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.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Answering the wrong questions

What's striking about the policy reactions to Glasgow East, such as the statement yesterday from Compass, is that many of them are just recitations of the writers' pet hates, not attempts to address voters' actual concerns. Voters are angry about the credit crunch, knife crime, unaffordable housing, fuel prices and fuel tax, and food prices. The Labour left are talking about hostility to ID cards, Trident, 42 day detention and public services reform and PFI, issues where the public support the Government or just don't care. For instance the involvement of the private sector in public services matters a great deal to staff who may get a new employer, but is likely to be judged by ordinary voters who use the service on a wholly pragmatic basis i.e. Will the service be better dellivered for me, will my tax go down because the service costs less? In any case the resonance of issues like health and education is dropping like a stone in the polls  as voters refocus on the overriding economic issue of can they afford the cost of living.

Where solutions to the real problems facing voters are offered they seem 50 years out of date culturally: a massive council house building programme is mooted by many on the left, but younger working class voters don't want to live on council estates, they want to be able to afford to own a home of their own.

Or solutions are imaginative but with huge unintended consequences. Compass is calling for a windfall tax on energy companies but surely increasing taxes on any private sector company just as fears of recession grow would be deflationary and cause job losses, and how would you stop the energy companies passing on the cost of the tax to consumers by putting fuel prices up?


Blogger Merseymike said...

No, Luke. You are not listening again, and if Glasgow East can't even make you listen, then nothing will.

The aim is to bring back as many voters as possible. Now, as hared as I know you find this to accept, this means forgetting about your precious swing voters. Most of them went in 2005 in any case, and they ain't coming back now. This is winning back the core. And they are : 1) core working class Labout loyalists, not particularly 'aspirational', but who believe in fairness, and 2) the middle class Guardianistas
ID cards, 42 day detention etc have appeal to the latter.
If you seriously think people are happy with the waste of money in the NHS then you must be deaf and blind. And PFI is the cause of that waste.
Trident is simply a way of realising money to spend on something more worthwhile.

The cost of living issues are largely down to failure of the market. Housing being a good example. Prices of goods are largely felt most heavily by the poorest, particularly 'basic' goods like food. The only way to deal with that is a formal prices policy - interfering with your precious market again - and redistribution via taxation.

Home ownership may be popular, but it will no longer be able to be the basis of housing provision and policy - like the majority of Europe, where it is not expected that people will buy a house in their early 20's. That is reality. Social housing will seem appealing when compared with private renting or living with parents - and that is going to become the reality for most people in the age band you cite. Because mass home ownership isn't going to be viable any more.

There is such a thing as regulating these companies - but again, that means intervening in the market, and we all know how much you lot hate the thought of that!

Labour will lose the next election deservedly unless they change - and without change, I won't be voting for them either.

6:14 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke, you've totally missed the point.It is the LABOUR GOVERNMENT that is obsessed by 42 days detention,PFI ,ID cards,workfare,trying to appease the Daily Mail on all sorts of social issues.The party membership see all these things as a total distraction from our real task.The party membership have ALWAYS been obsessed with affordable housing, huge rises in energy bills, poverty ,getting rid of silly 'targets',minimising private profit in public services.

The public are on OUR side, not the governments.How many bye election massacres do you need before you wake up?

6:26 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

You are right Luke taxing the energy companies will only mean passing on the costs to the consumer. We have seen this through the raft of green energy taxes all of which have added about 20% on the average bills.

What needs to be done and I know it is very controversial and will break EU competition laws is the nationalization of our energy companies. There is core support for this it just takes a brave move to do it.

We can't expect the consumer to use less energy as most of them on tight budgets are trying their best anyway. If you really want people to be less energy dependent then open the warm front grants to working families rather than those on benefits.

If you look at those using the latest technology to save energy you will find it is the wealthy that are doing it. The poor can't afford to pay their bills let alone insulate their lofts, introduce a wood burning stove or upgrade their boilers etc etc.

This is something I know a lot about as I work in this area. If labour spend now on energy efficiency in the homes it will pay dividends in 10 years.

Obviously I have vested interests in this but go out and do the research for yourself. Warmfront grants are there but only for the over 60s or for those on benefits.

Luke you must have some influence and if you do you must press for help for normal working people. The housing market must not be left to market forces as if it does it will bring the whole economy to a standstill. Housing stock must be upgraded to meet the changing energy market and energy production must be run or partly run by the state.

