Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

When Labour lost its soul, and the next election

Even the seasoned political commentators who are sympathetic to Labour cannot understand the reported popularity of Jeremy Corbyn, the left wing candidate for the Labour Party leadership. Perhaps those party members with more centrist views have left during Miliband’s leadership, they muse, leaving constituency parties dominated by the far left. These commentators may be right that if Corbyn was elected it would be electorally disastrous for Labour, but in failing to correctly understand his relative popularity they show how dangerous the Westminster bubble has become. It is not Labour party members who have changed, but the position of most of their potential leaders. 

If you want to see the tragedy of what is currently happening to Labour, you just need to look at the Welfare Bill that was debated in parliament yesterday. This bill

     repeals most of the Child Poverty Act, and in particular abandons poverty reduction targets
     tightens the ‘benefits cap’, the total amount a family can receive in benefits
     extends the freeze on working age benefits for the next four years
     limits child tax credits (subsidies for the low paid) to the first two children

Although Labour tabled amendments to this bill, after those were inevitably defeated it abstained rather than voting against. Of the four leadership candidates, only Corbyn defied this party line.

Labour did not vote against this bill despite the inevitable result that it will increase child poverty. Indeed, an apt title for this bill would be the ‘Increasing Child Poverty’ bill. One of the great achievements of the last Labour government was to reduce child poverty, largely through the system of tax credits, and today’s Labour party has abstained on a bill that will set about dismantling and reversing that.

I doubt if any Labour Party members think now is the time to start increasing child poverty. They wanted child poverty reduced under the last Labour government, and with the number using foodbanks in the UK rocketing, they hardly think now is the time to reverse that. For many party members reducing poverty is a core Labour value - it is one of the reasons they joined.

So why on earth did Labour not vote against this bill? The main reason Labour gives is that they must ‘listen to the electorate’. Measures to ‘reduce welfare’ are popular among voters. It is popular because voters constantly see stories in the press and TV about people living the ‘benefits lifestyle’, and justifiably resent that. This is what people mean by ‘reducing welfare’. But if you ask people about child poverty, they overwhelmingly believe that it should be a government priority to reduce it. There are not stories about the hardship that poverty causes every day in the media, and how the welfare system is vital in preventing even worse. So welfare is associated with supporting scroungers rather than reducing poverty.

The other excuse often given by Labour MPs for supporting measures of this kind is that they need to show they are competent to run the economy, which alas nowadays means reducing the deficit. Yet we know there is no macroeconomic logic in reducing the deficit as rapidly and as far as Osborne plans. Again Labour appeal to what voters believe, never mind the reality. In addition, this government is cutting inheritance tax for the better off. So not opposing this welfare bill is equivalent to saying that the children of the poor must pay so that the rich can pass on more of their wealth.

This electoral strategy of moving the party to the right by abandoning its core values seems doomed to failure. Unless the plan is to outdo the Conservatives in dismantling the welfare state, Labour will always be seen as ‘soft on welfare’ by the electorate. Even if they voted with the government on every single deficit reduction measure, the Conservatives will still argue that Labour’s claims to be competent at running the economy are not credible, and use the unchallenged assertion that Labour caused austerity as evidence. In addition, following the Conservatives to the right is potentially suicidal because it takes for granted that those on the left will continue to vote for them.

If you want to know the disaster that can befall those who follow this ‘a bit to the left of the Conservatives’ strategy, look at what happened in Scotland, and look at what happened to the Liberal Democrats. However it would be very foolish to think that the LibDems are no longer important in UK politics. Their new leader, Tim Farron, will undoubtedly try and fill the void that Labour leaves on the centre left, and I think he has every chance of succeeding. His party voted against the ‘Increasing Child Poverty’ bill. He said
“The truth is the Tories do not have to cut £12bn from welfare: they are choosing to. The Liberal Democrats will always stand up for families. We will not let the Conservatives, through choice, and the Labour party, through silence, unpick our welfare system."
I’ve also seen it reported that he said he would have attended the recent anti-austerity march. If he campaigns against what he could call Osborne’s ‘excessive and obsessive austerity’, his eclipse of Labour on the left is assured. For those who think that poverty should be reduced and the rise in food banks is an indication of social failure, it will be pretty obvious who to vote for in 2020.


