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, February 10, 2009

Winning from 28%

Not that anyone has asked, I've been trying to figure out how on earth Labour can bounce back for a third time from the current 28% poll rating.

This needs to happen fast before in usual Labour fashion, we turn in on ourselves and go into a downward spiral like we did last summer.

Here's my unsolicited advice to Gordon:

  • Bring forward the Budget date and in it announce a fiscal stimulus for the mass of ordinary voters, as opposed to the banks - a big increase in the threshold for paying income tax so that consumers actually have tangible extra take home pay. It'll pay for itself if they go out and spend it and thereby save people's jobs and keep the dole bill down.
  • Concentrate government bailouts on manufacturing industry if there isn't enough cash to go round all sectors. Manufacturing jobs are what we will need now that the myth you can run a nation based on financial services, not making stuff, has been exposed. And the people who work in manufacturing happen to be disproportionately concentrated in the social groups who are swing voters and in the regions where there are lots of marginal seats.
  • If the banks won't lend the capital you are giving them, fully nationalise one of them both pour encourager les autres, and to give the state a vehicle for lending to SMEs and people that need mortgages.
  • Hold an early reshuffle. No names but some of your ministers seem to be keeping their heads down and not coming out fighting for the party in its hour of need. Or indeed doing much at all. At least one is making an embarrassing hash of their portfolio. Sack a few of them and move the others. Promote a combination of aggressive old attack dogs who know how to take the fight to the Tories and have nothing to lose, and youngsters who might benefit from a brief experience of having Cabinet rank in case we are heading into opposition for so long that only the youngest current Ministers will ever hold office again.
  • Harriet Harman has too many jobs and isn't very good at hiding that she wants to add your's to the list. Removing her role as Party Chair will a) remind her who is boss and b) free up the Party Chair role to go to someone who will do it full time and run the election campaign a la Chris Patten '92 while you save the economy. This person can also do some of the emotional connecting with the electorate that isn't exactly your favourite aspect of the job.
  • If this narrows the gap, you won't get a fourth chance and a fourth bounce. Cut your losses and go to the polls on 4th June, Euro and County election day. Governments usually get a lift in the polls during the actual campaign - and the Tories need a big lead for a majority - so you could win even if you start behind. You won't have a bad set of "mid-term" elections to respond to if they are on the same day as the General Election. It will kill the BNP's chance of winning MEPs as the turnout will be higher than if the Euros were held alone. And if we lose we die with our boots on, while we still determine the timing.
  • We can't just fight the General Election on our economic recovery package. That isn't a four year programme. We need a positive message about what happens after the recession. That needs to take the form of two or three bold, radical social policies of the scale of the National Minimum Wage in 1997 that all our voters and activists will be inspired by. I'd start with a huge increase in free early years childcare.
  • But we also need to remember the stuff that motivates the 7% of voters who backed Blair in 2005 but are not with us now: we need some uncompromising new policies to show we are still serious about tackling crime, illegal immigration and security.
  • Attack the Lib Dems as well as the Tories in the campaign.
  • If we don't get a majority or very near to it, don't do a Ted Heath and try to cut a deal to hang on in the event of a hung parliament. Accept the verdict of the electorate and walk away with dignity so that Labour can regroup properly not cling on in government for the sake of it.


Blogger Guido Fawkes said...

Raising thresholds is so plainly the best thing to do - bailing out people - he won't do it though.

Labour are going to lose and he is going to go down as one of the worst PMs in history, all tactics and no strategy. Bet you wish you had kept Blair.

11:50 pm, February 10, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

I think most of that makes sense. The thing to remember is that there4 still isn't any great enthusiasm for the Tories and they haven't really got anything very much to say.

I'd tend to keep Harriet Harman in the party chair post because she is good at it and because she van connect with party members. The election supremo job should be separate. See if Alistair Campbell will do it.

Ed Balls needs to go. He is in the wrong job. He is bright but he is a worse communicator than GB

you won't agree with this, but I would drop the Welfare Reform Bill, because it hasn't a prayer of any success given the lack of jobs. Just makes the government look mean spirited.

I also agree about not hanging on or trying to carve up deals. The Tories honeymoon will be short and the LD's will split if Clegg tries to take them into a Cameron-led government

1:33 am, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just hang on, Gordon - don't take any stick from the whingers. Just hang on until next May - the econ omy will turn up, everyone will love you, you'll win by a landslide, you know...

3:09 am, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Promote ... youngsters who might benefit from a brief experience of having Cabinet rank in case we are heading into opposition for so long that only the youngest current Ministers will ever hold office again."

Sadly, Luke, I suspect this will become your legacy statement!

3:46 am, February 11, 2009

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Wow Luke, I actually agree with most of that, though I agree with Mike on Welfare reform.

I've met Ed (well sort of he was at Jane Kennedy's fund raiser)I have to say nice bloke, except I almost fell asleep during his speech, which was very boring. I think he might be wasted in his current job.