Now is the time for Brown to make some real decisions.

7:05 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The party is very demoralised. The difference between Compass's position and Luke's position, is that if we go down the Compass line, some of the changes wouldn't change our poll rating much (e.g. ID cards), although some might well and in a good way. On the other hand if we follow Luke we don't only lose an election, we lose our activist base, our core supporters and risk dying for the lack of a raison d'etre.

At the moment, not only do we look like we will lose an election, not many of us are very enthusiastic about defending such a crap Labour Government.

If we have any change of winning the next election it has to be a government worth fighting for,

7:08 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Merseymike, have you seen most of the social housing stock in this country. It isn't cheap anymore mike and a lot of it won't meet the latest decent home standards.

Most housing associations are running non viable businesses and if you do a little checking then you will find that two of the largest are in real financial trouble. I'm not naming companies because of legal reasons. The credit crunch is being felt everywhere.

The problem of housing goes back to the maggie days and I would have thought Labour would have done something about it.

7:12 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous John said...

That's a gross misrepresentation of the Labour left, as you well know. Stop being silly Luke - you're time's up, you've had your chance, give it a rest for God's sake! All I ask is for a Labour government that does simple, practical things to make life better for ordinary people (working class and middle class - I don't see the need for any contradiction). That means things like free school meals and hospital parking, free prescriptions, new council housing, direct investment in energy and transport to deliver on fuel poverty and environment goals and a real effort to tackle poverty. That's not remotely unachieveable or unaffordable, but it's a programme almost everyone would support and would give us all something to sell to voters.

7:39 pm, July 26, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

There needs to be far greater investment in housing - but I don't think the current pattern of home ownership is likely to sustain. Housing associations are not and can never be 'businesses'.

But I agree that the energy companies should be under government control.

7:59 pm, July 26, 2008

Blogger Dave Brinson said...

re. private sector involvement in public services: the election of the anti-academy candidates in Barrow-in-Furness would seem to suggest that privatisation of education is a wider electoral concern than just the teachers who would be TUPEd over...

9:25 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro:: said...

The PM has saved the lives of millions of africans due to his increase in aid for the continent. He is great man a white mandela. Also he has great mentla strenght to have recovered from losing ane eye and losing a child. He is a great man who has the abilty to recover and do good. I say back him. I predict the conferences will ewqaualise the parties pretty much. As long as we stay united.

10:06 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Mike you are completely correct housing associations should not be run like a business but in reality they are. They have to make a profit so they can reinvest and build/buy more properties. Gone are the days of councils owning huge housing stocks. Maggie put an end to that and PFI has just accelerated the privately financed social housing.

We should also be looking at the quality of social housing schemes are frankly I feel many of them built in the 70/80s are appalling and not fit to live in.

You are also right about home ownership as the current system is not sustainable. I'm in favour of creating more schemes that favour smaller developments and self builds and preferential planning approvals for small scale green developments.

We really need to be empowering people so they can take more responsibility for themselves. Give them the tools to save energy or get them involved in building their own homes. I built all the homes at the Hockerton farm project which involved an initial investment of just £40,000 per person. The annual heating/hot water bills are less than £100.00 per year.

The view that a home should be bricks and mortar and should make money has to change. We can not afford to price out younger generations. We need some new ideas.

10:09 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirty Euro said: The PM has saved the lives of millions of africans due to his increase in aid for the continent. He is great man a white mandela. Also he has great mentla strenght to have recovered from losing ane eye and losing a child. He is a great man who has the abilty to recover and do good.

I say back him, for head of UNRA, or UNICEF, or whatever, but not for leader of the Labour Party in 2008.

Meantime, we need to emulate the SNP in using our time in government to apply social democratic policies, but do it better than them, and use our control of the Treasury to do redistribution. This needs to be about much more than pet policies, though.

Luke - we promised to halve child poverty by 2010. It's why many of us have stuck with the party and some of us do have other places to go, you know. Present policies and leaders won't do it so we need to change so we do. In doing all this we stand a chance of reviving membership and commitment from activists and lapsed members who see the present Labour Party as not worth supporting.

10:55 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro: said...

As head of unicef he cannot get taxes to fund these people. What is the point in making a new leader who cuts aid. I say reward him for saving lives. And speak up for him too.

11:01 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the past month Luke you have done 2 blogs attacking the Tories and 3 attacking Compass.

