Rock bottom?

The Labour party needs to ask itself why it would be invented if it did not exist, writes Peter Kellner

Perhaps the real surprise about this year’s election is not that Labour lost, but that it retained the support of one in three voters in England and Wales

In the end, the fundamentals asserted themselves. No party for eight decades had won more votes than the government at the first election after losing power. None had won when it lagged the government on both leadership and economic competence. And no opposition had won an election without being at least 20 per cent ahead in the polls in midterm (Labour never came close to that between 2010 and 2015).

To some extent, therefore, Labour’s defeat should have come as no surprise; and perhaps it would not have done so had all 11 eve-of-election polls not pointed to a neck-and-neck outcome.

However, it is not enough to say that this year’s election simply confirmed the lessons of history. The Conservative victory was predictable, but not inevitable. Living standards for most people were no higher than in 2010. The Conservative brand remained tainted, for the party was still seen as a party of and for the rich, out of touch with ordinary voters and their lives.

That is not all. While the coalition was widely praised for reviving the economy and reducing the deficit, most voters failed it on virtually every other front: immigration, health, education, crime and housing. David Cameron now leads a Conservative-only administration not because he and his party are loved, but because, on election day, too many people feared to remove them.

Labour’s central failing was its inability to replace that fear with a credible vision of a better future. It had been defeated in 2010 having been blamed for the recession and banking crisis of 2008-9, and never exorcised its reputation for screwing up the economy. Three YouGov findings during this year’s election campaign underlined the failure. First, by two to one (58-30 per cent) voters agreed that ‘Labour still haven’t faced up to the damage they did to the British economy’. Second, more people blamed Labour (38 per cent) than the coalition (32 per cent) ‘for the current public spending cuts’ – even after five years of George Osborne’s austerity measures. (A further 16 per cent blamed both equally, meaning that a total of 54 per cent ascribed at least half the blame to Labour). And, finally, the Conservatives were seen as more likely than Labour to be ‘good for the people who work for big business’, by 56-28 per cent. When Labour is thought to be bad for both business and workers, it is in trouble.

Ed Miliband’s personal ratings plainly did not help. He lagged Cameron consistently as Britain’s preferred prime minister, and, even though his ratings rose during the election campaign, few people regarded him as strong, decisive or a natural leader. Only one in five voters thought he was ‘up to the job’ of prime minister. To the extent that a general election campaign is a semi-presidential contest, a leader’s reputation matters. Without doubt, Miliband was a drag on Labour’s support.

However, he should not shoulder all the blame. He inherited a party that had lost the public’s trust. To make things even tougher, while Labour spent four months deciding who its post-2010 leader should be the Conservatives were left unchallenged when they said, time and again, that they had inherited an economic mess. By the time Miliband was crowned leader, Labour’s responsibility for the weakness of government finances was fixed in the mind of the electorate.

In those circumstances, any leader would have struggled to lead it back to power after a single term in opposition. We can debate whether his brother, David, would have done better. Indeed, the central argument five years ago is the same as that facing the party this summer: whether it should be led from the centre or from a little further to the left. But this debate goes wider than the specific qualities of the leader. It goes to the heart of the purpose of the party in the 21st century.

Here, I believe, is where Labour’s basic problem lies. In the decades after the second world war, it rode the tide of history: strong nation-states, massive public support for collective welfare, big trade unions organising millions of manual workers in secure jobs, a clear ideological identity that much of the electorate embraced. The cost of the great social democratic causes – free healthcare, free education and universal social protection – crept up but for many years remained affordable.

None of those conditions now apply. The total cost of health, education and welfare has jumped from 11 per cent of GDP six decades ago to 28 per cent today. Nation-states are limited by global forces: not simply by the formal powers of bodies such as the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, but by the broader impact of trade, financial flows, multinational companies and modern technology. Unless we wish to emulate North Korea, future British governments will have limited room to, for example, levy higher taxes to fund social spending.

Meanwhile, the old industrial jobs have largely gone, and our trade unions have shrunk and largely vacated the private sector. Perhaps most troubling of all for a progressive party, politics itself commands much less respect. In 1945, Clement Attlee defeated Winston Churchill because Labour represented the spirit of the war years: a nation pulling together for the good of all. Today’s world is far better suited to the Conservative impulses of lower taxes, mobile and flexible markets for capital and labour, self-reliance, atomised lives and ever-expanding consumer choice. As important, a party that professes a faith in smaller government suffers less when the public loses faith in politicians of all stripes.