  1. Again, I think you're making in an error by invoking austerity. Inequality and austerity should have nothing to do with one another. Austerity is popular (I think rightly so, but leave that to one side). Tax cuts for the rich paid for by benefit cuts to the poor are not. Populism works. Even if not immediately, over time. Use it. Austerity/anti-austerity is just a technical issue that gets macroeconomists worked up, but leaves most people out in the cold and damages the argument against inequality.

    1. I think you're fundamentally wrong here.
      Never mind that austerity is a totally failed economic idea, the way the government is working is clearly targeting the poorest.

      Sorry, but what is the justification for the FURTHER cut in corporation tax?

  2. I'm afraid the left or at least the media left won't support a guy that thinks being gay is a sin.

  3. (i) "Their new leader, Tim Farron, will undoubtedly try and fill the void that Labour leaves on the centre left, and I think he has every chance of succeeding. "

    And it had all been going so well up until that sentence.

    The Lib Dems are irrelevant as a political force for ten years at least. Farron is pretty useless and is only there because he stood outside of the last 5 years of disaster.

    (ii) In Scotland the Labour party were out Scotished. If you are a leftwing Scot who will you vote for

    (a) a leftwing party, or

    (b) a leftwing party with added Scottish sectionalism.

    Not a lot Labour can do about that.

    (iii) I hate this Welfare Bill, for the reasons you give. However, to imply, as you do, that there is no popularity price to be paid for seeking to reduce poverty is, I think, untrue. How do we test whether one set of policy proposals is more popular than another (polls being notoriously unreliable as people don't like to appear mean: Q "Do you think it should be the part of the government's role to seek to reduce poverty?" A "No"- who would say that?).

    My suggestion is that we have a great big secret ballot of everyone.

    We couldn't have votes on every issue, but what we could have are bundles of policies people of the same mindset to vote for.

    We could then have people whose job it is to argue for each set of policies. We could form these people into 'teams' and each team could choose who the best person was to represent their views. We could then have a vote every four or five years to test what people really thought.

    That would surely end arguments about what was and was not popular.

    Why has nobody suggested this before?

    (iv) In the real world, Labour is not going to win back Scotland, and is not going to be outflanked on its left in England. There is sense in the view that the strategy of the last five years (oppose all cuts before made, accept after made) was not a good one. It is also the case that the polling and focus groups indicate that social security was a vote loser for Labour (unfairly, but that is pesky democracy again). I understand, even if I do not agree with, the decision Harman made.

    1. I am tired of people like you and Andrew Rawnsley telling us what is happening in "the real world". No-one expected the election result until it happened, and then a cast iron consensus instantly formed about the cause (Miliband too terrifyingly left wing). Everyone "in the real world" worked it out right away even though they had no idea whatsoever that the Tories would win beforehand. Maybe political forecasters should take a step back and wonder whether they actually do have all the answers. Maybe the story in Scotland is more nuanced than "the scottish voted SNP because it has Scottish in its name"

    2. (i) I think there was a consensus before the election that Miliband was useless. I was part of that groupthink, I confess.

      (ii) I did however think Labour would be in government. The fundamentals were so strongly in Labour's favour that I thought the Tories could not possibly win.

      I confess. I was wrong. I was over optimistic. When the fats change, I change my mind. (Which really means, when my understanding of the facts is shown to be wrong, I change my mind.)

      With the coming boundary changes, and the likelihood that the economy is in better shape in 2020 than it is in 2015, the hurdle for Labour will get higher.