This really isn't the time...

11:30 pm, July 26, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I bet Blair has can't stop smiling. Brown the man who took power as the country plunges into gloom. Partly Browns fault but you can't help thinking Blair left because he knew it was all about to end.

11:36 pm, July 26, 2008

Blogger Exile said...

Voter in Glasgow East are unlikely to be worried about credit crunches and fuel taxes because half of them are on state benefits.

What they wanted after the Tories had finished murdering their economy was a Labour government that would bring it back to life, by creating the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs that they need.

What they got was the likes of you, Luke.

12:25 am, July 27, 2008

Blogger ian said...

I agree with merseymike and others posted here.

You said 'What's striking about the policy reactions to Glasgow East, such as the statement yesterday from Compass, is that many of them are just recitations of the writers' pet hates, not attempts to address voters' actual concerns.'

Its yours and the tiny group of government ministers who share it, who have their own view on what voters concerns are. You are all completely out of touch of whatactual concerns there are and will lead us to defeat at the next general election.

I basically agree with the Compass view on the matter and I think you Luke should leave 1997 and enter 2008.



10:12 am, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirty Euro: said...

As head of unicef he cannot get taxes to fund these people. What is the point in making a new leader who cuts aid. I say reward him for saving lives. And speak up for him too.

He is a Very Good Man, but he is a very poor leader. We must stop being sentimental about this.

I think there are some people like Luke (who is our host here so we should be nice when we speak about him!) who think that if we just press on with Gordon's programme and keep the heid all will be well.

There are others who are panicking and who do, as Luke suggested, have a "little list" of pet policies (stop the olymics, ffs!) and that if we promote them like mad over two years we might just save our hide.

There is a few weeks before the conference. We need to use this to find new leadership, develop a programme that Labour Party members would be prepared to stick up for, and use the next couple of years in government to deliver and make ordinary voters feel safe.

Most of all, the new leader needs to make it clear that there will be no snap "suicide" election till 2010. There will be immense pressure to hold an election on the grounds that the new leader has no mandate. That needs to be stood up to, which means that Labour MPs need to experience real leadership.

10:45 am, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a question Luke.

How many party members do you think will be out knocking on doors in two years time? Do you think 42 days detention,ID cards,PFI,Workfare etc etc is going to raise the morale of our moribund activist base to get out there and campaign for 5 more years of the same? That is simply delusional.

We simply cannot fight any sort of election right now because we have nothing to fight for, we are incapable of getting our troops out to do the leg work.Why should I, as a party member for 30 years, waste my time attempting to 'sell' policies I don't believe in?

It turns my stomach that people like Purnell and Flint are in a Labour cabinet.As it stand now I won't be lifting a finger to help out at the next general election.And i'm sure there are many thousands like me.That is the issue the party needs to address.

11:03 am, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and I should add to my post above that I am,or was, on the moderate left of the party, but now find my views so far removed from those of the government that I feel like Derek Hatton .The ultimate irony for someone who fought militant infiltration in my own CLP in the 1980s.

11:08 am, July 27, 2008

Anonymous dirtyeuropeansocialist said...

10:45 AM, July 27, 2008 Rubbish it was just a few defeats in a 4 month period. Forget about it see how the stituation pans out. 3 by elections the mayoral and council elections so what forget about it. Straw and Milliband would no better a job.
He is not a terrible leader he has just got some bad economic times to deal with.

12:48 pm, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Straw and Milliband are trival figures they would according to opinion surveys make us lose points on what we even have now, so what is the intelectual basis behind placing them in charge.
I say wait a fewm ontsh with this leader and see how it pans out,.

12:55 pm, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone thinks milliband or straw have the obmaa magic they are living on cloud cuckoo land.
Just relax do not bother cganing rthe lweader there I no hurry. It was just another protest vote 5 defeats in 4 months to forget about.

1:05 pm, July 27, 2008

Blogger Steve Horgan said...

First, can I congratulate Luke, he is doing what Labour desperately need to do: talking about policy and trying in his own small way to develop a compelling narrative for his party. His problem, and Labour's problem is that this debate needed to be held as part of the process of getting a new leader. You cannot do a leadership election without a wide-ranging discussion on policy, and principle, and just think if that had taken place in the aftermath of Blair. Instead there was a coronation, and so there was no renewal in policy terms, or in public perception. So, as far as the electorate was concerned we have a recession looming on the back of the same policies that have run since 1997, and that is the problem for Labour.

