Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Why Labour lost

For the sake of the future of the Labour party it is time that younger generations spoke clearly on the future of the party. Five years out of office was tough, another five is going to be even harder. Ten would be a complete disaster.

I was prompted to put pen to paper on this piece after seeing, and being dismayed, by the nature of the debate that has taken place since 7 May as to what we got wrong.

Having worked previously for David Miliband in 2010 and for the five years since then for Jack Straw, I have seen firsthand what has gone wrong. I do not want the party to compound the dreadful election result by continuing to learn all the wrong lessons from defeat.

Tip number one from Tony Blair on ‘what to do and what to avoid in winning the struggle to be elected’ is: ‘start with an honest analysis of why you are in opposition, not in government’.

Here goes.

First, we need to be really careful not to overthink the general election result. By its very decisiveness there is a profound clarity to what the British public told us. Put simply, every general election since the second world war has been won by the party that has taken the centre-ground and offered the most compelling vision to the British people. We did not do so in either 2010 or 2015.

We did not lose because we were not left wing enough.

It is an obvious truth that when the Labour party loses general elections it does so to a party of the right, not of further to the left. This is so simple but too few people in our party seem to truly grasp this.

When Labour won most handsomely, in 1997, and then again in 2001 and 2005, we had built a coalition of supporters, across classes and across the country.

Since 2007 the party has taken almost every possible step to turn away from what made us unprecedentedly successful under New Labour.

As I have said, every election since 1945 has been won by the party that most clearly dominated the centre-ground. However many times the Labour party tries to re-arrange this formula, however much we think it is the public and not us who must change the outcome will be the same – we will lose.

Come May 2015, for these reasons, Labour was seen to be untrustworthy on the economy, not on the side of those who wanted to play by the rules, against business and excruciatingly uncomfortable about the majority of our time in government.

Against this backdrop the party appears now to be misreading the clear signals from the 2015 election result ­– ensuring we stay out of power for a generation.

So, where do we go from here?

Step one. Now is the time to finally, and fully, embrace the legacy of New Labour; for until we do so we will not win another decisive 1997-style victory – nor even scrape in as we did in 1974. We will not deserve to be elected into office again by the British people, nor will we be, until we have fully come to terms with, and accepted, what was the most successful period our party has known. The New Labour project is not something relevant solely to the late 1990s. Rather, it is a constant attempt to adapt Labour values to a fast-changing and dynamic world.

The Labour party, to me, means something very clear. If we are to be elected again it must mean something equally clear and relevant to people across the country. Surely our aim must be to offer each person in the country a compelling reason to vote for us?

I hope the current leadership contest, by virtue of its long-winded nature, allows time for some hard truths to sink in. Whoever becomes our next leader must grasp some simple lessons.

We do not simply need to win back Scotland.

Neither do we need to focus primarily on the UKIP threat in the north.

Nor, finally, do we need to go back to our core support – if the 2010 and 2015 elections have not established precisely what our ‘core’ support is, nothing will.

The party needs a policy platform that speaks to every person in every part of the United Kingdom and, crucially, it needs to be explained by a set of compelling shadow ministers and by a credible future prime minister.

What exactly should our new leader seek to do upon taking office later in the year?

First, let me try to totally reinforce the point I have set out above by illustrating the election results of 1997, 2010 and 2015:

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 12.27.31

Labour lost this election, and the last, not because of Scotland, not because of UKIP, not because we lost our core vote but because we totally lost the middle ground of hard working British people – particularly in the south and the Midlands. We abandoned the lessons of New Labour, moved away from the centre and died on the sidelines.

In specific policy terms there are some immediate changes we need to make.

First, on the economy it is time, once and for all, that we make clear we could have done better while we were in government. In our second term in office, post-2001, we could have controlled spending more tightly and borne down more heavily on waste. In 2007 Gordon Brown announced plans to increase public spending above inflation (a £90bn increase, or 2.1% above inflation). In future the Labour party needs to be the absolute by-word for fiscal prudence. We should care, genuinely and seriously, about every single pound and penny of taxpayers’ money. Never again should we, in government, run a deficit in respect of current spending in any other circumstance than with the authorisation of a cross-party vote.

In 1997, 2001 and 2005 we were the party of business. Entrepreneurs and CEOs supported Labour because we stood for a prosperous Britain that welcomed those who ran companies, earned money and helped employ workers. We must return to those values. Ed Miliband’s senseless and suicidal attack on business was only ever going to have one outcome.

There is more than a slight clue on what we should fundamentally stand for in our party name: Labour. For me, the Labour Party is absolutely the party of work. I want us to stand by, and make sure the country works for, those who go out to work, day in day out, do the right thing and make sure they play by the rules. As a party, these people – the builder or the business person – are our core.

The direction I would like to see our policy more generally evolve towards can be underpinned by one simple word: fairness.

A fair immigration system is one that does not set an arbitrary cap, dreamed up in a party political meeting. Rather it should be a system that is so clear, so transparent and so fair that there is no dispute about its efficacy. If you have lived in an area for a long time, for instance, you should have a higher priority for social housing than someone who has moved there more recently.