      So, with this new reality to come to terms with, I have had to change my mind as to what it takes to win. In every election since the 20s the one and only thing that has mattered is the gap between the Labour and Conservative parties in terms of votes. Continuing on the path set by Miliband, or heaven help us electing Corbyn, is not going to work.

      (iii) I do indeed think that the core of what the Scottish Nationalist Party stands for is in its name. They do seem to talk about independence a lot, and the shift in popularity seemed to coincide with a referendum on the matter, no?

    3. Hugo

      A few things to think about re Labour's 2015 election loss.

      The Tories gained most of their seats from the Lib Dems. This was largely down to the Lib Dems terrible handling of coalition/the Tories playing it well. The Tories could not have won a majority without this. Could Labour have disaffected Lib Dems? If so, how?

      Labour lost their seats to the SNP. It's hard to blame the current Labour lot for this - but to the extent you can, it was because they were too far right and because the SNP made the case that austerity in a recession(/before rates start to rise) is stupid.

      Labour still failed to take Tory marginal. They would have though if they'd got a better youth turn out.

      On the SNP. When Mhairi Black says the Labour party left her, that's how lots of SNP voters feel. Particularly newer ones. Genuinely, I know lots of them and they are only nationalists because they don't want to part of a more right wing country where Labour is to the right of what they think should be the centre..

    4. "When Mhairi Black says the Labour party left her"

      As Tony Blair was leader at the time of her birth, I don't give much credence to that claim.

      Scotland is small (around 8% of the UK). There is no way Labour is going to win back a significant number of those SNP seats. It shouldn't base its UK strategy around beating back the SNP. It should focus on narrowing the gap with the Tories.

    5. "Labour is to the right of what they think should be the centre"

      This phrase succinctly describes the folly that appears to have gripped the Labour party.

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  5. Once you start calling social security welfare, you become part of the problem. Labour could easily counter accusations of being weak on welfare by asserting that they're actually strong on social security. Gawd knows why they don't.

    1. Serious? They call it something different, and the proble goes away.

  6. A good article Simon. I disagree with your final conclusion, as there will be many "Orange Book" Liberals standing who are just as bad as New Labour.

    Regarding the Westminster bubble: there is a myth amongst media pundits and many Labour MPs that Tony Blair was a great vote winner. Examination of election statistics tells a different story. In fact, no Labour leader ever has lost the Labour Party more votes than Tony Blair: between 1997 and 2005, the party lost nearly 4 million - nearly 30% - of its votes. It retained a majority because the Tories were even less popular.

    Even in 1997 the party got less votes than John Major's Tories in 1992: after that, in terms of votes, the party did better under Kinnock in 1992. A "winning" party's majority in the commons depends more upon the unpopularity of the opposition, and the vagaries of FTTP, than it does on its own popularity.

    Not only did the party lose votes, it haemorrhaged members too (including me - an ex branch-secretary, branch chair and constituency press officer.) However, looking at the size of the Parliamentary majorities, the media and the party leadership persuaded themselves that they were doing wonderfully, and ignored the alienation of the base: even those who remained were far from happy with the performance of the government, but felt, like Koestler's Rubashov, that they had to be loyal to a party which had in many ways betrayed them.

    Ed Miliband was elected, despite the wishes of the party grandees, because he ran a successful campaign amongst supporters and affiliated members. For all his failings, he remains far more popular with the base than the disloyal "Tory-lite" shadow cabinet members who undermined him almost from day one.

    When Labour lost the May election, the Blairites, without even looking for evidence, had an opportunity to advance spurious explanations for that loss, and advance their own agendas, without even looking at any evidence.

    Outside Scotland, there is no truly popular political party: the election was decided upon perception of the lesser of evils. This is where Corbyn comes in. Much of the base feels that their party has been stolen from them, and that only a move to the left will save the party's soul: we feel that under Blair, the party lost the courage of its convictions, and then lost the convictions themselves. There is a feeling that continuity New Labour cannot is not worth voting for and can't win an election, and even if Corbyn can't either, it's worth a try: at the party can start to be a moral force again. Or it might die, but as Paul Bernal said, better with a band than with a whimper.