Labour’s big task is to make itself relevant to that world. Tony Blair understood this and won three elections. I think Miliband also understood it but was unable to construct a compelling narrative. In the end, he came across as a man seeking to revive a failed past rather than build a credible future.

One part of Labour’s challenge, then, is to place itself on the side of history rather than turn the clock back: to show how prosperity, fairness and security can be achieved in an open, flexible, rapidly changing world without raising taxes that hurt middle-income families or drive away investors.

That is a huge undertaking; but it is not all. Paradoxically, the left should be alarmed rather than cheered by the fact that the Conservative brand remains tainted. The most devastating fact about the general election for Labour (or maybe the second most devastating fact, after its collapse in Scotland) is that the Tories achieved an overall majority despite being seen as a party for the rich with little concern for ordinary voters.

Cameron now has five years with, in all probability, a growing economy, to repair his party’s reputation. He is also likely to secure boundary changes that will favour the Conservatives. One way for Labour to challenge for power in 2020 is to ask this question: If the party did not exist, and were to be invented from scratch, what would it look like? What would be its purpose, its structure and its programme? Who would be its allies – and its enemies? How much would it look like today’s party?

If those questions do not provoke enough discomfort, here is the kicker. Why should we think that Labour has hit rock bottom? Perhaps the real surprise about this year’s election is not that Labour lost, but that it retained the support of one in three voters in England and Wales. Its vote could go lower. Indeed, without change, it probably will. Just look at what has happened in recent years to support for Labour’s sister parties in France, Germany, Greece and Spain. And look, now, at what has happened in Scotland. Labour has no automatic right to prosper, or even survive. We have been warned.

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Peter Kellner is president of YouGov

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Photo: Tom Page

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Comments: 59...

  1. On June 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm Teddy Groves responded with... #

    “Unless we wish to emulate North Korea, future British governments will have limited room to, for example, levy higher taxes to fund social spending.”

    This is a very odd thing to say. Consider all of the rich European countries which have proportionately higher taxes than the UK: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_revenue_as_percentage_of_GDP)

    They also have to deal with the EU, IMF, trade, modern technology etc but apart from Italy they are all somehow richer than us and getting richer faster:
    https://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:FRA:GBR:DEU:AUT:DNK:BEL:SWE:ITA:ISL:NLD:FIN&ifdim=region&tstart=644454000000&tend=1370300400000&hl=en&dl=en&ind=false

    So it’s clearly possible for countries like ours to have higher taxes without everyone getting poorer. It’s just that our rulers don’t want to do it.

    • On June 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm robertsonjames responded with... #

      Or that our voters don’t, which is rather different and much more pertinent to thinking about where Labour goes from here. If Labour wants to lose again in 2020, just keep promising the British electorate more freebies paid for by someone else (when they are well able to figure out that they can see who that “someone else” will be whenever they look in the mirror).

      • On June 4, 2015 at 12:25 pm Teddy Groves responded with... #

        Actually there is clear public support for higher taxes: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/16/poll-raise-taxes-nhs-funding
        https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/01/28/majority-support-50p-tax/
        http://www.localgov.co.uk/Poll-shows-public-support-for-extra-council-tax-band/38432

        But that wasn’t the author’s point – as a polling expert he presumably knows that higher taxes are popular so instead made a half-baked economics-based case for Labour doing what he wants it to do.

        • On June 4, 2015 at 2:07 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

          When it comes down to tacks, there is always public support for higher taxes on other people.

          This may yet be the saving of Labour. It might go as follows.

          – First Labour must stress that 86% of Scotland votes for leftist parties.
          – 86% does so because ” there is clear public support for higher taxes” – on people in England, to subsidise Scotland.
          – This cannot continue if Scotland leaves the union.
          – If Scotland is staying in the union, it matters little which spendthrift leftist party it elects.
          – But electing the SNP tends to frighten the English (as it should) who then vote in the Tories.
          – So the way back for Labour is to stress that it is unionist because that’s the Scots’ path to other people’s money.
          – The Scots then vote Labour again.
          – Once they need no longer fear being robbed by the SNP, the English can safely vote Labour again as well.