A fair benefit system is one which sees someone only get out what they put in. If, for instance, I could only afford, in work, to budget for having one child, someone out of work cannot have indefinite numbers of children paid for by the taxpayer. Thus, Labour must be seen first and foremost as the party of those who go out to work and strive to provide for their families.

In healthcare fairness means rewarding good behaviour, not writing a blank cheque. If a GP warns someone repeatedly about smoking, drinking or eating healthily, and they ignore these warnings and then fall ill with a relevant illness, that person should fall to the back of the queue for treatment.

On taxes, fairness means rewarding work and encouraging people to save. The Labour party must never again instinctively be seen to want, for its own sake, higher tax. In 2015 we wanted a 50p top rate of tax because it appeared politically in our interests. There is, and has never been, anything ‘socialist’ about higher taxation.

If we can unite our policies around a leitmotif such as fairness, in a way that addresses the concerns of people across the country, we have a chance of being relevant again to people’s lives.

For some on the left there is a comfort to being in opposition and debating our policy positions in strictly ideological, and therefore theoretical, terms. But let’s be honest, we achieve absolutely nothing in opposition.

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Daniel Sleat is a member of Progress

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Photo: Louisa Thomson

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Daniel Sleat

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66 comments

  • “…we totally lost the middle ground”
    It seems that way to me too.

    To regain that centre ground, I think we need to differentiate ourselves from the Tories by one simple fact: we are never going to defend the elites at the top of the capitalist tree.

    That is, we want the capitalism that is: good for jobs; produces valuable products; pays its taxes and treats people fairly. We don’t want the capitalism that: produces nothing except the financial instruments the benefit only the elite; avoids paying tax and messes up the economy by inflating the exchange rate (making it difficult to export products). Will Hutton makes some important points here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyLfe5qTdGc

  • Although I tend to agree with most of what you say here, there are those in other parts of the broader “left” movement, saying very similar things, but with the Left-Centre-Right slider moved very much further towards the left. Last night I attended a public meeting in Milton Keynes – Milton Keynes Against The Cuts, with key speakers Owen Jones, and Christine Blower of the NUT (who to some extent facilitated the event) – the event being a part of he ‘Peoples Assembly’ campaign. Whilst Jones spoke passionately and eloquently from a further left, but ultimately inclusive position in relation to Labour’s future prospect, the mood of the meeting was pretty much one of rejecting centrist politics, rejecting Westminster dominated poltics, and a reliance on direct action – marches and occupations and so forth to further ‘the message’.

    For me it felt like the wrong tack (I studiously avoided buying a copy of Socialist Worker on the way in) – but one thing that came through strongly was the passion behind the event – a 600 seat venue packed to the rafters on a sunny Wednesday evening in Milton Keynes – and seemingly most of them lapping up every word. The best message that came across was that we must make ourselves into a broad coalition of the left to stand any chance of regaining power – but speakers still managed to get in their digs against New Labour and Tony Blair. Yet here we have an article saying more or less the same thing to another relatively closed audience – we need to unite – but only if we’re not on the far left.

    To my way of thinking we do indeed need a broad coalition – and my own place within that is pretty much near Daniel’s – but if we exclude either the far left or the centre ground, then we run the danger of losing the kind of energy and enthusiasm that was there in bucketfuls last night. Labour can be and should be a home for a very wide range of left leaning politics – let’s not let ourselves live up the Tory caricatures of Labour being a group of feuding tribes, as much at war with each other as with the Tories.

    Progress sometimes gets accused of being a party within a party – I don’t think it is, but lets not give anyone any excuse or reason to come up with that kind of allegation.

  • Can I suggest that the future of the Labour party is not simply to focus on Young People and their votes, it’s also to engage with the older generation – between 30 and 50 year olds – and to listen to concerns, learn from them and to develop new and refreshing policies around these lessons of engagement.

    Our young generation rely on the older generation to teach, mentor and to train them in many aspects of personal and professional development. The Labour party has to acknowledge this reality, and do more to engage ALL ages and to encourage learning from past mistakes, and aim towards new, Aspirational polices and practices. Such policies will be an innovative approach to the Work Programme, Localism and community development agendas towards harnessing BIG Thinkers and the “plans” and “proposals” they will develop… and how this will influence the nature of social mobility many desperately seek.

    Finally, the Labour party needs to do exactly what ‘ordinary’ folk – who they failed, now challenges… and aspirations – have had to endure. That is to confront the challenges, be resilient and creative in the face of challenge.

    May I suggest to Labour leadership, if the ‘ordinary’ folk who you failed through policies (banking) can do it – and have had to do amid the losses – why can’t you do it?

  • John, oh please.. not the middle ground..!!

    Surely, if we are going to fight what is bad politics to enable a ‘grounding’ of political attitudes towards engagement with real people and local communities, we have to be start by using language that refers to what is “right” and what is “wrong”. The middle, left and right ground.. have nothing what’s so ever to do with a democratic benchmark. So, why encourage politicians to use it?

    The fact is, politicians expanding their language to this degree makes it easier for them to dodge answers where ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are implicated. That’s how out of touch politicians are. Please don’t encourage them… lol.