Now, I'm a Tory, so you can take my advice anyway you like, but I think Labour is mad to carry on with Brown. In any walk of life if the man or woman at the top does not deliver than they are out. I know all of the difficulties in changing PM and so on, but in electoral terms annihilation looms. Brown is not going to turn it around, and that's it. As a Conservative though it would be much better for me if you ignored that advice. The question for you is can you support a leader when the only people really enthusiastic about him staying are your opponents?

3:53 pm, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long-time Labour voter, by nature and nurture.

But this time it will be Conservative, positively so.

The monstering of Brown is becoming painful to read. And his cack-handed desperate political positionings - Southwold, for Christ's sake - are a constant reminder that he just isn't up to the job.

What I really fear is a Tory government able to do anything it wants without a credible opposition. It'll be taken over, no doubt, by the likes of Susan Up North and pals, and that's another 18 years out in the wilderness.

The Labour Party just has to do something about Brown.

5:17 pm, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are a tory why should we listen to you. You want tax cuts for the rich.

8:21 pm, July 27, 2008

Blogger Steve Horgan said...

If anon at 8.21 PM is referring to me then I want many things, including tax cuts for most or all of the population. Labour obsesses about the 'rich' but the reality is that there aren't that many of them and that whatever you do most of the tax money rolls in from the broad middle-income segment of the population. These are people who work nine-to-five and shop in Tesco, and they deserve to pay less tax. The very poorest, of course, should pay no tax at all and we should remember that Labour still hasn't fixed the tax system after they abolished the 10p rate to hit those on lowest incomes. What they did instead was borrow money for a one-year handout that missed many of those who were paying more tax.

So, don't talk to me about tax cuts for the rich. If you are a Labour activist then you can start by apologising for taxing the poor.

11:26 pm, July 27, 2008

Anonymous Ben said...


Why is that so many people argue (on both the idiot left and the Dail Mail-reading right) without any sense of what is realistic or possible in terms of statecraft in the 21st Century? Is it, perchance, because many people who comment on political blogs are profoundly stupid at the same time as being monomaniacal self-interested myopics with no sense of the real world outside the pet knee-kerk ideologies that lead them to get some sort of excited hard-on?

Take that as rhetorical, by the way, people. I have an answer that presents itself to me already.

There's a lot of bollocks here from both the right and the hard left. But I just want to pick out the first piece of self-serving idiocy that jumped out at me. You're a winner, merseymike. Well done. The prize is yours.

"it is not expected that people will buy a house in their early 20's. That is reality."

It's not expected that people can buy a house in their early 20s here, either. The average age of first time buyers in the UK is now 35. That just isn't sustainable. The housing market is suffering a necessary correction because at the current pricing point supply outstrips effective demand. Are you really suggesting that the right way to deal with this is to encourage a policy which will require large numbers of people to be forced back into living in publicly-owned housing?

Well, yes, you are. Because for muppets like you, it's all about nice warm words about "council" this and "state" that. In reality, price drops are repositioning the market such that home ownership is more viable rather than less. Wake up. People are pissed off. And the worst thing Labour could do is listen to out of touch types like you. Vis:

"Social housing will seem appealing when compared with private renting or living with parents"

Oh. My. God.

No. Most people will not ever find social housing appealing, and that's just the way it is. I can give you many reasons for this, but it is absolutely a cast iron fact. You really think that people would rather live on a council estate than rent privately ot own if they could? The clear astonishment in my commentary at the very idea that you could even suggest this should be clear.

You think Labour can win on a) the votes of people who live in council housing and b) the votes of ordinary struggling people you want to force back into council housing? The world has moved on. You haven't. Get over it. Mass home ownership is the norm. People want to own houses. They don't want to live in council houses. You think telling people what's "good for them" is going to *improve* Labour's position? You pompous out of touch lecturing arse.

I really do despair at the patronising hypocrisy of the Guardianista tendency sometimes. Politics isn't a game where you tell people "do as I say, not as I do", Mike. But I'm wasting my breath on you, I know.

2:42 am, July 28, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The voters may not be happy with us, but we have seen NO collapse in our vote. Remember that 11,000 people, only 300 less than voted SNP backed us in Glasgow and we should thank them for putting progressive policies first. Even the BBC had to acknowledge that we have built new high schools and invested billions in the Glasgow community.

