This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Labour didn't deserve to win Crewe

Labour's horrendous defeat in Crewe on Thursday was not just a case of mid-term blues.

It represents a fundamental shift in the electorate's perception of the Government and the opposition.

If repeated in a General Election, the 18% swing from Labour to the Conservatives, would see over 200 Labour MPs lose their seats including some pretty safe places where the majorities are close to 15,000. This would put Labour in opposition for over a decade.

Labour ran a pretty distasteful campaign in Crewe. The focus on class to attack the Tory opponent was a big mistake. It seemed terribly dated and treated the voters with contempt. Where has the inclusive party of aspiration gone that won us three general elections in a row? I cannot believe Tony Blair would ever have allowed it.

Tamsin Gunwoody seemed like a feisty, 'switched on' candidate but she was facing an uphill struggle from the word go.

I was dismayed even more the next day when the Prime Minister, Hazel Blears and other Cabinet Ministers claimed it was all down to the economic situation. Undoubtedly, this is a concern for voters and it is making them anxious but I think its actually more simple than that:

They just don't like the Government at the moment and they especially don't like the Prime Minister.

No one in the Government seems to get this or if they do they are keeping schtum.

Brown is a bad communicator and lacks empathy. He damaged his own reputation irrevocably with the 10p tax rate and he seems incompetent. All of his problems can be traced back to the-election-that-never-was which has left a residual sense in the voters' minds that he puts politics before principle. An attack the Tories make which unfortunately rings true.

Crewe voters saw through the Labour baloney and made the right decision, sending a powerful signal to the Government.

More than that, Crewe represents a turning point. Barring a radical change of policy - and I mean radical not just tinkering with bits of legislation - or some sort of domestic or international crisis which the PM responds well to, things will not turn around for Labour in time for the next election.

I think its time we started to prepare for a Conservative Government.


Andrew said...

I think if more people were as frank and honest as your assessment of the situation, then all might not be lost.

Parris has it completely right in The Times today - there is nothing the Conservatives would like more than Brown to carry on for two more years.

So, what to do?

Firstly, I don't think the Labour party is beyond repair, and I agree with you that Brown is disliked to a greater extent than the party. Polls showed this would be the case over a year before Brown became PM, it became true, and will not change. Brown is a liability for Labour.

Secondly, if Brown goes now then we have our second consecutive unelected PM. I think people overestimate the problems that this, in itself, will cause. People don't like Brown - and I think replacing him will generally be seen as the right thing to do.

Thirdly, people worry there is no natural successor within the Labour party. So what? Someone will fresh will emerge - like David Cameron did. A proper, healthy debate would be good for Labour (in the long term). And anyway, Brown is the perfect example of why having a natural successor is not necessarily a good thing.

It seems to me that Brown needs to go. In the short term, this will be painful for Labour. An election should be called in the new leader's honeymoon. The Tories will quite possibly still win BUT I think it would be to a lesser extent than in 2010 under Brown. Surely in the long term this has to be preferable to what I see as being an inevitable landslide defeat and a decade in the wilderness.

The problem with politics (or rather democracies) is that people can't see beyond the next election. There is no 'long term'.

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

Actually - just a thought... I didn't actually think that things could be any worse than they are, and will be, under Brown.

However, I don't know much about the internal systems of the Labour party, but in the event of a leadership election is the same procedure used for the party leader as for the deputy?

An equivalent of Harriet Harman sneaking through the back door and becoming Prime Minister by being nobody's preferred option is something that might make me reconsider the above post.

Labourer said...

It would be interesting to know what the removed post said al

Matt said...

I agree with most of this. I think.
But some points.
Its not all doom and gloom. the forecasts of a 300plus Tory majority are fantasy. That won't happen. However, unless things change, you can see Cameron with a 160 seat majority, no problem.
I am really strong on this next point - we can't change PM without going to the country. That's democracy. Simple as that. If we carried on with Miliband or even Purnell in charge we would deserve to be in opposition for a generation. It would be an arrogant dismissal of democracy and accountability for a new PM not to seek a mandate from the people. Everyone therefore needs to think the implications of this through.
The class campaign....
I remember a fringe meeting at the 2006 Party conference in Manchester and listening in growing despair to Brown's sidekick, Ian Austin MP, boasting about how vulnerable Cameron was going to be to an attack as an old Etonian, public schoolboy, blah blah. This was clearly going to be the future campaign strategy of the doe-eyed intellectual 'heavyweights' clustering around Brown, like sycophantic schoolboys.
I thought it was crude, insane, dangerous and arrogant at the time.
I could now cheerfully throttle Austin for his stupidity and being so out of touch.
Brown's cowardly attempt to distance himself from the failed 'toff tactic' in Crewe again raises questions about his leadership. He clearly authorised and probably personally formulated the strategy in the bunker with Austin and assorted giggling acolytes.
Now, the class war.
I think its fair enough to highlight someone's background who aspires to represent people - but it should never have been the entire plank of the campaign. (The candidate was clearly also not as vulnerable to the charge.)
It came across as such, because we could not talk proudly of the things Brown is going to do for people in Crewe - he can't even articulate those himself.
There is a deep vacuum at the heart of the government.
There is also a vacuum at the heart of the Labour Party.
It pains me to admit this.
Aside from the economic concern and the incompetence and personal dislike of Gordon, people do not understand anymore what the party believes in, what it stands for, or what its vision is.
They do not know what Brown believes in either, obviously.
We have no story to tell about any of it.
So the voters turn away from us, like a third rate soap opera with no believable characters and no credible storyline.
We have no apparent ideology anymore - a terrible word in the Blair household, I know.
But that seem to me why the Party wa able to commit the gross and unforgiveable error of going xenophobic in Crewe.
My party slagging off Polish immigrant workers!
My Labour party?
MY party?
How dare they?
Do these people at the top not believe in anything anymore - like fairness and justice and freedom?
I think finding Labour's ideological roots is the key to reconnecting with voters.
From that may follow all the things we would expect from Labour - fairness, freedom, equality, opportunity, security, etc, etc.
This does not need to be couched in class war terms, for fear of frightening middle england, but a Labour politics which does not recognise that there still exists the 'haves and have nots' - and did not set out to reduce the gap between the two, would be simply unbelievable.
And we would deserve to be in opposition for a generation.
Until we rediscover our values - and strive to put them into practise...

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