  • I’m pleased to see you think the advice of Tony Blair should be followed. After all he is that well known socialist who has amassed a property empire worth around £80 million in the short time since he stopped being Prime Minister. The book ‘Blair Inc’ should be required reading for every Labour Party member

  • I don’t think Daniel has suggested that Tony Blair’s advice should be followed on everything – and your ad hominem comments about his property dealing since leaving public office are not relevant to why Labour lost in 2015 (the title of the article).

    The evidence that Mr Blair was highly successful in getting people outside Labour’s urban heartlands to trust in and vote for the party is pretty difficult to deny. As a result of this ability, his administrations were in a position get things done rather than compensate for the impotence of opposition by being self-righteous. Not all those governments’ decisions were good (some were misguided and a few were very bad indeed) but on balance, the Blair governments were, in my opinion, rather more positive than those of his successor and far more than many within the party seen to be willing to credit.

  • Okay more labels, but everywhere I look I get “left and “right” and no one every says what they mean by it. Instead, they spend lots of time in petty arguments saying nothing that takes us forward. So I agree, more labels are bad. Given that, to me ‘middle’ specifies those people not wedded to dogma.

    Many vocal Labour supporters (supposed) around the forums bleat on, in an unthinking way, and defend their prejudiced viewpoint without focusing on the issues at all.

    To me, ‘middle’ means not “left” or “right”, it means the vast undogmatic majority – the people we should be working for. If some on the left or right want to consider what’s best, issue by issue, then lets work with them too. Dogma is blind and will take us nowhere. You are correct to say that it is what is “right” and “wrong” that matters – as long as you don’t get dogmatic about it.

  • I wouldn’t deny that Blair was successful in getting the vote in. Although he was probably much helped by the disenchantment in general with the years of Tory rule, (here I must admit that Kinnock had the same help from disenchantment with Thatcher but failed).
    What I’m afraid rather sickens me is the way the words of Blair and Mendelson etc even now seem to be so welcomed by Progress. Look at their record whllst in office on economic affairs. A worship of market forces not much less than that of the Tories. Am I correct that the concept of Private Finance Initiatives started under Labour? Did the Blair/Brown governments make any effort to force HMRC to crack down on aggressive tax avoidance and evasion which robs us of billions every year? Not around 5 billion as suggested by Ed Balls, but over 100 billion each and every year.

    When Mendelson made his remark about not being unhappy with people getting filthily rich provided they pay their taxes (which they mostly don’t of course), that really shook me, as it would have done Keir Hardy. Under Blair and Brown the inequalities in Britain grew immensely. Of course I agree that welfare provisions grew at the same time but that was done at a time of false prosperity which was uncovered by the crash of the banks.

    During the election campaign I don’t remember hearing one peep out of Labout about TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) I must say I have not seen much from Progress on this subject. To learn about it and about how to counter Tax avoidance one has to look at the free blog Tax Research UK 2 by Richard Murphy.

    I would be happy to hear concrete proposals on how to get out of the mess this country is now in. My office is next door to a food bank and I would love to see the use of it reduce!

  • Was this written by a political illiterate. So why did we lose in Scotland if it was an issue of us being too left. Under 13 years of Blair Brown Government inequality grew, and our schools and hospitals began to be sold off to the private sector. What did we achieve in power for those 13 years? We promised an end to boom and bust – and then presided over our banks busting the system. The solutions – send smokers and the obese to die at the back of the queue, house people who have lived somewhere a long time, rather than those who are homeless. Make kids live in poverty because their parents couldn’t really afford to have them (or lost their job after they thought they could?) Did the 1945 and 1950 election get won by people pursuing the centre ground or by those with radical solutions. Did Thatcher pursue the middle ground? Did the Tories hold the centre ground at this election – no they were rolling back the welfare state created by Labour in a blatant and extreme manner – under the cover of the “need” for austerity. They got away with flat-lining the economy with unnecessary cuts – which were all about cutting living standards for workers so that profits could grow to even higher levels. The Stock Market has had no problem with the recession – because profits are booming. I am sick of this Tory pulp from an endless series of SPADs.

  • In future the Labour party needs to be the absolute by-word for fiscal prudence.

    That’s your problem. Right there.

    Most of the Labour party can’t see the point of being in power in the first place under that constraint. If the point of power is not to rob people you hate and to piss away other people’s money, what is it?

    And after that, once you’ve smashed the economy into the wall again, somehow it’s never your fault, is it? In the Labour playbook, your failures either never happened at all – as witness the current full-on denial that you crashed the economy in 1997-2010 – or, if they did happen, it was all the fault of “the rich”. Which, to you, means anyone on a decent salary in the private sector. And the answer is always to go after the same 300,000 people in the south-east and to rob them.

    You are a disgusting rabble of utter, abject moral incompetents.

  • Does being left wing mean spend other people’s money, I dint think Attlee and Bevan said that in 1945′ labour lost in Scotland as Scots new they’d vote SNP for parliament , but not for independence, as if there had been a yes vote in the referendum, then those Scots wouldn’t have England’s money to spend

    1945 was after the war and the centre ground has changed over the years,it was Ed Miliband who assumed the 2008 crash, that the centre ground had swung to the left, it wasn’t thTs why we lost,

    Thatcher didn’t take a gamble that the middle ground had changed, no one knew that there would be millions unemployed under her,so had they, she wouldn’t have won, but she took the middle ground to her, as Privatisation, or ending secondary picketing, scrapping the GLC or rate capping wasn’t even mentioned in her first term nor was cutting the higher rate of tax, it was labour swinging to the left, that made it easy for her to swing too the right, and take the middle with her.

