive that the SNP are offering something that Labour seem to no longer do.

Things are also compounded by the seeming inability of Scottish Labour to think and respond coherently to the changing Scottish dimension. The tragedy is, I believe, that the situation could be still... just about... be retrievable for Labour in Scotland if there could be a sensible and coherent reframing of some core social democratic values AND so long as (and only so long as) at the same time the SNP are found weak in reality as opposed to the promises they have made. Certainly the pathetic cave-in of the SNP government to the worst tendencies of 'Old Labour' on community empowerment might be an early sign of such weakness... but on that score Scottish Labour were/are no better.

10:11 am, May 21, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

A major problem is that the scottish party is not devolved unlike the Tories and the Lib dems. They can make relevent points against the SNP without getting into conflict with the national party. But I don't want to let Wendy off the hook, indeed most of scottish labour MSPs really are a pretty weak lot. If we want to challenge Salmond we need:

1) a properly devolved party which can challenge Westminster if need to
2)a dynamic and charasmatic leader who can challenge the the SNP with an overt social democratic (or if you like democratic socialist, same thing to me) platform.

One of the few people I think who would have been up the the task would have been George Galloway; I know there are some in the party that hate him however he is charamatic and an excellent wordsmith, a perfect foil to Salmond don't you think? I can't think of anyone who is like that in the party at present, although Ted if you are a member of the scottish party maybe you stand for an MSP seat have a go as you seem to match the criteria, I'd back you (albeit from the national party rather than the scottish one)!!!

10:05 am, May 22, 2008

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Ravi I think we need beware of going too far down the road of personalities – lest we repeat episodes like another Labour overseas war campaigner, sorry Prime Minster, in the form of Tony Blair.

I also think here of Lord Douglas Hamilton who was a senior Tory Minster in Scotland just pre-devolution. He was a real old private school toff, with one of those odd upper-class, Anglo- Scottish ways of speaking. Indeed, he was an almost funny, bumbling, dithering, caricature of the type. His boss Michael Forsyth was the proverbial no-personality-whatever person… and yet, the Tories drove through one of the most radical and transformational regimes ever to preside in Scotland.

Nevertheless, I get your drift and agree to an extent. The outcome of Wendy Alexander has been a tragedy for anyone, regardless of party or persuasion, who has at heart the best interests of civic Scotland and the body politic. Many of us, that does include me, did believe she would bring in a new dimension of intelligence and ‘big picture’ thinking; something that would build on Jack McConnell’s, essentially decent but limited, super-municipal perspective and a return to the quality of the lamented Donald Dewar – indeed, I long suspected that is why Jack did the dirty and abruptly displaced Wendy and some other ‘lippy intelligent wimmen’ when he came into office.

But it did not come to pass. Moreover, the embarrassment that Henry McLeish ended up being was equally as unpredicted. The guy was an intelligent and sharp operator. These individual realities reflect long-evolving, systemic failings in the Scottish Party.

On your point about the Scottish Tories and Lib Dems, having their autonomy: First with the Tories it was a case of the UK Party being so reviled that autonomy was a desperate action to avert what might have been the extinction of the party in Scotland. I have to say that this time around, whilst neither Scottish nor UK Labour is reviled in Scotland the way the Tories were – nevertheless the problem of negative public perceptions in Scotland is shared by both Scottish and UK Labour.

Second, as for the Lib Dems, how real is that autonomy? There was the old-style ‘smoke-filled rooms’ debacle after the last Scottish general election when the Lib Dems were ‘telt’ by their Westminster leader to back-off going into coalition with SNP that everyone more or less expected and would have accepted. That badly boomeranged on them given that their erstwhile leader turned out to be a busted-flush.

I now believe that the Scottish Party would only regenerate as part of a fundamental thrust starting at Westminster. But we meantime have certain Scottish MPs who have evidently far more regard for their (twilight?) Ministerial posts or other sinecures than they have for the Scottish scenario. I know personally that a few of these individuals are literally crowing at the travails of Wendy Alexander. So where is the thrust to come from?

12:23 pm, May 22, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:49 am, May 23, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Ted, you are right to say the problems with Scottish Labour are endemic within the national party.

This could be uncomfortable reading, but having seen a Tory being elected to a safe labour seat......

As you say this must eminate from the UK party leadership. They should directly and overtly court our core vote, yes a dip to the left but only as far as the likes of Hattersley or Jenkins. I believe this would put us on a par with Salmond in Scotland, attract some of our lost labour voters nationally, as well as restoring the party as the party for the poor.

This is the bad bit. Either we stay as we are and we lose the election, losing some of our heartlands to the LDs and the Tories, which could pop us into 3rd place, or we drift to the true moderate socialism of the Labour Party, lose the election (due to falling support in the south) but have attracted enough core labour voters to hold on to second place and have a spring board for the next GE.

It is probably true to say a Labour demise is premature this far in the election cycle but it is clear to me we cannot stay where we are politically; we need to face the problems of the future. The question reamins is the current leadership of the party brave enough to try

9:51 am, May 23, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think we are now in with a shout in Crewe ...."

You probably really did believe that. So did lots of others in rhe party. Now it's time to wake up. We lost hugely. Labour voters in their thousands think we are a bunch of conmen, cynical parasites who will do nothing for them.

Many at the top of the party are sorting themselves out for defeat. Are you settling for defeat, Luke? Or do you now get it that the change to be in a position to beat the Tories and give Nat voters a feeling that we aren't just a bunch of crooks has got to be as big as the move to New Labour was in the nineties?

We have to ditch Gordon Brown, the man who said "we're best when we're Labour". Because he was right and he has failed in the job. No time for sentimentality now.

11:42 am, May 23, 2008


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