Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

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Labour is still to win over disgruntled voters

It is badly written, overlong and unforgivably woolly. How seriously should politicians take Russell Brand’s Revolution? Very. ‘Are you happy with things the way they are?’ he asks. ‘Do you believe that things could change?’

What do we know about the next election? Not much, beyond the fact that whichever idiot wrote in the New Statesman that Labour would win the next election ‘very probably with a large majority’ should be barred from writing about politics in future. What? That was me? Well, what is clear is that not enough of the people who answer ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ to Brand’s questions are convinced that Labour is the answer.

What we do know, though, is that we will be five years through a period of fiscal retrenchment with no end in sight, an NHS struggling under growing demographic pressure, local government finances increasingly swallowed up by their social care obligations, and no one will have had a pay rise for over a decade. The government will still, barring a miracle, be hugely unpopular and the opposition may well still look unconvincing.

Against all that, the average 16 per cent poll rating for Nigel Farage’s party starts to look a little ordinary, the Greens’ occasional uptick in the polls from pure to partial irrelevance even more so, and the union’s survival with a mere 55 per cent of the vote looks positively rosy. Considering the circumstances, that the worst thing that has happened to the establishment is to be the inspiration for an indifferent polemic is a shock.

There is just one problem. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Green party will not sharpen its press operation, that the United Kingdom Independence party will continue to have an amateurish field operation or that the People’s Assembly will remain a social gathering, rather than a political movement. It is fairly unlikely, however, that none of these things will change.

That puts mainstream politicians, and Labour in particular, in the unlovely position of having to reply to the call of ‘What do we want?’ with ‘Evidence-based change subject to fiscal pressures and our international obligations.’

And if there is an irony for Ukip in that its success would confirm a wider European pattern of a populist right ushering the left back into office, there is also a warning for Ed Miliband in that, wherever the left has got back in, anti-system parties of the self-described left have not been far behind.

While much has changed, there is a great deal to suggest that David Cameron should not be written off lightly, and that Labour’s path to a majority appears rather more cluttered than it did this time last year, but my basic instinct – that Ukip is here to stay, making a Labour government, of some description, the most likely possibility – remains unchanged. But whether they be disillusioned Conservatives, floating Kippers, wantaway Greens or the fans of Russell Brand, that Labour looks somewhat unable to convince that it is a better vehicle for change than Brand, Farage or Alex Salmond should cause Miliband no small amount of concern.


Stephen Bush is a contributing editor to Progress


Photo: Esten Hurtle

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Stephen Bush

is a contributing editor to Progress, formerly wrote a weekly column for Progress, the Tuesday review, and tweets @stephenkb


  • Russell Brand related to Jo? Their invective denunciation, [big] tongue-lashings and brick-bats thrown at society in general seem to have a common, almost communal ring to them.

    To attack society is easy. To come up with solutions for the common good like *Ed Milband has, [without breaking bones and anarchy] takes common sense and a *good hearted intention.

    Fire[Brands] are ten a penny – the likes of Ed Miliband only come around once in a 100 years.

  • Brand is ignorant and dangerous. His supporters will say ‘Yeh, good thing – he’s dangerous to our sh*t system’ etc etc.
    Older people vote more. Apart from our own concern that they’re more likely to vote Tory, this means that to get elected, candidates should skew their positions towards the old – e.g. keeping free TV licences for the many well-off OAPs instead of giving more to schools, pre-schools, childcare, etc., which would help younger people.
    So not voting will harm the very people most likely to swallow his style without thinking about the content.

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