    Actually the Tories did have the middle ground at this election, and you nay nit like it, the middle ground is taking away with the welfare state, as the liberals were stretched because of it, and half of the ugh the of the Tory party, went Ukip, because of it

  • The article and most of the comments focus upon the usual “intelligentsia analysis” – policies,
    Left, Right, Centre Ground, etc. – yet the electorate’s disillusionment with Labour is more about its “new culture” and the “leaders.” The rhetoric is that Labour should have an in-depth analysis of “what went wrong.” However, Progress and its writers will avoid looking at themselves, which could be one, significant explanation. Being a long term member of Progress, I sent in an
    article critical of Progress as part of the “debate,” but the editorial team do not seem to want to publish critical material. Self censorship is a trait that contributed to Labour’s perceived incompetence and electoral rout. Risking readers’ wrath, boredom or seen as taking the piss, these are some of the article’s excerpts:

    “Labour’s major problem is deep rooted in its culture and intelligentsia, which is dominated by Career Politicians having Middle and Upper Class backgrounds. Clearly, the SNP popularity was due to its true socialist agenda and a backlash against the Westminster goldfish bowl.”

    “Many years ago I wrote critically about the “Career Politicians;” especially those who had not had a “proper job” and lacked “life experience….Then, my views were fringe ….but they are now mainstream and widely held, especially by the Electorate.”

    “Career Politicians often appear arrogant, snobbish and “know best.” They do not seem to understand what “democracy” truly means in that leaders of member organisations are servants, not the members’ masters. This applies not only to the Labour Party but many NGOs, “think Tanks,” pressure groups and charities. Often, these are run by Career Politicians who
    failed to get a foothold directly into politics [e.g. as MP “bag carriers,” “special advisors”] and thus have parallel careers within such organisations. ”

    “Progress – is a breeding ground for Career Politicians who hope to become part of the “in crowd.” …. At a Progress conference a year ago, I suggested that policies should be aimed at the “Grey Vote,” using the true Right to Roam 2003 Scottish legislation as an example. Serious, leisure walking is one of the older generation’s pastimes. This appeared to fall on deaf ears.
    Could it be that the anti-Labour late surge was the Grey Vote? ”

    “The young (now not so young) Career Politicians are often perceived as being remote and disconnected from “ordinary people.” They seem to regard the older generation with contempt, dismissing their knowledge and experience out of hand. Yet, …empirically, wisdom comes with age and experience. This helps people make better judgements. Degrees and PhDs in Humanities are all very well, but they are a foundation for life, not an end in the “University of Life”.

    “We have seen constant “reform” of the Public Sector – Education, NHS, Welfare, etc. from ALL parties over recent decades which has wasted billions of pounds and done great damage to these Public Services and staff morale.”

    “I am deeply concerned about the replacement Labour leader being a “Career Politician.” Having seen many of these, close-up, I have serious doubts about their competence and “wisdom.” They are gutless and scared of promoting “radical” policies, in case they affect their careers. …..At a Progress conference fringe meeting, two years ago, I asked leadership hopeful, Liz
    Kendle [shadow Health Minister] “Have you ever worked in the Public Sector?” She responded like a rabbit caught in headlights “Er, Er ….No.”

    “The Tories selected candidates who were not from the professional political elite. Was
    this the reason why they achieved their unexpected victory?”

    “As a democrat and educationalist [retired Senior Lecturer], I find it despairing when faced
    with so much intolerance. Members’ views ought to be respected, even if in the “extreme.”….. Over the years, I have seen so many decent, genuine people become disillusioned and leave. ”

    SORRY!

    Full article can be obtained at: vawp2@yahoo.com

  • Oh dear justice4Rinka. Have you never heard of subprime mortgages, incompetence at Northern Rock, R.B.S. and other banks? Never heard of the bank de-regulation done under the Reagan and Thatcher administrations? Wake up please! I’m no fan of the Labour Party’s top level, but let’s have a bit of truth when you write please.

  • Well said Ray, these political centrist are living in their own bubble, they need to get back into the real world and stop listening to the rubbish the media spew out

  • Why 30 to 50 year olds? It’s the Grey vote that mainly votes! Career politicians do not connect with “ordinary,” working class voters. (see my piece above). But they do not listen as their jobs are at stake!!!

  • I don’t necessarily agree with the previous comment, but that is the view of many people out there and its not enough to say “have a bit of truth when you write” – Labour needs to address this issue.

    The economy crashed in 78 when they lost and 08-10 when they lost again. People vote Labour out when they run out of other people’s money. Again and again and again. Now you have potential leaders saying they “did not overspend”. The issue is not so much whether they did or they didn’t but that they persist in trying to tell the voters they’re wrong instead of coming to terms with their own perceived profligacy.

