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, July 25, 2008

Don't panic!

Not the first time I have used this headline, and probably not the last.

Last night's result was very, very bad. But it actually just confirms what we already knew about the current state of public opinion - people are hurting economically, they are angry, and rightly the Government has to take responsibility for the state of the economy. If we sort it out and the economy recovers before the General Election we will likewise take the credit.

I don't think it's all about Gordon. I think it's all about rising prices and the credit crunch. Switching leader might achieve something if we had a British Barack Obama waiting in the wings. But we don't - we have a bunch of people who are either not quite yet ready for the top job, or are just as much associated with eleven years in power as Brown is. The PM we've got, for any flaws he has, is the best one Labour has available.

Undoubtedly there will be rent-a-gobs going on TV calling for Brown to go - has Graham Stringer got up and made it into a studio yet?

I think we in Labour need to take a deep breath, realise the good times were not going to roll for ever, get behind the man we elected with such overwhelming support that he didn't even face a contested election and realise that it's going to be a long haul, slow recovery through to a 2010 General Election. We need to get on with governing and delivering policies that will help people deal with the current economic circumstances.

Over in Warwick at the NPF I hope the unions concentrate on getting some of the fairly reasonable policy detail they are floating into the Manifesto and avoid the kind of moronic sectarian grandstanding exemplified by Tony Woodley's call for a cull of Cabinet Blairites today, which just plays into the hands of Tory rhetoric about a return to '70s-style union power.

32 Comments:

Blogger Praguetory said...

Luke's right. Now is not the time to panic. Gordon's steady approach will pay dividends in time.

8:32 am, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger ian said...

I see no problem whatsoever in what Tony Woodley is proposing. It would be useful Luke, if you answered his points politically rather than ranting about returning to the 70s.

At the moment Labour has nothing to offer to change the situation we are in. We despearately need a debate and comments such as yours will hand power to Cameron. When you get support from PragueTory (albeit with a hint of sarcasm)you know you are going wrong.

Ian

8:37 am, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrible for the Tories if Labour now ditch Brown. Let's hope they lack the courage.

8:57 am, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Ian

if you read what I said, I don't oppose much of the actual policy package the unions want. It's the rhetoric and attempt to distance Labour from what has actually been until the last six months 11 years of being a very sucessful and popular government that I don't like. And the personalised attack on John Hutton who is one of the most talented ministers we have.

The union policy demands should be being framed as the next steps building on what we have already acheived, not a change of direction.

Woodley could have used the whole of his article to propose and debate policy but instead he lapsed into an attack on individuals who actually get the aspirational views of ordinary working people better than he does, on Blair who won 3 general elections, and on the entire direction of the party over the last 14 years.

9:10 am, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Guido Fawkes said...

Absoutely Luke, steady as she goes, keep the captain. Brilliant. He is the non-change the current wants, the people love him and recognise his value.

9:15 am, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

John Hutton understands "ordinary working people" better than Tony Woodley? Really?

Good to see you backing the Local Government strike last night though, Luke. Your support is appreciated.

9:31 am, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Yes really.

9:38 am, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with Luke more on Gordon... goodness, I can't believe I'm agreeing with him!

Last night's Glasgow East result wasn't a referendum on Gordon, it was a rejection of the whole Labour Party. The people of Glasgow East are sick of the three monkey approach, and in particular the transformation of all the monkies into being "hear no evil monkies".

The people of Scotland is starting to waken from generations of the "vote Labour" habit. Generation of people voting Labour because their father and their father's father did are eroding quickly here in Scotland.

Did I hear Luke congratulating john Mason MP on his win last night? At least wee Dougie Alexander and Magrat Curran both had the good grace and manner to be magnanimous in defeat. Don't think we'll see that here.

10:17 am, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Alexander said...

Could Glasgow East be the turning point?

That was the question you asked a few days ago Luke, and I have to say that you might well be right, although perhaps not in the way that you were hoping after the Glasgow kiss that was delivered last night.

11:07 am, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ay Labour got pure malikied. Puts paid to your comments that this would be turning point for Labour, eh Luke, you bampot.

11:31 am, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous David Floyd said...

I agree with Luke on the Tony Woodley thing.

I'm less of a fan of John Hutton but I don't think it would help anyone for the unions to be seen to have forced him out.