    My own feeling is that this is another 1931 moment: if he wins the leadership, the worst Corbyn could be is another George Lansbury figure: and Lansbury paved the way for Attlee: the most successful and popular leader in Labour's history.

    I apologise for the length of this post!

    1. So, in summary, Tony Blair was an electoral failure, whilst Ed Miliband was a great success?

      I do like these enthusiastic consumers of S W-L's oeuvre.

    2. Yawn - Carry on spinning: put word in your own mouth!

      I can't help it if you don't understand a simple statistical argument. The figures show that Blair wasn't popular, but the Tories were even less popular: the record low turnouts in the naughties are also an indication of the general alienation of people from Westminster politics.,_2005

      As well as negative voting, FPTP leads to distorted results. The highest ever Labour vote, 49% of an 83% turnout, was recorded in 1951 when they "lost" the election even though the Tories and their National Liberal bedfellows got a quarter of a million fewer votes.

      Attlee had 2 million more votes when he "lost" in 1951, and a greater percentage of the vote, than when he won in 1945. It was the highest percentage of the electorate that any post war party has ever achieved. Even then though, pundits and historians said that the country had "tired" of Labour, and Gaitskell and others argued that it should move to the right. Wilson proved them wrong in 1966.

    3. "The figures show that Blair wasn't popular"

      You know we assess claims like that according to elections won, right?

    4. "You know we assess claims like that according to elections won, right?"

      And you know that is a logical fallacy. Blair won because the Tories imploded and took a decade to sort themselves out. Once real steak was back on the menu nobody wanted the Labour concoction.

      In all these discussions everybody forgets what has happened in Scotland. A whole set of Labour MPs wiped out by a party offering a different view of the world.

      You only have to look at the popularity of Mhairi Black's maiden speech to see that there is huge demand for real social policies put forward by people who actually believe in them.

      Blair fooled all of the people some of the time, but eventually they got wise to his spin laden PR message.

    5. "In all these discussions everybody forgets what has happened in Scotland. A whole set of Labour MPs wiped out by a party offering a different view of the world."

      Sorry? If you look at the thread above you'll see we were discussing the Glorious Victory of the People's Party in Scotland, and indeed Ms Black's laughable claims that in her adult life Labour under evil rightwinger Miliband left the true path of Labour under the leftwing Blair of her childhood. Scotland is always the example given by those who also claim that Labour's 1983 manifesto would have won had it not been for General Galtieri. (The SNP also represent a free hit as a party of protest.: nobody expects them to be actually governing the UK. Thank God.)

      Perhaps the claim is that Labour too should reinvent itself as a party of fervent nationalism? Nationalist and Socialist? Always a winning combination.

    6. Neil, do you know what the SNP do, as opposed to what they say in speeches in Westminster?

      Answer: make cuts to the poor much worse, by freezing council tax and raiding targeted spend for universals that the poor would have got free. . Where they've actually won power and held it, it's by doing virtually the opposite of what they say they are.

      What they say about UK level spending is correct, of course.

  7. If you were to look since 1979 at the two 'reasons' why the Tories in 1997 then Labour in 2010 lost the elections, I think that the Tories never recovered from the ERM debacle of 1992 and Labour still hasn't recovered itself from the downing of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

    The Tories, as far as I can see during 1997-2008, did nothing of note other than wait.

    That seems to be the contours of political centrism in the UK over the last generation with our voting system.

    Oh, and update on the BBC: they presumably got the outcome from the 2015 election they wanted, and now only the public support can save the besieged institution from the forces of reactionary Conservatism, says Tony Hall.

    The BBC hasn't recovered itself from the fall of Lehman Brothers either, and presumably Robert Peston's 'sheep' will gambol to its rescue.