    They need to start talking prudence again – it seemed to work in 97 and 01 and that inevitably means spending less and being less left wing. Both good electoral choices.

  • John, I commend you on all that you have said. It’s just plain common sense!
    But, why aren’t Labour party leaders in-touch with this ‘common sense’ attitude? Why isn’t Labour doing what is traditionally what should be part of their DNA by going into the heart of communities and giving people a voice – concluding that goal-seekers and social-changers are amid those whose voices often fail to be harnessed by politicians, media… etc. Frankly, it is shameful!
    I am sure you will agree, like politicians in general, Labour leadership is frightened on being Bold by engaging with real people – real voices Why is this?
    Unfortunately, while we both will agree that seldom would our own voices exercised on this forum be given the opportunity to shine on TV media, isn’t it shameful that our inclusion is not encouraged as a driver for TV content and as a useful tool that holds policy makers to account?
    Ok, wishful thinking… lol.
    Even the likes of the BBC are protectors of ‘business’ and ‘conflicts of interests’.

  • I think they are in touch with common sense but, as you said, are afraid of being bold. I have argued for some time that politicians in all parties are afraid to speak the truth, for fear of being shot down, ridiculed and sidelined by the press.

    As for our supporters, do we really want to know the difficult facts? If you say yes, then just take a look at the responses on this page to what is a helpful article for us.

  • The economy crashed in 2008, not 2010. Fact.

    Our economy depended far too much on income from the financial sector, and that dried up in the crash. You saw that coming, no doubt, and could have adjusted the economy beforehand. Fact?

    All parties supported the city’s expansion. The Conservatives complained about the controls we put on the city’s activities, which turned out not to be strong enough. It would have been worse under Conservative governance. Fact.

    We have no issue with people earning just-rewards but I refer you to the video of Will Hutton’s above, in which he discriminates between good and bad capitalist activities. One thing is for sure: the Conservatives will never get away from their grip and is the main reason why we will win again – as we defend the right of ordinary people to earn lots of money from legitimate activities, in spite of the forces at the top of the capitalist tree. Fact.

    Your language suggests a desperate attempt to hit out in an illogical way. Fact.

  • Delusional, Eric. Delusional.

    Listen to yourself. The banking system crashed in 2008 because of Thatcher (1979 – 1990)? Who left power 18 years before? Why didn’t all crash sooner?

    Wrong, wrong, wrong – and ludicrous.

    It crashed under Blair, and it did so after and because he wrecked the regulation of the industry. Peter Lilley explicitly and accurately warned of this in 1997:

    With the removal of banking control to the Financial Services Authority…it is difficult to see how and whether the Bank remains, as it surely must, responsible for ensuring the liquidity of the banking system and preventing systemic collapse….The process of setting up the FSA may cause regulators to take their eye off the ball, while spivs and crooks have a field day.

    Labour is actually responsible for a large amount of the worldwide crash as well. By creating a completely ineffective regulatory structure in London, Blair made London a more attractive place to do business, so spivs and crooks came here from all over the world. Rivals such as NY duly weakened their own supervision of these markets as London stormed ahead.

    It’s criminals’ fault when people get shot, but it’s the government’s responsibility to make guns hard to obtain. Clearly the crash was largely the fault of the bankers, but this was always an accident waiting to happen and the point is that it was Labour who let it happen. Everybody else saw the risks and forestalled them.

    To this day an awful lot of know-nothing Labourrhoids cleave to the view that the City is full of old Etonians who are there via the old boy network. This was perhaps so in 1915 or in 1895 but it certainly isn’t now. Until you stop thinking in 1970s student politics cliches you are doomed.

  • There’s so much rubbish and denial there that I can’t be arsed to engage with it, but I’ll educate you on one point that you really, really need to understand. As Kingsley Amis put it, it is, simply, that “more” means “worse”.

    More Labour regulation of the City meant worse regulation. What Labour put in place was prescriptive, box-ticking compliance that achieved nothing. No bank’s collapse was averted by Labour’s regime. Worse, after several banks had collapsed, not one person from the FCA has been fired or removed for screwing up and allowing the collapse. Why not? Because as their goals and job specs were written, nobody had screwed up. They were steadfastly looking at all the wrong things. As set out by Labour – the party that presumed to think it understood the City.

    The FCA was in effect going round all the houses checking that the rubbish at the front of the house was sorted into the correct colour bin. Meanwhile, it was oblivious to the fact that the house was a brothel and was on fire – because that wasn’t on the tick list.

    You really, really need to get this. You really do.

  • Labour faces an uphill struggle persuading the over-50s to vote Labour simply because, unlike the younger voters, they can actually remember what Labour is like in government.

    It is often claimed that Blair won in 1997 because he moved Labour to the centre, and there’s a lot in this, of course. But a large part of it was that there were people old enough to vote who weren’t born when Labour was last in power. Anyone who was 30 in 1997 was 11 during the winter of discontent. Blair mobilised to vote for him a cohort who had no idea from first-hand experience of what Labour government entails.

    Every generation has to learn for itself about Labour. You may to wait for one to come along that hasn’t yet done so.

  • Can’t be “harassed to engage with it”?

