A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Losing is not such a good idea

Labour having clawed its way back into contention in the General Election, the Guardian has started publishing articles suggesting it would be a good thing for Labour's own sake to lose the election: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/09/election-labour-lose-gordon-brown

I can just about get the argument - it runs something along the lines that if you have to lose an election, lose the one when difficult decisions need to be taken to tackle the deficit.

But this assumes that the decisions Labour would take are as bad as the ones the Tories would. If you believe that there's no difference between the timing and depth of the measures to be taken between the parties then there's no point having an election, we might as well let Treasury civil servants run the country.

And if there is a difference between the economic, fiscal and public spending policies of Labour and the Tories, someone other than Labour MPs losing their seats pays a price if the Tories get in: users of public services, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable and dependent on the state.

So we might fancy four years off from tough decisions and a bit of battery-recharging and powerless feel-good ranting from opposition, but it's the folk we were set up to represent who'll pay the real price. I think it was Australian PM Bob Hawke who said "there may only be an inch between a Labor government's policies and a coalition government's policies but if you live in that inch it's an important inch." And this time round in the UK the policy gap is not just an inch, it's a country mile. I could feel half-relaxed about a Tory government if Cameron had followed his early strategy of being "heir to Blair", seizing the political centre ground and building on our legacy. But he has reverted to being "son of Thatcher" with a hardline economic policy (dressed up with a few photoshoots with arctic seals) intent not on building on Labour's legacy but on turning the clock back to 1983.

Labour governments need to be for the difficult times not just the economically easy ones. In fact it is even more important that a progressive, socialist morality and sense of political priorities is applied to tough choices about what services to protect when money is tight as it is for it to be applied when the Treasury coffers are bursting.

We know the difference between the approach of the Tories in the recessions of the 1930s and 1980s and our approach in the last two years. We can't leave our communities to their far from tender mercies.

If Labour wants to ever create the kind of social democratic hegemony our sister party in Sweden for instance achieved, we need to maintain power for a generation or two, through any turbulence and tough decisions that are out there, winning people's respect for doing the right thing whatever we are confronted with, not as Philippe Legrain suggests, taking a break when the going gets tough.

Even from a completely partisan point of view his argument doesn't stack up. To lose and avoid the next four years in power we need to lose many MPs. Every MP we lose weakens party organisation and is a more difficult seat to win back than it would be to defend as incumbents.

10 Comments:

Blogger Hughes Views said...

The Guardian is written by theoreticians for dittos, not, generally, by or for people who really want to help get things done.

Anyone who fancies "four years off from tough decisions and a bit of battery-recharging and powerless feel-good ranting from opposition" could always join the Lib Dems or Greens.

V. good point re the loss of MPs weakening party structures. Living in a Lib Dem held seat provides a constant reminder about how useful even just having an MP's office in the town to act as a focal point is to a party, especially to one without cash from Belize...

5:41 pm, March 09, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

I think we all know that we are heading for a hung parliament. Whether or not brown keeps the top job depends on whether labour can do a deal with the lib dems

8:00 pm, March 09, 2010

 
Blogger james said...

Not only that, Cameron has said he wants to reduce the number of MPs - specifically to target Labour....

10:16 pm, March 09, 2010

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Labour should have looked after the working classes from 1997, the same as it did for the Tory Bankers?

Will the Tory pampered bankers be backing Labour in the election?

12:50 am, March 10, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

The bankers won't back labour they will back the party that makes them richer. They are motivated by money alone.

I dread to think how many people will lose their jobs if the conservatives get in and go ahead with their cuts. And when Kenneth Clarke talks about making Britain more competitive what he actually means is making us work for less.

Having large numbers on the dole keeps wages down and makes the rich better profits. And the cost of paying benefits ends up being paid by the lowest earners.

1:08 am, March 10, 2010

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"there may only be an inch between a Labor government's policies and a coalition government's policies but if you live in that inch it's an important inch."

Aye, but remember that there are always people who live in the inches to the left of Labor as well.

3:19 pm, March 10, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It's a reference to the beneficiaries of the policies not the ideological proponents of them.

3:28 pm, March 10, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that being said in 1978 and 1979 !

Be warned history has a habit of repeating its self "

GW

6:10 pm, March 10, 2010

 
Anonymous carlr said...

"... to ever create the kind of social democratic hegemony our sister party in Sweden for instance achieved, we need to maintain power for a generation or two,"

Come on Luke. Sweden had some of the best leaders in Europe, a genuine plan for radically transforming and rebuilding a country. Labour - whilst they've done some good - haven't rewritten the script in anything like the same way. They haven't even established a decent model of social ownership. The comparison is very unfair on the pioneers in Sweden, who would have been disgusted by many of the policies New Labour advocate, and most especially an unemployment benefit if 55UKP a week...

6:25 pm, March 10, 2010

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

I don't want a Tory government, but I also want Labour to change. So, a hung parliament is the best bet

1:02 am, March 12, 2010

 

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