  8. "There are not stories about the hardship that poverty causes every day in the media, and how the welfare system is vital in preventing even worse"

    Funnily enough there was a very good piece on the impact LA funding cuts on the poor and vulnerable yesterday in that bastion of the left-wing press, the FT.

  9. I disagree. If the Labour Party goes "off to the left" then that will give the Tories political space to go further to the right. The most "rightwards" the British political centre has moved in a single parliament since the war was the 1983-7 parliament - and it was able to do this as the Labour Party became completely nuts between 1979-83, and from 1983-5 Kinnock had to spend his time managing Militant rather than challenging the Tories.

    Whether or not the Labour Party votes against this bill makes *no* difference to policy (and if you think it does, google the "pairing system"). What it does is it allows the Tories to paint Labour as "out of touch" with even a majority of their own electors (see Peter Kellner's latest post). This will bake in Tory electoral advantage and an even more rightwing government in 2020. Note that the BBC website headline today was "Labour split" not "welfare cuts passed".

    As someone not in the Labour Party, I look at yesterday's events and the Corbyn surge, and conclude that the Labour Party is more interested in saying what they think is right (which is laudable) than getting themselves in a position to do something which can make a difference (which is what really matters).

    1. If the Labour Party goes "off to the left" then that will give the Tories political space to go further to the right.

      This is a complete non-sequiter. On the contrary, a more left-wing labour party, as in 45-51, encourages the 'One Nation' Tories to work harder to take the centre ground. If, on the other hand, Labour chases the Tories rightwards across the political spectrum Osborne is protected from any concern about the political impact of his policies by saying that Labour would follow the same policies less competently - an argument he has already used very effectively.

      A move by major parties closer together will lead to more votes for extremists as more and more people feel left out of the 'common ground'. The danger, nowadays, is that extreme groups may not just say unpleasant things: they may become a gateway to people doing even more unpleasant things. The history of West Germany in the late 60s and early 70s, following formation of the first Grand Coalition is instructive.

      But anyway, the left-right labels have so little meaning now that seeing them is practically a guarantee of an empty argument. We have to recognise that the FPTP system means that - usually - the most voted-for party gets the most seats but beyond that almost no conclusions can be drawn from election results. I presume no one really thinks that the SNP are more than 50 times more popular than UKIP across the UK, even if I would quite like it if they were, and the fall in Labour (and Lib Dem for that matter) seats was far, far greater than the decline in their votes or share of votes would suggest. It's the system we've got, no point in complaining about it, but we really shouldn't try to draw conclusions from its near random vagaries.

    2. We have to recognise that FPTP means that you have to do your coalitions *before* the election, and that if you don't then third down on the ballot paper are simply wasted votes.

      Any more than two candidates on a British election list shows that those standing don't understand how our constitution works.

      We like to know what we are voting for. Otherwise you get the 2010 problem, where people vote for lower tuition fees and get a pointless referendum on voting reform instead.

      Because the former is what the people wanted, and the latter is what those interested in politics obsess about.

    3. @ David - not really. The centre ground can move, but it is the government of the day that can move it. They can move it more if the opposition is not a threat in the next election.

      This explains why the Labour party was able to move the centre (in 1945-51) but not in opposition (e.g. in 1979-87) when they similarly advocated radical change. Similarly the rightward drift of current policy (tougher on welfare and government spending) has coincided with a Tory-led government.

      Also, the terms "left" and "right" do still mean something. Relative to current government policy, "left" policies would expand government spending on services and welfare, as well as taxation, whereas "right" policies would do the reverse.

  10. Is it more important to say what they believe to be right, and damn the electorate (and the right-wing media, if you must), or is it more important that the Labour Party wins power and can start to reverse some of the changes that they disagree with?

    1. My post was saying that this was a lousy way of going about winning power.

    2. fine, enjoy splendid opposition, if you must. Just don't complain when Prime Minister Osborne wins a majority in 2020.