    No, really, you do need to engage with it.

    Unless of course, you can’t deny the facts.

  • The “spivs and crooks” arrived with the British East India Company, and they have been in control ever since. Fact.

  • As a Tory, John, there is almost nothing would make me happier than for Labour to persist in its view that you didn’t totally screw up and it’s all a wicked lie.

    The electorate has noticed that you’re in denial. Remember Peter Kellnerov’s article the other day? – 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’.

    The only thing that would make me happier is if Burnham, or Cooper, or Kendall, or Miliband were to lead the Labour Party into the next election.

  • The spivs and crooks will always be with us, John. Where there are banks there will be robbers because it’s where the money is.

    The job of the government is to curtail their inclinations.

    It is exactly like the way that it’s the law’s job to be clear that shooting people is a crime; to make sure the wrong people don’t get guns to shoot people with; to contrive really bad odds on getting away with shooting people; and to make the consequences of getting caught shooting people worth avoiding.

    Labour failed at every step, because Labour liked the money and turned a blind eye.

  • Try reading Martin Wolf’s book. He is an influential commentator with a weekly column in the Financial Times…

    “Mr Wolf’s book is particularly critical of the premature rush to fiscal austerity”…
    http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21615479-prominent-columnist-calls-radical-reforms-global-economy-how-fix-broken

    “blithely optimistic deregulation”…
    http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/02/shifts-and-the-shocks-martin-wolf-review-financial-crisis

    At the Hay-on-Wye festival ten days ago Martin Wolf was specifically asked if Labour had caused the crash. He said no, though because they were in power at the time they had to take some blame for it. It could just as easily have been the Conservatives. It was a result of too much deregulation – which the Conservatives wanted more of.

  • Did the Tories hold the centre ground at this election – no they were rolling back the welfare state created by Labour in a blatant and extreme manner

    Ray, Ray, Ray.

    Only Labour think it’s “extreme” to roll back the welfare state. That’s your problem.

    And that’s without the issue that what you call a “welfare” state is in fact a client state, in which grateful supplicants suck up benefits and vote Labour, while Labour keeps them perpetually in need of the benefits, so Labour can stay in power.

    It’s about the dignity, Ray. It’s all about the human dignity.

    The best benefit is a job.

  • Daniel
    By saying we need to build a coalition of voters to achieve a 1997 type of result is like Motherhood and Apple Pie. Frankly it’s obvious. What your piece lacks is any analysis of how we do that from where we are.
    The voters views are much more complex now than in 1997. In 1979 9/10 of British voters voted Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat. In 2015 only 75.2% voted for the 3 “main” Parties. Also the “Progressive” vote has shrunk because of the times we live in. In 1997 60% voted Labour or Liberal Democrat. In 2015 40% voted Labour, Lib Dem or SNP. You can take that to 43.8% by adding Green. That’s a collapse in the Progressive vote.

    What you are missing Daniel is more than half of the electorate voted for Austerity and a reduction in the state. The UK is unusual as in Europe voters are going for anti-Austerity Parties.

    The problem for us is there is no centre ground. The 2 Eds tried to be committed to growth in NHS and Education while promising to reduce the deficit and that wasn’t credible. The party and its new leadership need to define a winning position for us by peeling away pink Tories while attracting back the 2 million UKIP voters who were driven away by? Tony Blair and his Eurocentric policies.
    There have to be red lines. Yes, be friendly to business but not to the corporate greed shown by the City and the Banks and FIFA. We were far too friendly to them in the Blair/Brown years and when they wrecked the economy the narrative turned that is was Labour who destroyed the economy created excess public sector pay. We must be the Party of small/medium business who, in truth, the Tories have abandoned.
    Also, we need a clear position on welfare and social housing. Starting off by supporting the £23k Benefit cap when we’ve said the £26k cap is a disaster is not credible. Let’s have a genuine dialogue of what we need to do to win but don’t pretend that we just try 1997 all over again. The world and the voters have moved on since then.
    Barry Kendler

  • The trouble with “fairness” is that when Labour uses it, it means, Queen of Hearts-like, whatever Labour says it means.

    To the average person, fairness means, broadly, getting out in proportion to what you put in, keeping what you’ve worked for, and not being allowed to ponce off others.

    This is absolutely not the sense in which Labour uses the word. To Labour, fairness means things like rationing by queue, and equality of mediocrity. It means John Prescott saying things like “If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that everyone wants to go there.” It means that nobody gets much more than anyone else, and if by some mistake that ever actually happens, we’ll come after you over and over again until we’ve levelled everyone down.

    It is, in fact, much closer to how most people would define the word “spite”. And I’m afraid that there isn’t really an electoral franchise for a party based on gloomy, spiteful envy. Well, not one large enough to get elected, which is why no such party has been elected these last 40 years.

