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, June 27, 2008

Where did it all go wrong?

Lots of newsprint this week has been dedicated to deciding where it all went wrong for Gordon.

Although it's actually rather more important to think about how we can get it to all go right for him, my take on the last year is as follows - apologies if this upsets anyone.

I think it actually all started to go wrong in August 2006, nearly a year before the leadership election.

Stephen Byers MP made what turned out to be a completely on-the-money assessment that Inheritance Tax was going to be a big stick which the Tories could use to beat Labour in the south where house prices were meaning lots of fairly humble folk were suddenly finding themselves liable for it.

Instead of taking this at face value as a sensible contribution to debate by a politician with his finger on the pulse of how key swing voters think, the paranoid pre-leadership election atmosphere meant Byers was leaped on and denounced as an "outrider" and "maverick", with an assumption made that he was just trying to create mischief.

13 months later the chickens came home to roost, as the exact moment when Labour's poll rating changed direction and started a downward trajectory can be traced to the Monday of Tory Party conference when George Osborne delivered a powerful speech the centrepiece of which was a promise to raise the Inheritance Tax threshold.

The knock this gave to Labour's poll lead led to the first of a series of u-turns and the sudden doubts about the wisdom of calling an early election which damaged the PM's reputation for strong leadership and squandered the opportunity to renew our mandate. And the rest is history.

What a difference it would have made if instead of sneering at him and launching savage attacks on him, Byers had been listened to. Without a key policy attractive to swing voters (and rejected by Labour) Osborne's speech would have been technically accomplished but politically hollow. Labour would have maintained its poll lead through early October and won a snap General Election on 8th November 2007. Gordon would now be able to deal with the economic downturn, taking tough decisions safe in the knowledge that he had 4 years to go before he had to face the electorate again, not less than 2.

Perhaps part of the solution might be to bring forward-thinking (and experienced) ex-Ministers like Mr Byers back into the tent and see how they can help.

39 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You came in behind the BNP in Henley.

The market has capitulated.

Surely, now is the time that the Brown problem raises its head on this blog.

11:23 am, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Reversepsychology said...

I agree completely with anon.

In the eighties, the Labour party tore themselves apart by stubbornly aligning themselves to unpopular ideals.
For the last ten years the Toies have just engaged in precisely the same thing.
For genuine democracy to exist anywhere, there HAS to be a strong two party system.
If New Labour activists refuse to address the parties failings at this present time, then squabbling on the opposition benches will be a pitiful site.

1:17 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Anonymous Jennifer Dalrymple said...

You seem to be contradicting yourself. Whenever I've read your blog you argue that middle class votes are less important than your solid base of working class support, but now you argue that inheritance tax is Labour's downfall. Have you been drinking too much claret?

1:22 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Anonymous hughes views said...

Don't panic! Few would have thought a year ago that the party would now be where it is. Who knows where it might be in another year or in May 2010?

1:26 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

So there's talk about Blairites joining the Cabinet - how about the original Blairite coming back and taking charge? At least he understood that you had to look after Middle England in order to have a chance of being elected and to then be in a position to help the less well off.

The bulk of people earning between £30k and £80k are not just worried about inheritance tax - they are being scared by the price of fuel and food, house price falls and unemployment on the horizon. Now is the time to interfere in markets so that the commodity speculators get burned and so that prices start to actual supply and demand (yes the cost of oil should increase - but double within a year). Remember we do believe that markets need managing from time to time (and the time is now) to improve their efficiency - this is one area where we are different from the Tories - and the fact that we would need to act with our European neighbours in order to be effective would probably also demonstrate something else that we can do and they cannot.

It's about time Gordon rediscovered his Keysianism.

1:36 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hughes views

Sign this man up to Gordon Brown.

He's obviously the type of strategic thinker badly needed by another great strategic thinker whose time horizon has become that of a fruit fly.

1:38 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Shamik said...

Worst Prime Minister ever.

2:21 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

jennifer dalrymple

I don't think you've been reading very carefully.

My argument is that the instincts of Labour's working class core vote and of swing c1/c2 voters are actually similar, explaining why both groups were so enthusiastic in 1997.

3:00 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger susan said...

1. No leadership contest
2. Ultra New labour Cabinet
3. Digby Jones and "big tent" ( but still n lefts of centre)
4. Dog-whistling on immigration
5.Macho posturing civil liberties/Trident/nuclear power
6.Triangulation even further to right
7 Abolishing votes at Labour Conference
8 Not calling a General Election
9 Toadying to Bush instead of distancing foreign policy.
I could go on but that will do for now......

3:38 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger jdc said...

Hello tory boys never grow up.

Please tell me more about how you think it's possible for speculation to increase the spot price of oil. Do you think lots of fund managers have tankers parked in their gardents, or what?

Supply has fallen, demand has risen, and kept rising despite rising prices.