    3. The general acceptance (Including Radio 4 and the Gradniad) that any future leader must be from our privately educated toffocracy and decided on electability rather than political impact terms is deeply disturbing.

      I supported the Lib Dems when they stood to the left of Blair's Turbotories. I think that they should have distanced themselves from the Tories in the last year of coalition. I think they have selected the wrong candidate and that his religious beliefs may bring unhelpful comparisons with Blair and Bush.

      What is wrong with electing Corbyn who stands out from other current politicians by holding to his principles? There are many of us who would describe ourselves as middle ground but see politics racing off to the right of our values.

      We all know that the current Tory line is going to lead to many failures and U-turns. We need an effective opposition.

  11. This all seems remarkably reminiscent of the 1920s. From 1918-22 David Lloyd George led the liberal party as part of a coalition with the conservatives (sound familiar). Once the champion of social reform, Lloyd George was tainted by the cuts and austerity he was forced to impose by his conservative partners and lost the support of th electorate.

    In 1929 the Liberal party was the most progressive around and Keynes was their cheif advisor. MacDonald had pulled the Labour Party right in the face of the Great Depression.

    The liberals lost, and I see no reason they will not lose again in 2020.

    1. I think the Lib Dems would take Lloyd George's 24 pc and 40 seats. And they will first concentrate on locals, European and Scottish - in each of these they should do better as the country realises that actually they were holding the Tories back in coalition.

  12. Nice job.

    The reality facing Labour and the Liberal Democrats is one of electoral oblivion. You simply cannot throw away your raison e'tre and hope to survive. When Labour got rid of Clause 4, a defining position, albeit a flexible one, it simply ceased to be. There was nothing left that made it distinct from the Liberal Democrats and precious little to mark it out from the Tories bar a pliable commitment to keep most of the NHS in public hands. It was as assiduous in following the Thatcherite agenda, as it was craven in not defending its own economic record up to the election. It's abject.

    A world without sovereign assets is a world without self-determination. This is a major bind for Labour and the Lib Dems. What do they represent that is distinct from the Tories - that flimsy commitment to the NHS aside? They are merely bobbing around in a torpid sea blown hither and thither by policies not of their own making. The party, having cast off the rest of its clothes to the Greens and SNP, now cuts a John Stonehouse-like figure bent on disappearing.

    People like hope. They also like politicians with integrity, conviction, progressive policies and moral courage. They particularly despise those who can't even stand up for policies which they put on the statute book and whose repeal will cause real hardship to thousands.

    Corbyn, or someone like him, might well be Labour's last chance. If the party doesn't find a backbone and an alternative narrative - and quick - it has had it.

  13. This reminds me of when Bill Clinton did welfare reform in the 1990s. It didn't work. Poverty increased. I'll vote for the Democrats against the Republicans but won't do anything else for them.

    Bill Clinton's move to the center (or right) was one of the reasons I bet Obama beat Hillary in the primary. Also their respective takes on the Iraq war.

    "Listening to the electorate" may help you win elections but it doesn't "work" in cases like legislation which increases poverty.

    1. In the 90s, poverty didn't increase- the general improvement in the economy was big enough. No argument it was a bad bill.

      This was actually worse because the UK government is "sovereign" in a way the US President isn't.

  14. Surly the answer is to find out what the 76% of the electorate who did not vote or did not vote Tory , want. Why the young are not voting since they are the group who are being affected most by these neo-liberal policies.
    Why the baby boomers have become so selfish (BTL, triple locked pensions , unrepeatable occupational pensions etc) that they
    are selling their grand children down the river, so they can have a few years of comfort at their expense and being scared into voting Tory.
    Both the Liberal and Labour fought a poor campaign because they are fire fighting on a Tory agenda.
    Just welfare reform , free university education, a serious attempt to build 500k houses , for a couple of years at least , a serious attempt to curb the stupidity of the City of London, and to provide a new type of banking that supports business development and real wealth creation, not spiving and speculation, serious control of the rentier tendency in the "privatized" ex-utilities, re-integration of the railways, a rise in corporation tax, a better model for the BBC to free it from political influence, and serious reform of press ownership, and redress for the public against the press.
    I could go on there is plenty for the Lib & Lab to go with , but they must go at it with the interests of all wider society , not just against the poor , who as Jesus said are always with us, and did not cause 2007-8 or run up 700 trillion worth of worthless derivatives.
    Remember the lesson of history "when its dark enough you can see the stars".