          The problem with this, for Labour, is that it involves owning up to the base emotions and motives that actually fire you. “We are a party for tapeworm”, you must admit, “and the colon we intend to attach to is the rich English colon. If you are not rich or English, vote Labour for other people’s money.”

          Your narcissism will struggle with this “offer”, but let’s face it, this is how you’re perceived anyway, so you may as well own it.

        • On June 4, 2015 at 6:33 pm robertsonjames responded with... #

          I had hoped that the election would have deterred anyone from attempting to devise Labour’s recovery strategy based on citing what sample respondents clearly feel they should say to an opinion pollster rather than what the voting population as a whole will actually endorse in the privacy of the polling booth.

          Evidently I was wrong.

        • On June 9, 2015 at 8:44 am Doctor Mick responded with... #

          And polls are never wrong.

        • On June 9, 2015 at 10:58 am sungeipatani responded with... #

          Higher taxes are always popular with those who don’t have to pay them.

      • On June 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm Bluegray responded with... #

        “Other people’s money” – who generates that money? If the overpaid chief executive quit today, how long before any customers will notice, and how long before the profits would be affected? Workers generate that profit and that money, and modern capitalism has successfully rolled back the workers share of the profit/wealth generated, to the point where we are back at Victorian levels.

    • On June 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

      You’ve confused “GDP per capita” with “rich”, which is a bit like confusing porridge with adjectives.

      • On June 4, 2015 at 7:24 pm John McCormack responded with... #

        Please explain your comment.

        • On June 9, 2015 at 9:18 am Peter Grimes responded with... #

          It is probably something to do with the idiot Leftist proposition that GDP per capita was higher under Brown’s misrule than it has been recently. They conveniently forget that GDP was inflated by Brown’s ‘boom’ and duplicitously attribute the drop since to the Tories. GDP per capita is not helped, of course, by the continuing influx of economic immigrants, a process put on the fast track by none other than……

          Labour.

          • On June 9, 2015 at 8:00 pm Alexsandr responded with... #

            any idiot government can create a growth in GDP by reckless borrowing, private and public. trouble is the lenders start to worry about payback time, and credit becomes harder and you have a correction, and that hurts.

          • On June 10, 2015 at 9:41 am Justice4Rinka responded with... #

            Labour didn’t give a shit about any of that. They ran up the debt because it dumps the problem on the unborn, who don’t have a vote.

            Labour = evil, pure filth.

    • On June 9, 2015 at 9:34 am starfish responded with... #

      All that chart says is that the three largest economies in the EU have roughly the same GDP per capita

      • On June 9, 2015 at 10:19 am A Free Man responded with... #

        Or rather they did do at the end of 2012 when measured in dollar terms when the euro was considerably stronger and inflated the GDP/Cap

    • On June 9, 2015 at 12:23 pm Eric Priezkalns responded with... #

      I applaud you for sharing data instead of trying to win an economic argument with pure rhetoric. However, there are a few problems with relying on the data you have presented.

      It is true that there are rich European countries which have higher taxes than the UK. However, it is not obvious if this is cause or effect. It’s possible to argue that the rich countries feel able to be more generous towards social policy, and hence levy higher taxes. This would be the converse of the argument that higher taxes lead to increased investment and economic growth.

      You fail to mention some countries with very high taxes (per the Wikipedia page you cite) that aren’t doing well economically, such as Zimbabwe, Cuba and France. The latter is also a good example of what is unhelpful about the graph you present. It would be unfair to expect a poor country like Zimbabwe to overtake lots of other countries and rapidly climb the world league. But it’s also unfair to suggest that Britain is doing badly based on its position in this graph. If you look at it carefully, you see Britain’s proportional improvement in GDP per capita is superior to most of the other countries shown. Britain had a 124% increase in GDP per capita over the range you chose, whilst Sweden had a 100% increase and France had just a 95% increase. So contrary to what you state, these other countries are not “getting richer faster”.