With regards to chair person, why not have the post elected rather selected? It makes sense to have someone there who is in touch with ordinary party members.

8:50 am, February 11, 2009

Blogger Letters From A Tory said...

Guido, I wished they had kept Blair as well!

Your point about manufacturing sounds sensible, apart from the fact that this country is terribly unattractive from an investment point of view, meaning that they usually aren't enough jobs around. Gordon Brown has shattered any confidence that foreign investors might have had in the stability of our economy.

9:58 am, February 11, 2009

Blogger Unknown said...

This is almost exactly right, and I'm delighted you've seen the light, I feared you were heading into the wilderness!

But who are these "people who need mortgages". Nobody needs a mortgage, they need a home.

Don't use that money getting people into more debt when that's the last thing we need right now, use it to build more homes, making them affordable with more supply, some for market rent, some for sale, some for allocation on the basis of social need.

Happy side-effect: creates jobs for unemployed construction workers and related trades.

9:59 am, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with this almost entirely. (shock horror)

In particular I agree that dragging things out till the bitter end Major style won't help anybody. Things might not seem quite that bad yet, but as you rightly point out they could get a lot worse.

If we are thrashed in June, leadership speculation is as inevitable as night following day.

I have a lot of respect for Harriet Harman as a politician. Anybody who inspires such hatred in the right-wing press must be doing something right. However she has patently failed as a communicator and as a party chair, and you are right that she needs to lose some of her jobs.

10:11 am, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"At least one is making an embarrassing hash of their portfolio" - Yes, James Purnell's welfare reforms are in tatters so might as well ship him out.

10:13 am, February 11, 2009

Blogger CROWN said...

I think you are spot on with that.

One thing is for certain - Gordon will not listen and do whatever gets your party into a deeper hole.

The man is just not a leader

10:16 am, February 11, 2009

Blogger Shamik Das said...

Guido is right! We should have kept Blair!! Not that I've been going on about it the past 18 months or so; but it's always nice to be proved right...

So, how do we win from 28% in the polls? Simple, by getting rid of Brown! End. Of.

10:31 am, February 11, 2009

Blogger Matthew Cain said...

Talking of people not fighting for the cause: I was disgusted to see Diane Abbot's report to her party members which didn't mention Labour once - apparently wasn't paid for by the Commons expenses fund - didn't mention the by-election in Hackney recently and was so broad in scope that it mentioned Gaza and women in Northern Ireland but not the improvements to the ALMO in Hackney.

It didn't even have any contact details to raise an objection.

I hope my membership fees won't be going to her re-election campaign.

10:34 am, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't really disagree with any of these suggestions. That's a bit worrying. Am I becoming a Blairite?

10:53 am, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reality dawns, almost.

Our boy has been talking the book up for the last year and a half knowing full-well he is led by a no-hoper who has led this country into a catastrophe.

I'm staggered you're on 28%. How could anyone support the Labour Party?

10:57 am, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Some fair points, and I agree with most of them.

However, I disagree with the election date. The electorate voted for Labour to serve a full five year term, and cutting and running in the middle of a worldwide recession is cowardly and wrong. It will look as if we have taken our eye off the economic ball and that winning an election is more important than helping people when they most need help.

Losing in May would be a disaster for the country as Cameron and his elitist mob would then follow their own path which is basically to let the recession run its course, hang the consequences for ordinary people, and they could do this confident in the fact that they can blame it all on Brown and Labour and when they go back to the country in five years time all the pain will be behind us, but they will still be blaming Labour for the first two years of their government.

Sometimes election dates have to based on more than electoral advantage, they need to be based on doing the right thing, and the fundamentally wrong thing to do now is spend six weeks running around the country looking for votes rather than running the Government.

And, if a week is a long time in politics, 15 months is practically a lifetime.

As for reshuffling - Ed should be moved, but not sacked. Yvette should be promoted, Jim Murphy should be given a higher profile, Alan Johson should be Party Chair, Geoff Hoon should be consigned back to the back benches, Blair should be given a place in the House of Lords and made Foriegn Secretary, and Peter should be Chancellor - in a straight swap with Alistair.

I also agree with some of your commentators - let's build some more houses, now. And let's let councils spend some money doing up old houses on their patch.

11:00 am, February 11, 2009

Blogger Plenty said...

Did anyone hear the line blurted out by Communities secretary Hazel Blears today on DP? What you see is what you get with Hazel Blears. Well, I don't see alot frankly, except a robot blurting out the same old broken record from the Labour spin office....


1:20 pm, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too, surprisingly, agree with almost all of this.

Save an early election (the electorate doesn't want one right now, it wants us to focus on the economy), not cutting a deal to cling on to power in a hung parliament (I'm sceptical about any kind of deal with Lib Dems, but let's cross that road when we come to it and not rule anything out right now), and suspecting that by "uncompromising policies on illegal immigration" we would mean entirely different things.