  15. At least the govt is consequential:
    It wants to increase control of the internet etc bc it knows there's social unrest ahead. What Britain saw these last years was just the very beginning...hope you'll realize that before it's too late.

  16. Simon, no question that this abstention was awful. But Cooper and Burnham were in the Shadow Cabinet and bound by that. They've both attacked the Bill. When one of them, as is virtually certain, wins the leadership, they'll be in charge and not be bound by the interim leader going off the deep end.

    Sure, Burnham made an arse of himself by talking up his potential rebellion.

    1. I think this shows terrible political judgement if you are trying to become leader, and plays into Corbyn's hands.

    2. So Burnham ought to have walked out of the Shadow Cabinet? Then, when leader, told everybody else that they're going to have to go along with stuff that they don't like for the sake of the team like he just hadn't?

    3. No, he could have waited for HH to sack him. What chance of that? If not that, then indeed walk out of the Shadow Cabinet on a matter of principle. Sure it might have caused him the odd difficulty later on, but it would have done him a huge amount of good in the leadership election.

    4. People voting understand how being in the Shadow Cabinet works, surely. You don't know that it would have helped him anyway. There'll have been times when others swallowed their pride to help him out in his years in the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet. That could have exploded before the election. Cooper would say "I took one for the team but I will change the policy" and that would appeal to lots of people.

  17. “The truth is the Tories do not have to cut £12bn from welfare: they are choosing to. The Liberal Democrats will always stand up for families. We will not let the Conservatives, through choice, and the Labour party, through silence, unpick our welfare system."

    The truth is that they aren't cutting £12bn from welfare at all.

    The Osborne trick is to talk up cuts then overspend, and tell people like Farron they were "crying wolf".

    Not to say the cuts aren't bad and unnecessary, but at least be clear on what Osborne does.

  18. “Nearly 50 Labour MPs have defied their leadership and opposed our welfare reforms which will move our country from a low wage, high tax and high welfare economy to a higher wage, lower tax and lower welfare society.” --Iain Duncan Smith

    At least the Tories are being honest about the purpose (economic welfare minimisation) of their policies now.

  19. Many people seem dedicated to misinterpreting the election result. (And why the polls got it wrong.)
    What the best statistical analyses so far show is that Generation Homeowner (with a bit overlap to Generation Pensioner) came out to vote in greater numbers than in 2010. Generation Rent (and younger) showed a lower turnout than in 2010.

    Given that we already know the Tory/Labour split in those generations, the election is explained.

    Osborne knows this too. This is why he's happy to punish Generation Rent (and younger) and bribe pensioners and homeowners. Said Tory majority generations will be 5 years older by next election. There is no policy mix that Labour can offer to out bribe Osborne - because if they offer more, they will be criticised for "low economic credibility" promises.

    The only route to a Labour victory has to come through re-vitalising the Generation Rent and younger voters, to get greater turnout. (Lower turnout came I suspect because their hopes were dashed on the rocky reef on Nick Clegg's inability to see the damage that going back on a clear promise would do, along with sundry other LibDem coalition missteps...)

    Now I don't think Corbyn is actually the man to appeal to the young. But it needs to be understood that triangulating with Osborne is unlikely to do the job too.

    Anyone who comments on Labour's electability without addressing these fact needs to sit down and do some recalculating. And yes, that certainly includes SpinningHugo.