      If you wanted to show the rate at which countries ‘get richer’, than a much fairer graph would have shown the GDP per capita growth: https://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:FRA:GBR:DEU:AUT:DNK:BEL:SWE:ITA:ISL:NLD:FIN&ifdim=region&tstart=644454000000&tend=1370300400000&hl=en&dl=en&ind=false#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_kd_zg&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:FRA:GBR:DEU:AUT:DNK:BEL:SWE:ITA:ISL:NLD:FIN:USA&ifdim=region&tstart=644454000000&tend=1370300400000&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

      I’m intrigued that you omitted the USA from your examples. During the election campaign, a very famous American economist wrote a long article for the Guardian, lecturing the British public about how Obama and the American left were correct about economics, whilst Cameron and the British right were lying fools. But if that economist had presented data like yours, he would have shown that the US government takes a lot less tax than European governments do (just 26.9% of GDP, per the Wikipedia page you cite) but has enjoyed robust economic growth over the range you cited (a 121% rise in GDP per capita), leaving it above the GDP per capita of most of these European countries.

      Finally, there is an error in one of the links you shared. The fact that nobody else has mentioned it probably means the average reader of your comment doesn’t give a fuck about data, and if they upvote you, it’s because your conclusion supports their prejudices.

      • On June 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm Teddy Groves responded with... #

        Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!

        I agree that the graph doesn’t show that higher taxes cause higher GDP per capita. I posted the graph in order to dispute the author’s causal claim that higher taxes would make the uk poorer. Actually, as the graph shows, in many similar countries to the uk higher taxes coexist with higher wealth. The author’s claim that this is impossible in the present uk context is therefore very implausible – it must involve some mysterious and crucial way in which the uk is different from all those similar countries. The author doesn’t explain what the unique feature of the present uk context might be, so I suspect that he “just knows” that the uk shouldn’t put up taxes, as opposed to having any particularly good reason why this might be the case.

        I chose this bunch of countries because (as I say above) they are “all the rich European countries which have proportionately higher taxes than the uk”. They are similar to the UK, which is also a rich European country. They include France, which you will see currently has slightly higher and faster rising GDP per capita than the uk. Countries like Zimbabwe and Cuba are very dissimilar from the UK and so are less relevant to the question of what would happen if the UK put up taxes. I agree with you that the example of the USA shows that low taxes are compatible with high wealth (at least for countries with global empires). However this also isn’t relevant – the question is whether +high+ taxes are compatible with high wealth.

        The point about “getting richer faster” was based on the gradient of the lines in the furthest square to the right. As you will see, the uk has just about the shallowest gradient, indicating that GDP per capita is currently rising faster in the other countries. I think this is a fairly good proxy for “getting richer faster” – definitely better than percent change since 1990. However since the graph you posted shows that this is not how the world bank measures change in GDP per capita growth (they use a mixture between local currency and 2005 US dollars for some reason: http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/metadataview.aspx) and that this makes a big difference perhaps I should have left this point out.

        Thanks for pointing out the broken link!

        • On June 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm Eric Priezkalns responded with... #

          Whilst we can disagree about conclusions, I’m grateful that you went to the trouble to present actual data. It beggars belief that people feel they can have a positive influence by reducing important economic questions to arguments about slogans and irrational feelings.

          I thought you might say that the slope of the lines during the last few years shows the UK is doing relatively poorly. I don’t dispute that, but I’m not sure we can usefully analyse the relationship between taxes and growth over such a short period. If anything, I threw in the US example because their long-run growth has been pretty similar to that seen in the richest European countries, though their policies have been radically different. This begs the question of whether the impact of government policies is greatly exaggerated. The importance of factors outside of government control, such as growth in countries we have a trading relationship with, may outweigh all but the most radical/disastrous economic policies. And yet, there are people on both left and right who refuse to countenance such claims.

          To be honest, I also thought about the difference made to the GDP if measured in terms of purchasing power or different currencies, but I decided it wasn’t worth mentioning. I’m vaguely sympathetic to your point that maybe taxes could go up because it wouldn’t make much difference. But maybe all of this historic data is invalid because it belonged to an unrepresentative bubble in world history, where the national debts of rich nations weren’t a significant drag on growth. Maybe that will change as more nations catch up with the richest, giving lenders a much greater range of ‘safe’ investment choices.