3:39 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Anonymous MichaelC said...

Is this the real Luke or the spoof one? I'm finding it difficult to tell. Brown's mistake was not to get on the front foot - slam Tory inheritance tax proposals as giving great cash handouts to the very wealthy, and calling that election on a clear progressive programme. Perhaps you'd like to come on a tour of councils where we got hammered at the locals like Merthyr and Blauenau Gwent or Hartlepool and see if you can find one voter who would vote Labour if only we brought Byers back. I'd be amazed if you get find a single one.

3:43 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Michaelc

people with property worth £300,000are not "very wealthy" in London or the South East.

4:27 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

I certainly agree that his is where it went wrong.

For completely the opposite reason.

This is where we started creating space for George Osborne to move the debate, by dealing with a tory narrative in a tory way. We've been trying to do that all the way up until the announcement on green stuff and discrimination yesterday.

As you know, I'm not a fan of triangulation anyway.

But I think that to do it succesfully, you need to apply your solutions to opponents gripes, not the opponent's solutions to the opponent's gripes.

Doing that means that it looks like they set the initiative and you look slow, and it also makes you look unprincipled.

We should have seized the issue and progressivised the tax, while raising the threshold.

We should also have introduced a universal inheritance scheme.

"You seem to be contradicting yourself. Whenever I've read your blog you argue that middle class votes are less important than your solid base of working class support, but now you argue that inheritance tax is Labour's downfall. Have you been drinking too much claret?"

Luke is worried about the incredibly small portion of extremely rich people who actually pay it.

Actually no... he's just worried about the Daily Express and unwilling to offer an alternative to its repugnant prescriptions and strategies.

4:28 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"My argument is that the instincts of Labour's working class core vote and of swing c1/c2 voters are actually similar, explaining why both groups were so enthusiastic in 1997."

They are.

Neither of them pay inheritance tax.

4:29 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

Oh, and jdc

"Do you think lots of fund managers have tankers parked in their gardents, or what?"

No, they have shares in companies with lots of petrol stations, silly.

"Supply has fallen,"

That's not what the Saudis seem to be saying.

"demand has risen, and kept rising despite rising prices."

Indeed. We lack a collective response. Probably because we lack confidence in collectivism.

4:32 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Jack Ray said...

"The bulk of people earning between £30k and £80k"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

What planet are you fuckers on.

4:44 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Anonymous Jimbob said...

"people with property worth £300,000are not "very wealthy" in London or the South East."

Yes they are Luke. They wouldn't be if they didn't own a 300k+ capital asset.

But they do. So they are.

4:53 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger jdc said...

"No, they have shares in companies with lots of petrol stations, silly"

I see. And the petrol stations are stockpiling, are they? I mean, I'd think to speculate in oil you'd have to buy oil actually, not petrol, but anyway.

""Supply has fallen,"

That's not what the Saudis seem to be saying."

Yeah. They're lying. Saudi Arabia is producing less crude oil now than it was three years ago, and consuming a larger percentage of that domestically, so further reducing exports.

5:01 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

On your analysis on how it went so wrong for us, may be you're right, although my sympathies are with Susan.

People expected someone different to Blair (which is why I backed John McDonnell). Before his coronation, Brown was seen as a man who wanted to help the poor (not by me I hasten to add), that reputation is now in tatters (10p tax), so much so that our brothers in the TU movement are in open disagreement with the great leader. His mistakes I am afraid all could have been avoided. A move to the COMPASS left might have soothed us hardened lefties and moderates alike but he was too scared. More fool him, thats what I say and whether you like it or not the mantle to rebuild the party will not fall to Blairites like Byers or your goodself it will be the likes of Jon Cruddas who will be able to reconnect with our lost core voters, the Working Class (of all colours).

5:38 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I'd be prepared to bet a lot of money that I'm more in touch with what working class core voters think than Jon Cruddas is. For a start off they don't want a more leftwing government or Labour Party.

6:05 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Dear, the usual prolier than thou arguments from the "Labour in Name Only" crowd.

Perchanse they can explain why increased support for the right, the extream right and the Nutzies, is a sign that the working class electorate is crying out for a move to the lunatic left ?

And yes I do have some thoughts on what can be done to reconect Labour with the electorate. They dont include the LRC or the Campaign for Labour Party Destruction.

GW

6:44 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger susan said...

Labour's lack of investment in council housing, obsession with Middle England and the middle-classes, punitive welfare reforms, reluctance to tighten up trade union rights and protect those on minimum wage /agency workers, and pay curbs for the public sector are all measures which the left has stood up for. But It's not "lurching" anywhere, it's standing up for the working-class.
Brown's dog-whistle policies on immigration have also given credence to the BNP about which I know plenty - they are rife in West Yorkshire. The right-wing rhetoric of New Labour fuels racism and is a disgrace. Liam Byrne's latest pronouncements could have come from Nick Griffin

7:31 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger E10 Rifle said...

