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

Friday, 2 May 2008

What Brown Must Do Now.

Last night was a truly disastrous night for Labour. There is no getting away from it. Even my own hometown of Bury near Manchester went Conservative, the first time this has happened since 1986. As a bellwether borough, which usually supports the party in power, that result should send a warning message to Labour HQ.
Only in Liverpool did Labour manage to give the LibDems a run for their money. They won new seats and exposed the shoddy internal workings of the Council. Labour would be in control now if an Independent hadn't defected to the LibDems at the last minute. Alas, it wasn't to be. Next time though.
But up and down the country things were bad. This is what Brown needs to do now:
1) A complete mea culpa. Listen and Apologise. Don't panic by reshuffling the Cabinet though.
2) Act. It is not enough to say we have listened and learned. This is what Blair said after the last General Election. Instead, we need to act. This means changing the policies and moving the government in a new direction.
3) Policies*. We need to show that we are on the side of every hardworking family in the country. We need a message of fairness that resonates with voters. Fairness when it comes to public services, fairness when it comes to taxation, fairness when it comes to immigration. We need to give people a reason to vote for us. By adopting a platform of fairness we can distinguish ourselves from the Tories.
4) Other Cabinet Ministers need to step up. Where has Hazel Blears gone? What is Hilary Benn doing? Why has Alan Johnson gone quiet? The Cabinet needs to rally round. Nobody has mentioned "renewal" for a long time, but this is exactly what needs to happen. MIlburn and Clarke do actually have some good ideas. They need to be used.
5) Expose the Tories. Their sums don't add up. They are divided over Europe, ID Cards and 42 Day detention. Start attacking them. Brown made a good job of this at the last PMQs by referring to Cameron as a "shallow salesman." We need more of this. Go after Michael Ashcroft. Do this now.
6) Morale. Labour Party members feel let down and fed up. The PLP has effectively given up. If a momentum builds up that 'we are all doomed' and fighting the Tories is pointless, then we really do deserve to lose the next election. Throw us a bone Brown. Reassure us, remind us why we like you.
7) A water-cooler moment. We need one big idea over the next 12 months that will capture people's attention. The Tories have inheritance tax and stamp duty. We need to find our own. Something that people will talk about in the office the next morning and something that chimes with Labour values. It could be about the environment, child poverty or the public services.
8) Look after the economy. Don't cock it up.
*My idea - Bring back school nurses. A full time nurse for every primary school in the country should be a top priority going into the next election. It shows we are serious about preventative health and serious about our children's welfare. They would educate kids, deal with family medical emergencies and spot medical problems before they emerge. They would play a serious role and I think be a real vote winner.


Bryan said...

I watched Brown on the Andrew Marr show this morning and the most improbable sense of optimism came over me (although I must confess it was not because of Brown’s absent uplifting rhetoric or much needed humility). Maybe, I thought to myself, just maybe this is what Brown's outfit have needed to happen for them and him to change their ways. With the Papers already declaring Brown dead on arrival it is clear to all that things could not get much worse – although, perhaps i should wait till the results of next months by-election before asserting a final diagnosis – But, with Brown’s premiership in such doubt and Labour’s chances of a forth term seemingly beyond reach, Brown now has the chance to really change, and conversely, turn things around – and he would do well by adopting some of your suggestions. For me it seems a clear message is absolutely crucial. People need to me reminded of what Labour stands and will work tirelessly towards. 'Opportunities' as Brown mentioned this morning, and 'Fairness' as you quite rightly noted.

I want every Labour MP to have croaky voices from banging on about the government’s credible polices that are steeped in these two guiding principles. I hope two years is going to me a long time.

Patrick said...

When we haven't got enough fully qualified teachers in the classroom or nurses on the ward, do you not think the concept of school nurses is slightly taking the piss?

Patrick said...

For what its worth, I think Bryan's point above about Crewe and Nantwich is an important one. If Labour manage to hang on then this will certainly halt the Tory bandwagon, and probably provide more than merely a stay of execution for Brown. A Labour victory would provide an excellent launch pad on which to begin their strategy to win back to British public and to win the next election.

Of course, the IF is that Labour might very well lose, and the BUT is that there appears to be absolutely no evidence of any long-term strategy being formulated or applied

Tony Parrish said...

Good post - i agree with a lot of it too. But my main point is this - I have absolutely no idea what Brown believes in. All this stuff about narrative is right. He has no story. At all. Seems once he fulfilled a lifelong ambition to clamber over Blair's body and get into No 10 he ran out of ideas and belief. He had nowhere else to go. And after all the years of spin, we were ready for a crusade on something, anything at least. He does not have an ounce of authenticity in him. Watching him on the telly is like being a by-stander at a slow motion car crah. It is excruciating. WE don't trust him after what happened with Blair and his over-arching ambition - why should the voters trust him? It plays to all this dreadful cynicism about politicians all being in it for themselves. Brown is. Palbably. And the people around him are brainless fools. Parrotting the Cameron is from Eton rubbish. That's not going to get us very far at all. They have just voted for Boris, after all!
You talk about where is the Cabinet - you only ask because, like me, you know Brown does not have the weight or the cred on his own. He needs to be seen as part of a competent team. Trouble is they don't appear half-competent. There is no way we will win Crewe. The voters have scented blood now and they will kick him very badly.
People have been asking whats the big idea? since Kinnock. New Labour did it for a while. Fairness is right now - but that means, amongst other things, an attack on the city fat cats, which he won't do because he is terrified of being portrayed as old Labour. The fool. He reads it all wrong, every time. He should do something about agency workers too - its a bloody disgrace in this day and age and would be hugely symbolic. But he won't. He lacks political courage - always has done and always will and is now paralysed. Whatever happened to Labour' contempt for quangos - all forgotten now. We have created more of them! Unaccountable NHS.
My advice is to bugger off to the States where there is the prospect of a politician being elected who actually believes in something. And I am not talking about Hillary. Obamas campaign captures the zeitgeist and will be copied and plundered by every second rate no-mark under the sun. But you can't beat the real deal. and Barack is the real deal. I shall take comfort in America moving in the right direction at least. If McCain wins, I am disappearing to Vietnam.