          I assume there is some point where the debt is so large that it will impact growth, but there will inevitably be lots of (inconclusive) argument about the relationship between those variables. Kellner may believe that rich economies have reached the point where increased debt would have an adverse impact on growth, but he framed his point about taxes, not debt. For myself, I’m less bothered about the split between private and public expenditure (and hence how much is taken in tax) than the overall indebtedness of the country (including both private and public debt) and whether private individuals might compensate for dissatisfaction with slow growth of their private wealth by borrowing more aggressively (hence the housing bubble). But that’s a different argument… and I don’t have the data to hand…

    • On June 9, 2015 at 5:38 pm Ringstone responded with... #

      I think he’s referring to the fact that under the “Juche” policy North Korea is as good an example of autarchy, a self sufficient and closed economy, as you’re going to get in principle – the fact that it’s actually an aid dependent car crash notwithstanding. External factors such as exchange rates, tax competition and capital flows do not disturb whatever tax or economic policies an autarchy may choose to set as they are totally insulated from the outside world.

    • On June 9, 2015 at 7:22 pm lojolondon responded with... #

      I wonder where you found that old chart – UK being the fastest growing major economy in the world for the last couple of years ring any bells??

  2. On June 4, 2015 at 1:51 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

    Oh dear. Where to start with this, really?

    Living standards for most people were no higher than in 2010.
    – which was blamed, rightly, on Labour, for having wrecked the economy again. Not a hit to the Tories.

    The Conservative brand remained tainted, for the party was still seen as a party of and for the rich
    This rather spiteful little attack line doesn’t actually resonate as much as you think. Consider this: Jimmy Savile voted Labour, Jimmy Savile was a paedophile, therefore Labour is a party of and for paedophiles. Does that resonate? Of course not, it would be a spiteful lie.

    The fact is that the Conservatives are seen as the party of those who want to work hard and keep the rewards of that work. This tends to include, not unexpectedly, “the rich” – people who have worked hard and have accumulated stuff they expect to keep. Most people want to be of that demographic, whereas Labour, even now, gives the impression of being the franchise for envious, bitter, entitled losers. All the stuff about housing, for instance – 20somethings demanding they be given stuff that people in their 50s have spent decades accumulating. Nasty, nasty, nasty.

    First, by two to one (58-30 per cent) voters agreed that ‘Labour still haven’t faced up to the damage they did to the British economy’. Second, more people blamed Labour (38 per cent) than the coalition (32 per cent) ‘for the current public spending cuts’
    – So the electorate is much, much more astute than you hoped, eh, Peter? That’s going to be a problem.

    the Conservatives were left unchallenged when they said, time and again, that they had inherited an economic mess.</i?
    – You honestly think that was the first point at which the electorate had thought about this? You think Labour lost for some other reason than this in 2010? You think this Conservative attack is inaccurate?
    Really?

    big trade unions organising millions of manual workers
    – You write that as though the work was somehow in consequence of the trade unions. This utter, abject, epic failure to understand that all wealth creation, since the beginning of history, has been created by capitalism is why you lost. You don’t actually understand wealth creation and you manifestly hate the creators.

    Tony Blair understood this and won three elections.
    – Of the last seven Labour leaders, only Blair, the lying bloodsoaked charlatan, has ever won elections. To state this fact is to state that that’s going to be another problem.

    If the party did not exist, and were to be invented from scratch, what would it look like?
    – There is certainly a franchise out there for bitter, envious people – I mean look at UKIP – but what’s less clear is whether there are enough such moral incompetents to win 326 seats.

    All in all, it’s a bad decade to be a tax-and-spend big-state envy monkey.

    • On June 5, 2015 at 2:22 am Sam responded with... #

      Interesting place for a Tory to comment… 😉

      • On June 5, 2015 at 10:10 am Justice4Rinka responded with... #

        A Tory is in an interesting place right now.

        There is not a country in the world that does not have a party of the left and of the right competing for power. I don’t count Scotland; it is mainly left-wing because it can afford to be – it has the English regions to milk for money. If that stopped it would be bankrupt in short order.

        Anyway – if either of these viewpoints falls into disarray, there’s the risk of an outbreak of very poor government, because the other party loses all fear of electoral defeat.