    1. Nice post - can you give reference to the statistical analysis? would be interested to see it as obviously very important if right.


      Has some source data.

  20. The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending Comfortable Myths About Poverty. A report from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.

  21. Welfare is a dog whistle word. In the US it is linked with race. Safety net child protection and nutrition are better . This what the Clinton team called triangulation and we ended up with GW Bush, the worst president in generations.

    If a political party loses its courage only grassroots activism can kick the leaders into gear or kick them out. Most politicians are risk averse. But as FDR told his supporters, if you want strong reforms push me.

    1. Blaming Bush on Clinton triangulation is a bit harsh.

      The Republicans hammered him in midterms as early as 1994.

  22. Ludger Schuknecht , Chief Economist of the German Federal Finance Ministry, replies to Piketty et al. open letter.

  23. This blog is just a discussion Forum for Labourites, with sometimes some Outsiders livening up the discussion.

    Where is the macroeconomics? It is true that what SWL propounds on the subject is usually not helpful. he is very good at giving it a bad Name.

  24. One thing I find disturbing about the position of Harman et al. is that they are fundamentally misunderstanding our electoral system.

    1. Labour are there as opposition. The clue's in the name.

    2. Labour MPs were voted in as Labour MPs, even with Miliband's shift left. Those are the views they should be representing - the Tory seats already have their MPs.

    3. Only about 35 pc of people nationwide voted Tory i.e. for Osborne's brand of austerity. Waving it through is not representing the will of the general populus but of that minority (again, already represented).

    About time for PR.

  25. The poor, especially poor children, are the margin, the first to be pushed overboard as the money necessary to fund the essential functions of society is plundered from the people, and goes instead to line the nests of the wealthy. Everything in this bill is part and parcel of the accelerating transfer of income and wealth from the workers to the 1%.

    In the US, it is the African-Americans who are the canaries in the coal mine.

    Many of those who fail to grasp the problem with increased inequality of income are, or soon will be, living the consequences. Just because you are in the top 20%, or the top 10%, if you are not in the top- oh, maybe 5%, the water will eventually rise above your head. The only reason it has not yet is because those below you have not yet been rendered destitute, and you also yet benefit from the processes the wealthy use to extract money and impoverish them. For you also stand upon the income and labor of the poor, and when they go under, you will be next.

    Going are the days when the wealthy actually contribute to the wealth of society. Increasingly, they are merely collecting rent.

  26. Here's a thought Simon: Since 2005, the Tory vote went up by 4.5% of population, but abstentions came DOWN by 4.7%. It seems that there are very few real and NO net Tory votes for Labour to "win back". So the Liz Kendall and "Progress" campaign seems to be based upon a fantasy?

    Furthermore, since 1997, the Tory vote has increased by only 2.5% of the population, far less than the decrease in the Lib-Dem vote, the increase in the vote for "others", and the increase in abstentions. So really, Labour needs a strategy to win votes from "others" and abstentions, rather than from the Tories.

  27. So fewer abstentions, but Labour needs to concentrate on winning abstentions?

  28. Exactly. And a good comment above as well.

    The occupants of the bubble frequently mistake winning with ability. I'm waiting now for Spinning Hugo to shoot this down and say that winning is the only thing. But that is not the point. As your figures show, a dead donkey would have won the '97 election for Labour. Similarly, 2010 was always going to be difficult after the crash. And I suspect that David Miliband would have lost the election this year, mainly because it happened because of the collapse of the Lib Dem vote, not any position that Ed Miliband took, to the left or not.

    The current histrionics of the neo-Blairites and Harman are risible - Rawnsley's article likening Corbyn to Lenin was beyond parody. Corbyn is probably better as an opposition politician than a winning leader, if only because of style. But there's nothing in his politics that is exceptional, and at least he has policies. The neo-Blairites perfected the use of abstract nouns to represent everything and nothing. The discussion now is at a higher level of abstraction - we're not even allowed to think about the idea of policies.


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