  • Daniel, as I have said to you on Twitter, my key issue here is that there seems to be no clear ground between what you have outlined above, and what many of the members of the Tory party would be happy to sign up to. This is not a cheap attack on my part, it is a concern I have had with politics for some time. Your piece basically says that Labour cannot be re-elected unless it agrees to formulate a set of manifesto commitments that indicate how it will clarly stick to a middle-ground that will frighten neither the voters of middle england nor the City of London. You may well be right, but this then simply becomes a matter of technocratic management, and would be much better done by experienced civil servants. I thought the point of policis and political parties was to campaign for, assuming they don’t like the current settlement, a different way of doing things. The middle-ground is not a fixed entity consisting of fiscal prudence, business friendliness, “fair” immigration and doing the right thing, it is (or shoudl be) contested political territory. Plenty of economists will argue with you that Labour was fiscally irresponsible in government or that what is needed now is further austerity (try the IMF report that came out this week); business friendliness does not mean that protection for workers rights goes out the window or that economic inequality is not a serious issue that needs adressing; immigration as such is not the problem, the impacts of immigration in some areas is, but divorcing this from severe cuts in public services is to miss the point and allow UKIP’s narrative to prevail; all the stuff you say about individual responsibility is founded on a narrative of the underserving poor that is neither founded in evidence nor would achieve the assumed policy outcomes (people’s lives tend to be more complex than such discourses allow for). – to give one example I am very familiar with, the utter failure of active labour market policies that only addressing individual “failings” (e.g. the Work Programme, the various New Deals) to have any significant impact on unemployment. You prescription in all these areas merely agrees with political narratives largely developed and driven by the right which are to be left unchallenged even when they are failing large swathes of the country. Is it not time to challenge these, to argue for a different settlement? Does the Labour Party not need to address inequaity, powerlessness, exploitation as well as encouraging ambition, supporting business and maintaining the UK as an open, democratic and internationalist nation?

  • The Scotland issue is really something separate. Part protest, part being fed up with establishment parties who have done little for the poorest communities in the inner cities and a whole lot of post Indyref hangover anger. Add to that deep anger at Tory Austerity policies being aped by Labour and those same policies hurting people who weren’t responsible for the crash in the first place with arguably the most politically engaged electorate in the UK you get the result in Scotland you deserve with both Labour and the Tories utterly smashed.

  • Yes we like money, you can do great things with it.
    Did you watch that Will Hutton video yet?

  • Fairness means “getting out in proportion to what you put in”.
    Yes, of course.

    It also means equality of opportunity, where your life chances are not only determined by the set of cards your parents have had to work with.

  • There is little in your post with which Ed Miliband or Len McCluskey would disagree.

    Bit of a problem, that.

  • Q1. Are you not going to challenge any of the facts?
    Q2. Did you watch that Will Hutton video yet?

  • In 1997 60% voted Labour or Liberal Democrat. In 2015 40% voted Labour, Lib Dem or SNP. You can take that to 43.8% by adding Green. That’s a collapse in the Progressive vote.

    By 1997 the Tories had had 18 years to fix the economy for you. They fixed it so comprehensively that it actually took Brown two full terms’ of Labourism to destroy it again.

    In 1997 people consequently thought the economy, like trade union reform, was “over” as an issue. It was so fixed that even Labour, it was thought, couldn’t break it again. We had had a decade in which Fukuyama declared the end of history, the Berlin Wall had gone, Scargill had gone, CND had gone, recession was a distant memory, high interest rates were a distant memory, inflation was history, unemployment was essentially a choice, nobody had heard of the BNP, and apparently loony socialist political parties had gone.

    With everything that mattered fixed, what did it matter who was in power? Vote Labour? – why not? What could possibly go wrong?

    That’s the big, big difference. Then, there were people voting not born during the Winter of Discontent. It’ll be 2026 before there will be 18 year olds not born when you crashed the economy again.

    A big flaw in the thinking here is that Labour needs to regroup for 2020; you don’t. You need to regroup for 2030.

  • Straw man. Nobody says Labour caused the crash. The accusation is that Labour wrecked the public finances and ensured we were inescapably embroiled in that crash, which needn’t have affected us at all.

    Love the way you cite Gordon Brown as some sort of authority. If his regulators made mistakes, why weren’t they fired? Er, because as tasked, they did nothing wrong.

    The Tories wanted shot of useless regulation. Which bits of Labour’s financial regulation from 1997 to 2010 were particularly effective? Which banks were saved by which FCA tickboxes? Which policy prevented hypothetical scandals like PPI mis-selling on Labour’s watch? – I assume you deny that, too?

    And of course this is denial of only one Labour failing. This is before considering Labour’s war on Iraq, or Labour’s war on the sick in mid-Staffs, where 1,200 dies in the filthy, degrading Dickensian workhouses Labour brought back, or Labour’s corruption of the police, whereby officers can shoot an unarmed man 12 times in the face on a Tube train, lie about it, and then nobody gets prosecuted.

    Deny your record and see where it gets you at the ballot box.

  • When you say “establishment parties”, plural, which are you talking about?

    Scotland has been under socialist rule for most of the last 70 years. Scotland’s situation is the consequence of leftism.

  • How much of the population gets to keep what they’ve worked for in a capitalist system? The great bulk of the population works for other people or companies, who get to keep the great bulk of what they produce..

    In other words, capital allows relatively few people to ‘ponce off others’ on a scale that welfare claimants could never come anywhere near.

  • Here is an excellent analysis of the problem with Labour, written just after you last managed to win an election.