        1988 to 1990 was a case in point. Labour was patently unelectable under Kinnock, so Lawson and Major felt at liberty to make some appalling errors of judgement around ERM etc (all of which Kinnock agreed with at the time anyway).

        2003 to 2008 was the next obvious instance. You only lie to Parliament, accept bribes and bungs, invade Iraq and wreck the economy if you know you can get a 100-seat majority with 36% of the vote and a 3-point lead.

        The UK left is now split between the SNP and Labour. Labour would be the SNP’s bitches in any left coalition. The English won’t stand for this so the left may then become electorally ineffective for a decade or more. History teaches us that this is usually bad. A government at electoral liberty to screw up will do so.

        A reasonably benign outcome for the UK would be one in which a centre-right government like Cameron’s alternated with a centre-left one like Blair’s. The problem for the left with this is twofold. One, Blair was basically dishonest and it is ashamed of him, so anyone who advocates that Labour move back just to the left of centre gets tarnished with the Blair brush. Two, much of the left can’t actually see the point of being in power at all, if the precondition of getting there is to behave responsibly. That’s just not what the left is for.

        • On June 6, 2015 at 12:17 pm John McCormack responded with... #

          http://tinyurl.com/Justice4Rinka-Ignoring-Facts

        • On June 10, 2015 at 9:11 am Tom Bradley responded with... #

          ‘English regions’? Don’t you mean the English nation?

          • On June 10, 2015 at 9:21 am Justice4Rinka responded with... #

            Not really. Only a couple of regions in south-east England are net tax contributors. Everyone else takes out.

            ISTR reading a stat a few years ago to the effect that there are only ~25,000 net taxpayers in Scotland. Everyone else is either public sector (so paid out of taxes to begin with) or draws more in outright or top-up benefits than they pay in tax. High levels of violent crime too.

            Scotland is basically a third-world kleptocracy. Like Nigeria but without the sunshine. The SNP’s manifesto was just one long 419 letter to England.

          • On June 10, 2015 at 9:34 am Tom Bradley responded with... #

            The point I was making is that England is a nation, not a bunch of ersatz regions that nobody outside the political classes relates to. If you meant that a small part of England’s population has to carry a large part of England’s, and the Divided Kingdom’s, population, you should have said so.

          • On June 10, 2015 at 9:38 am Justice4Rinka responded with... #

            None of which is relevant from the point I was making which is that Scotland is a ponce nation that lives off England and won’t survive without it.

            Reason enough to cut the Scottish tapeworm away.

          • On June 10, 2015 at 5:27 pm Heidstaethefire responded with... #

            Do you imagine that public sector workers DON’T pay tax?

          • On June 10, 2015 at 10:11 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

            Of course they don’t. Their salaries are funded entirely out of the taxes levied on other people.

            If I give you £100 and you give me £20 back have you earned your keep?

          • On June 10, 2015 at 10:24 pm Heidstaethefire responded with... #

            You would need to be economically illiterate to believe that.

          • On June 11, 2015 at 9:10 am Justice4Rinka responded with... #

            God knows being economically illiterate has never been a bar to getting ahead in the Labour Party, as all its previous chancellors can testify.

            I’ll make it simpler for you then.

            A private sector employee earns £100. The state takes £40 off him in tax. It gives it all to a public sector employee who pays £16 on tax. The state takes the £16 and gives it all to a public sector employee who pays £6.40 in tax.

            Questions.

            1/ Who in the above actually contributes any tax?

            2/ If the private sector employee ceases to pay tax, how much money would

            a/ the state
            b/ the public sector employees

            now have?

            Now figure out where England and Scotland fit into that.

          • On June 14, 2015 at 6:28 pm Heidstaethefire responded with... #

            As I said, economically illiterate.
            Firstly, they’re all paying tax.
            Secondly, you’re creating a false dichotomy between private and public sector workers. Many “private” sector firms get their work from public sector sources. Everybody in the country needs public services like education, health, law ‘n order, otherwise civil society breaks down. It also misses out completely the third sector.
            Your example is a simple minded contribution from somebody who no doubt uses phrases like “….it stands to reason…”, or “….it’s as simple as that.”

          • On June 14, 2015 at 11:36 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

            Evasion noted.

