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, April 06, 2010

Comparing this to '92 is an insult to Neil Kinnock

All day today the media has been comparing this election to 1992, because of its closeness.

In one sense I hope they are correct and that the analogy of an incumbent government seeing off an opposition ahead in the polls to win a 4th term turns out to be what happens.

But Cameron doesn't deserve to be compared to Neil Kinnock.

Kinnock had spent nine very tough years as opposition leader radically reforming his party. We found out on polling day 1992 that it wasn't enough, but the scale of Kinnock's political achievement in making Labour potentially electable dwarfs anything Cameron has done. Kinnock had with great political courage taken on and expelled Militant. He had carried out a full-scale policy review which junked the his activists' sacred cow of unilateral disarmament. Even before this he had scrapped Labour's hostility to Europe, its opposition to right-to-buy and its 1983 economic strategy based on nationalisation.

Cameron has done the superficial, presentational bits of what Kinnock did - slicker campaigning, a new logo, a softer image, more diverse candidates (by background, gender and ethnicity but not by ideology - some of Cameron's BME and women candidates are unreconstructed Thatcherite headbangers).

But he has made none of the really tough policy changes that would have involved taking on his own MPs and activists and forcing them to come to terms with why they lost three elections. Policy and ideological change on the scale Kinnock achieved between 1983 and 1992, let alone what Blair did after 1994, would have required Cameron to force his party to embrace the EU rather than forming its own fringe group in the European Parliament, and to be proposing a balanced approach to tackling the deficit whilst protecting public services rather than a hardline Thatcherite one based on tax and spending cuts.

Unlike Kinnock, Cameron has lacked both the intellectual courage to change his own views on these fundamental issues and the political courage to fight to change his own party's positions.

Kinnock would have sacked a frontbencher like Chris Grayling who said something so out of tune with the Party's revised stance. Cameron just fudges it.

We know that out in the marginals the supposedly reformed Tories are running on the same dog-whistle messages on immigration and Europe as in 2005. It's as though Kinnock has secretly subcontracted his key seat strategy to Tony Benn.

How can someone like Cameron who has failed to fundamentally change their own party aspire to change the country?

And unlike in 1992 the government's record is of making the right decisions. This Labour government saved the economy by rescuing the banks. The Tory government that was reelected in 1992 did so after introducing and then being forced to abandon the Poll Tax.

The electoral analogy the Tories deserve because of their failure to reform themselves is not Labour in 1997, it's not even Labour in 1992, it's Labour in 1987 - campaigning slicked up, logo changed, policies not changed nearly enough, result: a marginal improvement from 209 seats to 229.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Cameron has said in the past talk left, act right.
That is not leading a party to change.

11:22 pm, April 06, 2010

Anonymous Rich said...

I'm not really that bothered wether this government keeps power or not. I'm more concerned about the prospect of letting a very right wing conservative admistration in.

11:25 pm, April 06, 2010

Blogger Jimmy said...

"Cameron has lacked both the intellectual courage to change his own views"

I've never got the impression that he had any strong views on anything.

12:58 am, April 07, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arguably Kinnock took more time and had to work harder because Foot left him such an electorally toxic party. And despite all the work which Luke praises he still could not beat Major.

The electorate will decide if Cameron has done enough (his task was smaller than Kinnocks) to convinvce the public. Opinion polls suggest he has.

11:17 am, April 07, 2010

Anonymous Rich said...

But if you look at over 90% of the papers this morning then it would appear that they are all supporting Cameron.

The only pro Labour headline was in the Mirror.

I also found the exchanges between all three political leaders very presumptive. What right has an MP to say its over, when clearly the decision is with the electorate.

Whether Brown loses or wins the decision will be made by millions of people. We don't need school boy type shouting matches in the house of parliament to help us decide. We will decide when its over and no one else.

12:10 am, April 08, 2010


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