Labour clearly should be upset at not getting 20,000 votes, but not embarrassed by this result.

If we remember when John Major was PM, we would surely remember that his majority was getting so small every time there was a by election.

This time the SNP won, hardly a help for Camerons big breakthrough!

9:17 am, July 28, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke you are so wrong when you say "younger working class voters don't want to live on council estates, they want to be able to afford to own a home of their own."

The problem for younger working and middle class voters is they cannot access a place of their own through either the council or the private sector. The majority are forced to live with parents or house-share.

If there was an opportunity to get a place of their own, with a secure tenancy, and it was provided by the council, they would jump at it!

9:50 am, July 28, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The anonymous above is completely right. Plenty of working class young people would love a council place of their own but can't get one so end up either with their families or at the mercy of the private sector landlords. For most, especially in London, buying a home doesn't even remotely enter into the question.

But we mustn't go anything to help them, of course, in case we're seen as insufficiently "aspirational".

11:28 am, July 28, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Ben: yes I would say that good quality social housing is very popular indeed - take a look at the waiting lists. If they were so incredibly unpopular, then why was the vast majority of good quality three-bedroom housing sold under the RTB?

You are living in the sort of unreality which led to this problem - the housing market as it stands is unsustainable, and led to the problem banks are currently experiencing. The absolute top level of a mortgage offer was 3 times salary - and has become so again. How many people do you think are now going to be able to afford a house of £150,000 + as a first time buyer?

Even if there is a drop in prices of, say, 5%, the market is still going to be stagnant in comparison to how it was a year or so ago.

The one not living in reality is you. Do you not realise the very great difficulty that people will have in buying a house in future? Do you not realise that buy to let has almost entirely dried up?

Mass home ownership will no longer be the norm. Get used to it.

It won't be a case of being 'forced' into social housing when the alternatives are considered - but then with views like yours, no doubt you are a Tory/Bliarite who thinks the market can sort everything. Just like it has now.

11:42 am, July 28, 2008

Anonymous David Floyd said...

Interesting that in a general sense most of the reactions to Luke's initial post are from people talking past him rather than responding to the key point.

I think Luke's criticism of the Compass line is broadly right.

I actually agree - to a lesser or greater extent - with the Compass policy position on all the quoted issues but I don't think any of them are directly related to Labour's current problems in the polls.

Whether or not Labour takes the Compass line on ID cards, 42 day detention, public service reform and PFI, the need to adopt some sensible popular measures to deal with voters immediate everyday concerns remains the most pressing challenge.

I disagree on the last two points, though.

While many young working class voters clearly don't want to live on 60s style council estates, the need for more social housing in a general sense is pressing. I'm pragmatic about whether this social housing needs to be owned and run by councils but it certainly does need to be built.

In answer to the point about how you stop energy companies passing on the costs of windfall tax to customers, I'd suggest you regulate them properly. In fact, if they were better regulated in the first place, it might not be necessary to introduce the windfall tax.

Obviously, though, this would involve ditching one of New Labour's entrenched ideological positions on economic non-intervention.

12:55 pm, July 28, 2008

Anonymous MichaelC said...

Ok let me address his key points. 1)"Surely increasing taxes on any private sector company just as fears of recession grow would be deflationary and cause job losses"

If a windfall tax was deflationary, it could offset any inflationary effect of an inflation-proff pay settlement for public sector workers. Hence, Labour would gain on both fronts. AND IT WOULD BE FAIRER!

Why would energy companies pull out? The nature of windfall taxes is that they apply to unearnt spikes in profits due to market conditions not increased productivity. If multinationals could make a few millions less from their UK operations, why does it follow they would want to make no millions at all?

The Tories said that the windfall proposals (and other measures like the minimum wage would cost jobs
at the 97 election. They didn't. Luke is resorting to fallacious reactionary arguments to justify his threadbare politics.

2) how would you stop the energy companies passing on the cost of the tax to consumers by putting fuel prices up?

Two words for you there Luke -"effective" and "regulation".

1:09 pm, July 28, 2008

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I love the way people start a post saying that everybody else is childish and can't argue properly and then conclude with 'there are various reasons for this I could explain but it's just a fact'.

The one I noticed in particular was the suggestion that social housing would always be unpopular. That is simply untrue. While social housing is marginalised, down-graded, under-invested-in with rents often deliberately increased to reflect local private rents then - yes - it will unappealing.