"I'd be prepared to bet a lot of money that I'm more in touch with what working class core voters think than Jon Cruddas is."

So this is how the New Labour project ends - with a cock-waving exhibition of "no-reverse-gear-ever-ever-ever" wilful delusion.

8:01 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Oh Dear, the usual prolier than thou arguments from the "Labour in Name Only" crowd.

The funny thing is I read this thinking it was going to be aimed at the right-wing 'workerist' silliness coming from some on the right. Does show how silly and pointless such arguments are if they can be aimed at anyone on any side of the argument.

The important thing is to do what's right.

9:25 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And since when has well paid journalist Susan Press ever been working class ?

GW

9:53 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Jdc

I think you'll find that very little oil trading takes place on the spot markets. Most trading is in futures which then dives spot markets. The oil companies and others who actually supply and deliver oil are more than happy to operate as an oligopy and use the traded market prices for their actual deliveries.

To the extent that you can actually get hold of reliable figures for the real supply and demand for oil - most point to a small increase in supply and broadly stable demand over the past year - certainly nothing to support a doubling of prices. Perhaps a better indicator of what is going on is the roughly sevenfold increas in hedge fund investment in commodities to c$350bn (and that is leveraged through derivatives) over the past year.

Jack ray

I think you mis-read what I said - I didn't say that the bulk of the whole population earned between £30k and £80k - I was using that band to define "Middle Income". I am perfectly well aware of what most people earn - if you don't beleive me look at this earlier posting of mine - http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/income_tax/table2-5.pdf You'll also note from that posting that I'm not totally against the stinking rich paying some more tax - but that is not the same as Middle England (if you think my suggested banding is unreasonable you should not that the median income of those in full time employment is probably pretty close to £30k by now). And my basic point is that without having some level of support from Middle England - which probably represents c30-40% of the population when you count in dependents - I'm afraid Labour can kiss goodbye to ever winning an election or doing anything for those who are less well off.



I'm afraid the policies of the LRC and their ilk - may sound good but they are doomed to yet another glorious failure - leaving asisde that most of the proponents have about as much idea of running a mixed market economy as the proverbial whelk stall.

Meanwhile, those of us on the social democratic wing of the party need to recover our faith in the mixed economy (i.e governements should interfere in markets as they don't always act rationally).

9:54 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

No ,no, no

This isn't about awing voters. Many of them were actually lost in 2001, but enough of them plus the core stayed - and enough Tories didn't vote at all

What we have now is more serious. The swing voters have gone, which isn't all that surprising after 11 years in power. But the problem is that many of the core drifted away too - look at the low turnout in 2001 and 2005 and the relatively robust LD vote, particularly in university seats.

Now a significant slice of the core have had enough. Some of them have even decided to give Cameron a try.

The very last thing that the government need are retread Blairites who failed at their jobs the first time round. No Milburn, no Byers, thank you very much....

The world really doesn't end at the border of the south-east and the policies which might bring back White Van Man will ensure that voters in marginals up here will simply not bother. The problem was getting the big majority in the first place and being in hock to the voters of natural Tory seats.

Inheritance tax was an irrelevance and Labour should have stood firm and made the moral case for it.

Its probably too late now. NL were on the slide and the early enthusiasm for Brown was the thought that at last Blair was gone and things were going to be different. Unfortunately, the converse has proved to be true. Its been Blair without the charisma - and at the same time, the Tories have for the first tone in 14 years started to look like a credible government. So, their voters are turning out again, Labour's are not, and some have even switched to the Tories.

Basically, core voters have had enough and see no point in voting Labour if the policies they get are going to be Tory. May as well have a change.

11:19 pm, June 27, 2008

 
Blogger Darren said...

What Jack Ray said.

5:04 am, June 28, 2008

 
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Merseymike

So what do you propose - policies that appeal to the core vote that have absolutely no chance of being implemented because they won't attract swing voters. "Aye we were pure and stuck 100% to our beliefs but we acheived bugger all" - and in the mean time the core vote just gets screwed by the Tories.


Whether you like it or not if Labour is to be elected it needs to make a coalition with those outside its core vote - you do this by working on shared interests and I would have thought rising commodity prices is probably as good an area to start at present. History shows the Labour Party suceeds when this coalition is built (1945 (remember Nye Bevan crossing the doctors palms with silver in order to start the NHS), 1964 and 1997) and it fails when it falls apart.

8:45 am, June 28, 2008

 
Anonymous jdc said...

"I think you'll find that very little oil trading takes place on the spot markets. Most trading is in futures which then dives spot markets. The oil companies and others who actually supply and deliver oil are more than happy to operate as an oligopy and use the traded market prices for their actual deliveries."

This is just wrong.