Also not sure that the inclusion of Blairites in the cabinet is one of the key problems at the moment.

12:08 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Peter said...

"get behind the man we elected with such overwhelming support that he didn't even face a contested election"

Arrggghhh. How can you deal with halfwits like Akehurst?

12:21 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

No, Luke, the policies are the problem. Tony Woodley is actually talking sense - we need to accept that the new Labour experiment has failed and that it succeeded electorally because of the utter ineptitude of the Tory opposition throughout most of its time in charge.
Sure, they did some good things - but their mistake was to enthusiastically embrace the market. That isn't the social democratic way. The market was viewed by Crosland as something to be used where necessary but to be controlled and regulated - people like Hutton worship the market and his place is in the Tory party. He may be talented but he should not be in a left of centre party, because on any reasonable judgment, he is right wing. I'm afraid that appealing to the 'aspirational' only worked when there wasn't a credible ory party to do so. hence winning Romford, Castle point, Welwyn-Hatfield and so on - seats which are Tory and should be Tory, because its the Tories who represent those values. Continue to follow that path - and lose Glasgow East whilst the Tories clean up in your beloved south-east.

I don't want to see a Tory government, but this 'Labour' approach is finished. Last night, the SNP won a by-election by putting forward essentially a social democratic, clearly left-of-centre platform. That is what Labour need to do - and perhaps it will be too late. But at least Labour will go down as a social democratic, truly Labour party.

Lose with the current policies - and expect every one of your New Labour apparatchiks to be purged in the ensuing bloodbath. The unions are not daft, and they are not going to fund a party run by people like Purnell and Hutton. We need a decent, clearly left of centre alternative, and that is what the Labour party should be. That means a definitve change from Blairite market-worship. Start with windfall taxes , a ban on any lump sum bonuses, abandonment of the PFI mistake, and a restructuring of the tax system. We need a party which has a properly sceptical view of the market - for it is the free market which has caused the current problems. It cannot be the solution.

12:26 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Darren said...

" . . . people are hurting economically"

Erm, they've been hurting economically in that part of Glasgow for the last 100 years.

You should get out more.

12:46 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous MichaeC said...

Luke- we are heading for a major iceberg and you're are telling the captain to keep on course!!!

So, where to from here:

1) Make it clear that ordinary working people won't be made to carry the full burden of irresponsible financial lending, and the spike in energy and food costs. Put an immediate windfall tax on the mulitnational energy suppliers and agribusinesses. Make sure that all public sector pay settlements at least match the RPI rate of inflation, and ensure that public sector chief execs' pay remains in line with this.

2) Break with the neoliberal "markets are best" philosophy and have a night of the long knives in terms of cabinet members most closely associated with it - make it clear that John Hutton, James Purnell and their ilk do not represent Labour thinking when they congratulate the millionaires and attack benefits claimants. Ditch the Freud proposals. Sack Digby Jones and bring trade unionists, NGO heads and environmentalists into government instead.

3) Embrace democracy - both in the party and the country as a whole. Allow party members and activists a direct say in policy making - ditch PiP/NPF and allow conference to have real debates on policy. Ditch the FPTP electoral system that is giving us a two tier democracy where voters in safe seats - eg. tradtional Labour supporters - are taken for granted, whilst all the parties compete for a few thousand swing voters in marginals. Embrace an agenda of industrial democracy and give people more of a say about their places of work

4) Start demonstrating that we value young people - we don't think of them all as yobs and hoodies with ASBOs - but that we think of them as citizens with views and interests fo their own. Demonstrate this by reducing the voting age to 16.

5) Commit to a major programme of social housing investment and a state-funded system of loans to first-time buyers- funded by scrapping Trident renewal.

6) Protect employees rights at work - accept EU working time directive in full, and improve protection for temporary and agency workers.

7) Have a package of reforms aimed to support pensioners with food and fuel costs

None of these measures are backward looking, return to the 1970s style rhetoric. They are concrete measures that the government could take to restore people's faith that Labour is back on their side.

I fear we will see no such thing. But I hope that - if that does prove to be the case (and he has until conference to show he's finally "got it" - someone has the courage to come forward and challenge Brown directly on a progressive policy platform. Otherwise we face not just a defeat, but a defeat that is so resounding we might never recover.