            The public sector pays no tax. Glad we’ve got that straight.

          • On June 15, 2015 at 1:10 am Heidstaethefire responded with... #

            You are Nigel Farrago, and I claim my ten pounds!

      • On June 9, 2015 at 5:23 pm Ringstone responded with... #

        Know your enemy.

    • On June 8, 2015 at 9:09 pm Cherries2009 responded with... #

      Savile was Labour? I doubt that, he supported Thatcher and was probably a Tory.

  3. On June 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm John McCormack responded with... #

    You have made some really insightful comments here and I thank you for them.

  4. On June 9, 2015 at 8:52 am misomiso responded with... #

    Really interesting article Peter.

    The uncomfortable truth is that if Labour were being invented now, it be UKIP. The EU allows massive tax evasion, imports huge amounts of Labour to Britain that undercuts wages, and is fundamentally undemocratic.

    The Left has always been pro EU because they believe it splits the Right, but in truth they’ve completely abandoned their principles and the least well off for their European Nationalism.

    The Truth hurts sometimes.

    • On June 9, 2015 at 10:59 am Always_Worth_Saying responded with... #

      The left were always anti-EU as they say it as a huge conspuracy by the bosses to control markets continent wide to the detriment of the unions. I’m not quite sure why Labour became pro-EU. Mass immigration of proletarian types?

      • On June 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm lojolondon responded with... #

        Labour became pro-EU because they are all Oxbridge, don’t care about British people, and enjoy having a (cheap) Spanish nanny, a (cheap) Polish builder and a (cheap) Kebab shop. They do not have to send their kids to school with 50% of the class not speaking English, nor compete for housing with thousands of new arrivals, etc., etc.

  5. On June 9, 2015 at 9:26 am Peter Grimes responded with... #

    Mr Baroness Ashton suggests that the liar Blair made Labour relevant to a world of smaller government and that this appealed to the electorate. With the ability of hindsight everyone can now see that Blair lied, and many Labour supporters claim to be appalled by this. MiniMili and his team of chimps continued this approach.

    What’s the betting that whatever they might say now Labour’s next ‘leader’ will follow the same lying course?

    • On June 9, 2015 at 10:26 am MrJones responded with... #

      Blair surfed on the credit bubble 1998-2–8 that led to the crash, there’s nothing more to Blair’s success than that.

      • On June 9, 2015 at 12:44 pm Bluegray responded with... #

        Conservative governments have also surfed credit bubbles, in the 1970s and the 1980s and the 1990s – remember negative equity? The problem became a bigger one (i.e. more risky) thanks to the insane recklessness of the banks and financial institutions. Blair/Brown were guilty of not seeing this coming, but then so were most economists and political commentators. Indeed the Conservatives were banking on about there being too much financial regulation right up to 2007.

        • On June 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

          Too much of the wrong kind, yes, and thanks to Yerp there still is.

          Here’s an analogy. You are a landlord. You own and let out houses all of which are made entirely of wood, and all heated by coal and electric bar fires.

          The local council has no policies or requirements that rented houses be fire safe or have fire escapes. It does, however, have detailed and exhaustive checks it makes of whether you have sorted your rubbish into the correct bin.

          The Tories say there should be less of this kind of bin regulation. They also warned you, in 1997, that it was a bad idea to scrap their fire regulations.

          Do you agree with the Tories, or would you say the focus and effects of your regulation were about right?

  6. On June 9, 2015 at 10:39 am EppingBlogger responded with... #

    References to “nation states” could be read in several places to nationalism which is not an attractive aspect of Labour’s past electoral success. The later references to weakening of the concept of the nation state through globalisation is a justification often given for supra-national bureaucracies but it won’t do.

    The reduction of trade tarrifs and restrictions has been a free market triumph and we must not allow the left to re-capture societied through their control of supra national bureaucracies, which already resemble empires. The significance and affinity to nation states are not in any way reduced by free trade, by international cooperation. Unless we allow ourselves to be taken over by the supra-nationalist, self-appointed elite in a Mandelsonian “post democratic age”, we need a means of peoples to express thei desires, priorities and values and nation states are the way to do it.