But what is required is good quality housing at affordable prices to rent, and yes, this is primarily for young people. If you visit the equivalent of council estates in parts of mainland Europe you will see vibrant, diverse communities - often young couples, single people, migrant workers, etc. living in simple but excellent quality new-built accommodation. And it is very appealing. Those who think the aspiration is to build big, unpopular sink estates and leave them without facilities and services are those who are unimaginative and stuck in the past.

Of course the 'New Labour' (i.e. old) approach to try and make everything 'new' was to suggest that private companies do it. But increasingly it is obvious that government intervention is necessary (often it takes a crisis to demonstrate just how necessary). We have the energy companies on the news bemoaning that they can't plan officiallly because the government hasn't shared all its figures, targets, etc. with them. In fact, it would be commercially-sensitive to properly plan energy policy these days, and could probably seen 'offenders' hauled up for being anti-competitive. And yet surely now people realise that questions like, 'should I get my electricity of N-Power or Powergen' is completely irrelevant and was always an utter fraud. The same is true with public services like health and education. If I need an operation I don't want to research on the internet to see which hospital I should go to; I want to go to my local hospital or - if it is a specialist procedure that isn't provided there - for my GP to use her expertise to get me to the right place. I certainly don't want to the government to deny funds to my local hospital and instead give them to the oppulent private clinic down the road in the name of patient choice.

The PFI and public-private-partnership rubbish has been a very unfortunate blind alley and it needs to be stopped.

Will it win votes? Some I think, yes. And it will also bring back activists. And - coupled with some of the other policies mentioned - will give us a mission, and a purpose for the next two years.

Two years of a Labour government is something that we were dreaming about when we were students, yet there seems to almost be an acceptance that we should waste them; that we should do nothing but bide time and hope that economic and political circumstances beyond our control turn in our favour. Sod that - we've got two whole years to make more tangible, real differences to people's lives. And - I'm sorry I keep repeating this across the blogosphere - if we do that well; if we introduce decent policies - people may well invite us back for another five years. I don't think they will if we do nothing, even if the economy's on the rise and there are photos of Cameron snorting coke across half the tabloids.

2:59 pm, July 28, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish Duncan Hall would stop being so childish and try to understand "choice-based letting" - which is the mechanism for allocating council housing.

CBL is really needs-based letting. If you have the highest level of needs you will get the highest priority for housing. So if you are disabled, mentally-ill, on drugs, with children, out of prison, and believe it or not, have made life so unbearable for neighbours where you currently live that it is in the interests of your safety to be rehoused, then you get a council/housing association flat.

It doesn't take an idiot where this allocation system leads, does it? Silos of appalling and enduring deprivation which no one in their right mind would want to live in even if they could.

3:56 pm, July 28, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Current letting procedures for social housing are quite obviously going to lead to high-level needs being housed if there is such a shortage of such available housing! Build enough of it and a very different picture emerges.

In much of Europe, that is the case - what those who can be no more imaginative than to say 'home ownership only' need to face up to is that the market which the very same group of people worship has made this dream exactly that. There will need to be alternatives as we are entering a time where a high proportion of the electorate may not, ever, own a home at all....

4:18 pm, July 28, 2008

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

There would be no need for needs-based allocation if nobody wanted to live in council-owned accommodation, so let's leave that silly point to one side.

The more plentiful the supply (and decent the investment) the more diverse council housing occupation will become.

4:31 pm, July 28, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

I actually largely agree with the post.

People don't give a toss about trident or PFI, though wonks may or may not be justifiable in doing so.

That the policy on either may be correct is of little relevance as to whether it makes a good narrative.

That said, I think policies mooted in the Compass statement like raising the personal allowance and indeed the windfall tax on energy companies would contribute positively (especially if the tax is hypothecated).

Why wouldn't price rises be passed on?

Because competition would keep them down. Like it does now.

Or competition would fail to keep them down. Like it fails now.

One's opinion on htis matter clearly depends not on what would actually happen, but on whether one believes that the market forces companies to retail at the most competitive price possible.

"Would a company rather take the money out of net profit or out of sales?"

I think that a combination of courage and political pressure would lead to the former position, as profit would still exist to be made; continued backing is rational as long as profit exceeds zero over a given term (though much of this does, admittedly, depend on the liquidity of given shareholders - this needs figures to be argued either way).

12:10 am, July 29, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

Merseymike, I disagree that we have to get rid of swing voters.