1:28 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Now, that is a bit more like it - demonstrably left-of-centre policies which are genuinely social democratic. Both the Tories, and now the Clegg-led LD's, are embracing neo-liberal market worship. Labour's only hope is to move away from that failed strategy. Policies such as this would provide a distinctive platform for Labour.

Otherwise - oblivion awaits.

2:12 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Shamik said...

"Don't panic!"

Quite!

After all, we'd only be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

The question is, how badly do you want us to lose? A 250-seat plus Cameron majority if the coward stays, maybe a 100-seat majority if he goes.

I hope Tom Watson's proud of himself. I name him as the architect of our doom.

2:30 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

What MichaeC said is an excellent platform for the party to stand on, although I yet to be convinced of the advantages of PR, as it can produce weak government, Italy springs to mind). He has realised that in order for Labour to attract its vote it has to sound vaguely democratically socialist.

Personally I would have added
scrapping tuition fees, ending to privatisation of the NHS, suspending right to buy to sort out the housing problem (maybe placing vacant housing under council control, what do you think?)and a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan to the list, but his list is a good benchmark to work for and one I would be happy to campaign on.

Our problem is social democracy (or if you prefer democratic socialism) in the party has been almost purged from our ranks; the question is can we save ourselves from oblivion?

5:28 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Oh come on, the byelection was won based on the failures at number 10 and the SNP admit it. That is how the SNP won the whole campaign.

So it was a referendum on Brown clearly. Just look at Brown he is not fit for the job and it is as clear as day. He keeps on banging on about getting the job done and his vision but what is the job and what is his vision. Surely part of his job is to be popular and run the country confidently.

Keep Brown and keep your policies and you will be looking at 3rd place at the next election and maybe even a complete split.

5:53 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger snowflake5 said...

Part of the reason for the by-election loss was that there were no canvass returns in that constituency. Same thing in Crewe and nantwich. You can't ignore voters for years and years and then at the last minute expect them to vote for you, simply because you've got a by-election on.

The chief message that needs to be sent out to all constituencies is that people needs to get out there knowcking on doors, getting their canvass returns up to date, and delivering leaflets. You need a year at least of solid canvassing to make a difference. Labour in many parts of the country has gotten lazy. That was OK during Blair's honeymoon period, but won't cut it now.

7:28 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous MichaelC said...

Ravi - I think we mostly agree, so i won't launch into a full blooded defence of PR here. Except to say that "strong" government - ie Labour monopolising power on 1 out of 5 of the electorate - has given us invasion of Iraq/Afghanistan, tuition fees, 42 days, renewal of Trident etc. etc. And that's when we're in power! I hardly need mention what "strong government" under Thatcher was like. We'd have avoided the poll tax with PR!

Coalition in Wales (so called "weak" government) has given us a moratorium on PFI for Health projects and in Scotland gave voters no fees and free nursing care for the elderly.
I know which I'd rather have.

7:32 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

I agree with Michael.

What you need to remember is that first past the post leads to parties moving to the centre to try to win a majority. hence, labour move dramatically to the right and people like Purnell and Hutton see it as appropriate for them to join even though they are right of centre.

A more proportional system would mean that Labour would be able to put forward a far more distinct programme, and stop trying to please all the people all the time.

8:11 pm, July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Part of the reason for the by-election loss was that there were no canvass returns in that constituency. "

Blooming heck. So we lost because of lack of canvassing. Rot. The main reasons we lost were -

Thbe reason why there was a by-election - local Labour MP resigned because of £500,000 of expenses, meant for running an office and employing staff, kept by him and his family. The scandal was about to burst - that's why he didn't just stay put as he could have.

Labour had an arrogant sense of entitlement to the seat and many were surprised that people have turned. Labour has represented the East End for generations, despite which life expectancy is very low, quality of life is very low, crime is high. Voting Labour doesn't work for East Enders.

SNP programme was social democratic - real labour. (the fact that they are a bunch of reactionary romantic nationalist pseudo-left oppotunistic evil vicious bastards is not relevant in this case). Labour's was about abusing people living in poverty and blaming them for their poverty.

We had a fantastic candidate - you couldn't get better than Margaret Curran - but the selection was a shambles and she was exposed as pretending to be an East Ender even though she lives in a posh house in the leafy parts of the South Side.