    The conclusion that Labour lost and Cameron won because the voters were frightened of voting otherwise is probably true; it also explains why UKIP did not do even better last time. But when Cameron’s administration gets mired in conflict with its back benchers, members and voters we will see how UK politics plays out.

    Will it be Cameron with Labour and SNP support that delivers the UK to the international bureaucrats or will we recover our nation state and internal democracy.

  7. On June 9, 2015 at 11:43 am David Prentice responded with... #

    Labour is now the party of the sanctimonious metropolitan elite. It despises the English and England’s flag (just ask Emily Thornberry) and is suspicious of people who strive to get ahead and better themselves. If this election was a mortal wound, it is probably for the best.

  8. On June 9, 2015 at 11:57 am Neutrality44 responded with... #

    “He is also likely to secure boundary changes that will favour the Conservatives.” Ah yes – that old chestnut.

    Funny how all Labour loving writers neglect the first part of this – that prior to 1997 Labour stuffed the Electoral Boundary committee with apparatchiks to gerrymander the boundaries in Labours favour.

    • On June 9, 2015 at 1:23 pm Selohesra responded with... #

      Also concluding words “We have been warned” show clearly where his sympathies lie – not that this would be disclosed to viewers on BBC/Sky when he is wheeled on to pontificate about the polls as a supposedly independent expert

      • On June 9, 2015 at 2:18 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

        Indeed. Only if you are right of centre are you health-warned on the BBC so the serfs know to discount your opinions.

  9. On June 9, 2015 at 12:24 pm Fabians are Evil responded with... #

    “Labour never exorcised its reputation for screwing up the economy” Sorry old chum but Labour’s ability to screw up the economy is a historical FACT not a reputation!!!

  10. On June 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm mike watterson responded with... #

    An excellent summary by Peter Kelner. Pity UGOV assessment was so inaccurate prior to the vote when many assessors thought a Con/LibDem coalition was most likely again.

  11. On June 9, 2015 at 1:58 pm Gnome saying? responded with... #

    I can’t read the comments properly as the background colour is way too dark.

  12. On June 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm Bosun Higgs responded with... #

    Only one of the last seven leaders of the Labour Party has won a general election. He was the least left-wing. This is unlikely to be a coincidence.

    • On June 9, 2015 at 5:14 pm Justice4Rinka responded with... #

      And of course he’s the one they hate and revile.

      The platform on which it’s possible to win elections in the UK has been moving rightwards since 1979, when The Lady reset the system and saved the country.

      I’m happy for Labour to be as loony left as it likes. It’ll never get back in.

      • On June 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm John McCormack responded with... #

        Instead of “saved the country” it should be “destroyed the economy”.

        She closed down the most modern shipbuilding company in the world just before it was to start (Sunderland). Reason: steel was too expensive, because it had to be made using coal which, she said, had to be bought at the market price (suddenly!).

        Consequence: Loss of coal mining, damaged steel industry, no shipbuilding, bad balance of payments and decimated towns.

        Meanwhile, Germany’s steel industry bought coal at 1/5th it’s market price, subsidized to protect jobs. Consequence: thriving industry.

  13. On June 9, 2015 at 4:19 pm derekemery responded with... #

    I don’t think New Labour was seen as a positive in the end. It continually wanted to remove people’s rights. It was an economic retard choosing to spend more and build up debts in the boom when economists know debt needs to be reduced for the inevitable recession. This left a UK with rising future unfunded liabilities that cannot be covered by realistic economic growth. It totally ignored ageing demographics. It dumped hospital PFIs on the public which will cost 2 to 3 times as much for the same services. I can see no hint of competence and that ignores the headless chicken war in Iraq where Blair expected a dictator to be replaced by a western democracy. In the words of a bard they could not run a pissup in a brewery.

  14. On June 9, 2015 at 7:15 pm lojolondon responded with... #

    The hilarious thing about this article is Peter Kellner – chief apologist and propagandist for Liebour – getting all the pre-election polls so absolutely, totally, completely wrong, then writing this article saying how obvious the outcome was, also how good the Liebour people are and that it wasn’t their fault, really….

  15. On June 10, 2015 at 9:28 pm A bit of common sense responded with... #

    Presented with Tory or Tory lite, enough people voted for the real thing!

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