I suspect you meant Purnell by the minister making a hash of his portfolio, but didn't want to mention his name.

2:04 pm, February 11, 2009

Blogger Tom said...

"we need some uncompromising new policies to show we are still serious about tackling crime, illegal immigration and security."

Re the last two, I have no idea what more can actually be done short of actually building walls...

3:04 pm, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, maybe I don't agree on the crime and illegal immigration stuff.

I believe in tackling illegal immigration by letting anyone come to the country who wants to, as part of a regulated work permit system - and encouraging other countries to take a similar approach. I don't suggest the government should adopt that policy in the present climate, though.

Re: crime, I think the government needs to move away from rhetorical positions with little or no connection to what's actually going to happen, such as 'we will put everyone who carries a knife in prison' (there's a debate about whether this is right or wrong, there's no debate about whether it's practically possible unless the prison building industry's going to have a massive stimulus package all of its own) to more practical stuff.

3:21 pm, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent post, Luke, and very thought provoking. I am not sure that June 4th would be a good date - three elections on one day? Perhaps early Autumn would be a go time to go.

3:22 pm, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

we have an aversion to coalition government in the UK. Would it really be that bad? They seem to manage in many other countries, and in over 100 town halls in England and Wales. I have blogged about it today prompted by hearing the news reports from Israel, and the various machinations. Blair had a good dialogue with Ashdown before 97 and it was the sensible thing to do. Why rule it out now. There is a difference between what you play for and what you plan for.

3:30 pm, February 11, 2009

Blogger Tom said...

"Guido is right! We should have kept Blair!! Not that I've been going on about it the past 18 months or so; but it's always nice to be proved right..."

Party probably would have split if we had. You're retrospectively demanding the impossible, Sham.

Anyway, our polls were hardly great then either!

3:37 pm, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cracking post Luke. Am mostly in agreement with you, although I fear that Harriet Harman would claim she has a democratic mandate justifying her position as party chair. The Economist had an article suggesting that Gordon Brown should apologise for his part in the financial crisis - the thinking being that the electorate would appreciate some honesty and humility and that when Labour's in such a dire situation such a risky strategy might pay off. What would you say to that?

3:54 pm, February 11, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Housing astronomical inflation!

Rents and mortgages need to deflate and held down, as this will lead us straight back where we are now if its not sustained, and then we will be completely useless to compete in the global economy!

5:15 pm, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get rid of Balls
Get rid of Harman
Get rid of Blears
Get rid of G Brown

I would also venture that it is in the party's interests to lose the next election as it is obvious that doesn't have any 'big' ideas left. Let Cameron win, send the personnel listed above into the wilderness, regroup, rethink your ideas and identify new talent within your ranks.

This may sound defeatist, but it is just too obvious too say that politics moves in cycles, with the Tories governing for 10-15yrs then Labour takes over, etc.

Just accept that, at best voters are simply bored of Labour and they fancy a change. At worst, Brown alienates many who could otherwise find themselves erring on the side of Labour at the next election. Both the good and bad scenarios are compounded by a full-on recession.

Just face it: the pendulum is swinging from Labour to the Tories and the sooner you plan for Opposition the better.

7:34 pm, February 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the real evidence shows that Brown policies are starting to crumble and people know it. If Brown can't get support over the economy then he has very little chance of winning another term.

I was listening to a radio 4 debate today and even supporters of Brown are now saying that he simply isn't responding to the current crisis.

This is a very short lived bounce and with the economy set to go into meltdown in just two months I can't see Brown getting it back either.

8:47 pm, February 11, 2009

Blogger Shamik Das said...

I don't think the ratings then (for a man who'd been in power ten years) weren't as poor as they are now for a bloke who's had the job all of one-and-a-half-years.

I don't believe the party would have split had Blair stayed on; after all, in spite of the "vote Blair, get Brown" sentiment, he was elected to serve a "full third term..."

1:13 pm, February 12, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Move the budget up Luke?! WHOOPSY!


4:02 pm, February 12, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

You can't blame it all on Gordon as Blair and him both ensured the Tory status Quo prevailed-Hence the astronomical housing inflation and greed, they called growth. The housing market would not have any regulation as Blair made £300,000 on his Islington home sale.

High housing costs have caused misery for many people long before this credit crunch!

4:05 pm, February 12, 2009

Blogger David Boothroyd said...

You got mentioned by Alan Duncan at Business Questions today.

5:11 pm, February 12, 2009

Blogger Matthew Cain said...

Some of the ideas emerging from Compass are depressingly familiar. If they're the future, we're all in trouble:


8:49 am, February 13, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is new, isn't it?


5:38 pm, February 13, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I was wrong about the Lib Dems, the latest poll puts them just 3% behind Labour.

I think it would be good to have three parties in the running for the next election.

Such an event would make electoral reform a lot more likely.

11:06 pm, February 14, 2009


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