This was not about a failure to canvas!

3:46 am, July 26, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Actually given we only lost by 300ish, the absence of any historic canvass data would have made the critical difference, as having some would have meant there were more people we could have knocked-up on polling day.

I think that CLPs that don't campaign should lose their right to select their own candidate.

9:36 am, July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaaargh! Luke, there were 400 helpers on polling day. People did get knocked up. The local CLP didn't get to choose its own candidate - this was all sorted by John Smith House. There was a huge swing against us for the reasons previously outlined.

We didn't lose because the leaflets were wrong or because we didn't campaign properly.

We lost because the party takes places like Glasgow East for granted, many of its councillors, MPs and MSPs are lazy selfish greedy careerist timeservers with a sense of entitlement and both hands in the till, we don't know how to handle nationalist zealots presenting social democratic policies, and our own message is perceived as anti-working class.

Worst of all leading labour politicians lke Gordon and Wendy talk like robots - "we have done this and it is right that we have done this and all will be well with a robust approach..." etc.etc.etc. While the opposition are in power - free prescriptions, stopping A&E closures, and at least give the impression that they care about ordinary folk.

10:38 am, July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant to say, but didn't - these failings are failings of leadership.

When we come to choose a new leader, let's find one who has the capability to tackle corrupt elected representatives, define policies that voters will see benefit them and their country, and talk passionately in language that people can listen to.

Gordon is a Very Good Man, but he isn't such a leader. Is Jack Straw such a leader? Or Harriet Harman? Or James Purnell? Or David Milliband? Or any of the names we seem to be hearing?

10:49 am, July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous T_i_B said...

"Switching leader might achieve something if we had a British Barack Obama waiting in the wings, but we don't."

That's becuase there are too many control freaks in the Labour party who will do anything to prevent a charismatic challenger emerging from within the ranks.

11:18 am, July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this in another blog -

http://holyroodchronicles.blogspot.com/2008/07/art-of-politics.html#links

"Alex took a chance. He didn't need to visit the constituency eleven times. He didn't need to forecast a political earthquake. He could have sat back and relaxed in the knowledge that Glasgow East was not SNP territory. A couple of visits would have been enough to demonstrate that the SNP were taking it seriously enough.

But he committed himself. He may be a smug bastard, but he is a leader. And he has got a result."


This by-election is supposed to have made Gordon or broken him, and he couldn't be bothered to show up even just the once.

12:21 pm, July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous tim f said...

A majority of just over 300 allows everyone to claim that their pet concern would've made the vital difference.

But anonymous claiming that more canvassing would not have made any difference is clearly rubbish. It doesn't matter how many volunteers there are on polling day if they only have a handful of promises to knock up. During the campaign itself a good number of contacts were made, but with year-round canvassing from just a handful of activists (yes, even two or three) there is no reason why there couldn't have been at least another 5,000 pieces of voter id which would certainly have made the difference.

That's not to say that there weren't other things that might've made the crucial difference too. But we know that regular canvassing is the most effective thing we can do locally when the government is trailing in the polls nationally. Certainly it's a lot more effective than blogging or commenting about changing leader.

12:42 pm, July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly it's a lot more effective than blogging or commenting about changing leader.

Well I certainly consider myself duly humbled. We lost tens of thousands of votes and got beat, I feel grumpy about it because it's Labour's fault, it's a Saturday lunchtime, and I'm making comments on Cllr Akehurst's excellent blog about my reflections on our situation.

No need to find a leader capable of leading. No need to root out usleless lazy venal careerist elected reps. No need to use government to implement policies that local people perceive to be to their benefit.

If we had only knocked on people's doors enough and made more annoying phone calls to them because they had been daft enough to say they might have voted for us, we'd have won a few hundred extra votes that went to the SNP or someone else.

Decent leadership, less perceived corruption in that constituency and elsewgere, and policies we can defend are not just "pet concerns!"

12:58 pm, July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Luke it doesn't matter if you lost by just two votes the reality is that you lost 13,000 votes. Thats a huge blow to any party.

Tell you what get a map and work out what seats Labour would be left with if we see a 22% swing to the conservatives.

4:17 pm, July 26, 2008

 
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