I believe instead that since the mid 1990s swing and bottom-end voters have had a lot more in common than either has had with the rich, and that this continues; the initiative is therefore in place for social-democrats with the courage and sense of political direction to seize it.

The debate over which constituency we should ditch is a false one. The argument is over which we most need to appease, and which from a moral point of view our party should shift towards.

From a purely electoralist point of view, I'd add that as well as safe seats, there are also core voters in swing seats; but no swing voters in core seats. Plus, I believe that the core is more disillusioned, which makes them a bigger (but not absolute) priority.

I think there are a whole bunch of cross-class ideas which we've failed to have the courage to take up due to the fact that they have a left rationale, as well.

12:16 am, July 29, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Miller: I'm not suggesting that we 'get rid' of swing voters. Rather, that they 'got rid' of us!

And I think that if we are going to attract the people who are now abandoning us - we have to recognise that current policy platforms are not doing it. I do think this is because of a belief held by some on the New Labour wing that the policy shifts in terms of moving from social democracy to market-based centrism should be permanent.

Perhaps what you are saying is that this platform might not necessarily appeal to swing voters. My view is that many of the voters who Luke wants to attract are natural Tories and they have returned home given the credibility of the Tory party. there are many other voters who we can appeal to who haven't voted in the past two elections.

I doubt whether most people know what PFI is. But they do recognise that the large amounts of money ploughed into the NHS have not brought forward the expected improvements - for the first time ever the Tories are ahead of us in terms of who would run health better.

I do also think that there are some issues which do not raise 'mass concern' but have alienated a key part of the usually-reliable Labour coalition eg the liberal middle-class left. They also make up a large part of the activist base and we all know exactly what has happened to that.

Anyway, if nothing changes, a large Tory majority is likely.

10:40 am, July 29, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Sorry Miller (and Luke), you make sound points but on this I tend to agree mostly with Mike. The type of people who switched their vote to the SNP in Glasgow East are simply not the demographic you’re talking about.
In Glasgow East there was a battle between two parties in government, the SNP in Hollyrood and us in Westminster. The SNP have been actively positioning themselves to the left of New Labour and have managed to portray us as somehow anti-working class (something Rich has been saying for some time and explains the rise of the BNP in England).
We have a situation where a social democrat Scottish government is far more popular than us probably because they are better socialists than we are; I fear for the future of Labour as an electoral force both in Scotland and the country as a whole.
Luke, you seem to have missed the point comrade. Your points about the economy are well made. Law and order is certainly an issue, however when Gordon became leader of the party people expected someone who was not Blair. People thought here is a man steeped in the ethos of the Labour party and I think many people on the traditional right were hoping to see a resurgence of the ideas of Tony Crosland as opposed the continuation of Tony Blair. Sadly as I predicted this was not to pass. An election contest would have highlighted any weakness in policy and help hone our direction.
Unfortunately with the non election fiasco (I hope you remember me saying we should have an election then), the 10p tax debacle, election defeats and the international downturn in the global economy has helped to taint the Great Leader. We now have a country where the rich have all the rights yet the poor have all the responsibility (blooming heck I am quoting Polly Toynbee!!!)
Is he an election liability? Is Polly Toynbee right to say we should ditch him? Well if anyone knows about being disloyal it is Polly -SDP- Toynbee. My personal feeling is the PM needs all our support (and I am speaking as someone who joined the Labour Party to support John McDonnell) and those jittery MPs should find some bottle and stand behind him instead of trying to stab him in the back. Gordon needs to realise he urgently needs to attract out core supporters back. How? Admit New Labour is dead and just be Labour.

11:10 am, July 29, 2008

Blogger transfattyacid said...

Not sure where you get the idea that people don't want to live in council houses - given the length of the waiting lists.

They maybe don't want to live on badly run council estates, with high rents because the local coucil has sold the estate to their mate on the housing association - as a way of fiddling the figures on public sector debt. And they would perhaps like to see a policeman, or get issues of anti-social behaviour sorted out without having to go to their MP or make a complaint to the Local Council Omburdsman.

Oh and let's face it the 10p tax thing, and now these facist proposals to label all sick and disabled people as workshy, fraudsters - dispite the professional in the case, namely a doctor saying they are not - is pretty much proof that Labour has lost the plot and disappeared up it's own arse somewhere on the Islington dinner party circuit.

10:47 pm, July 29, 2008

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1:37 am, August 07, 2008


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