It's true that most trading is in futures, but oligopolies can't just price as they see fit if the demand isn't there at the new price. People would stop buying, and the spot price would collapse, as I said.

If oil is $140 a barrel and people are still buying it rather than finding some alternative, then supply and demand has set that price. If the investment funds put $350bn into futures, and there's no real demand, then the futures price rockets, marginal supply comes onstream, demand falls, and the spot price collapses.

That hasn't happened.

11:44 am, June 28, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

toryboys ... what I am suggesting are two things. First, there's no point in doing things which deliberately alienate part of the core vote if the opposition is both strong and credible. Labour have simply got to wake up and accept that is now the case. I stress that the core vote is also Labour's liberal left voters who are just as likely to be disillusioned as the working class vote.

I think that some policies aimed at 'swing voters' are alienating the core vote. Thus, they will not deliver a majority. I also think that to want a majority of over say, 40 seats, means that you have to dilute policies considerably - don;t see the point in doing that. NL achieved little in some areas of policy because it was too worried about losing seats that should have never been Labour in the first place

Of course Labour needs to bring in voters from outside its core. They are called Liberals or people who voted LibDem. The point you seem to be missing is that at the moment it is elements of the core vote who are most disillusioned.

11:57 am, June 28, 2008

 
Anonymous jeremiah horrocks said...

Why does my ballot paper for the NEC elections have a "unique identification number" on it?

Has that jock bastard turned this country into Zimbabwe overnight or something?

What's gonna happen, fail to vote the right way and Broon and Darling will bore you to death!

1, 2, 3 per cent. That should be the new chant...

2:12 pm, June 28, 2008

 
Anonymous jdc said...

"Why does my ballot paper for the NEC elections have a "unique identification number" on it?"

For the same reason your general election ballot paper does, you utter numpty. So that you can't photocopy it.

3:13 pm, June 28, 2008

 
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

jdc

You are making the mistake of assuming that all trading of oil goes through the traded spot market - it doesn't by a long way. The traded market is very much used by marginal purchasers.

Most of the price rise in 2004-6 was attributed to supply and demand (see the IMF study)- and in terms of real supply and demand very little has happened since then - certainly nothing to warrant a doubling of prices.

I am not the only one attributing the increase of the last year to speculation - see the selection of views here on Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_price_increases_of_2004-2006

And who says that the oil prices won't collapse again - There will come a time when the speculators want to start taking their profits - there is quite a lot of talk about this happening at $150 - and when this happens??

Commodity markets are not very efficient when compared with other markets when any of the normal measures of market efficency are used and are therefore prime candidates for regulation. I also think there is a lot to be said for the old commodity reserve currency idea, the Bancor, as proposed by Kaldor and others.

11:09 am, June 29, 2008

 
Anonymous jdc said...

"You are making the mistake of assuming that all trading of oil goes through the traded spot market"

Not really - just that at some point, if the speculators are making a profit, all oil is bought by an end user, not another speculator. The most actively traded futures are generally not very long-dated - end user deliveries now are from futures contracts that traded well into three figures.

12:12 pm, June 29, 2008

 
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Jdc

Will Hutton's views on this in today's Observer are of interest. As for the pension schemes which are lending their assets to hedge funds who are trying to drive down the price of pension scheme or investments, all I can say is that it really just highlights how awful the fund management industry is in the UK and how some further regulation is needed just so that it starts to look after their clients' interests.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/29/investmentfunds.creditcrunch

7:37 pm, June 29, 2008

 
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Also interesting to note how many hedge fund managers are now giving large donations to the Conservatives. Lewsis Chester who is currently under investigation by the SEC springs to mind.

7:39 pm, June 29, 2008

 
Blogger susan said...

"Well paid journalist Susan Press" is currently, like everyone else in regional journalism, struggling. She has also supported herself since 1980 and her dad still lives in a council house.As she did until aged 19.
No inheritance tax on the way...so bugger off, anonymous

11:30 pm, June 29, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Well Gareth, why not give us the benefit of your "un" wisdom?

If it is true we no longer live in 1997, then it is also true we don't live in 1977 either.

People need reminding (yourself included it seems) what a Labour government should be about.

I am in favour of a mixed economy, controlled financial markets and better labour laws.

I want to see an expanded council house building programme and an end to the privitisation of the NHS.

I believe tution fees are an abomination as education should be as health care universially free.

I believe in a progressive tax system where the higher earners pay more tax than poorer workers (who get even less than me ~ £17,000)

I don't think the likes of Tony Crossland, Roy Hattersley, Hugh Gaitskill or even David Owen would have disagreed with much of that so what is your beef?

With the obvious exception of Owen the other men I mentioned represent the best of the Labour right and are atleast identifiably Labour

9:44 am, June 30, 2008

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

 
Free Hit Counters
OfficeDepot Discount