    Mr Prescott explained that middle-class parents were concerned about the quality of their children’s education, “which is sadly not the same for working-class parents”. “If you set up a school and it becomes a good school,” he went on, “the great danger is that everyone wants to go there.”

    That sentence contains the key to all egalitarian thinking about schools, perhaps to all egalitarian thinking about anything.

    Try to apply the concept to other matters. How does it sound when you say: “If you set up a good shop, the danger is that everyone wants to go there”? How about: “If you build a nice town, the danger is that everyone wants to go there”? Or: “If you set up a good neo-natal unit, the danger is that everyone wants to go there”?

    You and I might think that the word “danger” was an odd one in the context. Our concept of danger is of something that threatens harm. When we think of a sign with a skull and crossbones and the words “Danger: keep out”, we associate it with live power cables, not a successful school.

    But then we are not socialists. For socialists, the question of distribution trumps all others. The underlying theory is that one man having more of something automatically means that the man who has less suffers. If you have £1,000 and I have £100, I am oppressed by this fact and you are, therefore, a danger to me. The socialist would be much happier if you and I each had £550…..

    What happens in practice, though, works out even worse. The obsession with dividing the amounts equally undermines the wealth itself.

    After redistribution, instead of ending up with £550 each, you and I end up with, say, £100 each – equal, yes, but equal in shortage.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3622503/Time-for-schools-to-be-free-With-Old-Labour-no-danger.html

    It’s an accurate, far sighted critique of the trouble with Labour which you would do well to “internalise”.

  • By all means make that argument at the ballot box next time. I’d be thrilled if Labour remained a bunch of student Marxists and defined the debate as capitalism versus the alternatives – Cuba, North Korea, the USSR….

  • The problem with this is that Labour was not in the centre during Blair’s time, it was on the right. If you doubt that, then try to imagine Blair as a member of any of the European social democratic outfits. To be honest, he was to the right of the German Christian Democrats.

    Now think about this: Blairism cost Labour Scotland. The SNP moved into all that traditional centre ground that you abandoned and the chances of you getting it back are about nil.

    You hung on in Northern England because people had nowhere else to go, but sooner or later that region will slip away as well. UKIP are too much the party of small town England for them to ever make inroads into the big cities, but eventually you will see a socially conservative, economically radical party that appeals to those cities – or rather to the council estates that dominate them. Think of this new party as being like the BNP without the racism if you like.

    So you can win without Scotland, but not without Scotland and Northern England. The more you appeal to the aspirational scrote vote in places like Nuneaton, the more you will alienate Northern England, just as you have already alienated Scotland.

    Looked at in those lights, I don’t think that Labour has a future.

  • So you don’t deny the facts I presented above and won’t challenge them in any way. You won’t watch the Hutton video which explains what is wrong with the capitalist system. You won’t even read the evidence of Gordon Brown’s statement – you condemn it even though he accepts some responsibility. All you have is left mud slinging.

    If you are not prepared to open your mind to the true cause and effect of some of the issues you raise then it is a pointless discussion, so I’m out.

  • This is so full of vague and unsubstantiated generalisations that it is difficult to know where to start. It mainly seems to repeat Tory and Daily Mail myths about Labour being “anti-business” and too “left wing” whatever these may mean. The current, turbo-capitalist, settlement is clearly out of control and needs re-setting. It is more like a kleptocratic plutocracy than a properly-functioning democracy. This is not “anti-business” or “left wing.” Many small businesses, run by genuine entrepreneurs, have been savaged by the financial services industry. To argue for responsible capitalism, for alternatives to the present greed-based set up, is not left wing. To argue against unaccountable and excessive power concentrated in a few hands in the media and global business is not left wing. Over-mighty subjects need their wings to be clipped, not indulged by Remuneration Committees. To argue against vast and unjust rewards going to those in banking and utilities is not left wing. These beneficiaries are not risk takers, except with other people’s money. They run large bureaucracies which used to be run by Civil Servants – and I haven’t noticed much improvement in the quality of gas and electricity recently or even in the billing process! Face up to it, Daniel, our economic system, and our society dragged behind it, is a mess which needs fundamental reform. And “change” was always Tony Blair’s wachword.

  • Please don’t indulge his delusional fantasies! By God, and he has the cheek to talk of Labour being in denial. Please just ignore him.

  • Myth in politics is extraordinarily difficult to eradicate, so just because 50% of people, or whatever, think that Labour wrecked the economy doesn’t make it true, it makes it very hard to counter.

  • “Labour lost this election, and the last, not because of Scotland, not because of UKIP, not because we lost our core vote but because we totally lost the middle ground of hard working British people – particularly in the south and the Midlands. ”

    Difficult to see how you will win those marginals (or your ‘broad social coalition’) without keeping both working class voters and metropolitan liberals on board though.

    Also, we will never win a majority on our own without taking back a lot of those Scottish seats, and to see 50 of them being casually and repeatedly written off by so many who call for honest analysis and a re-concentration on winning leaves me pretty cold. Plus, pulling in the other direction, we have the boundary review.

    Yes, we need to win voters to our right, and yes, that should probably be a high priority, but we also need to firm up and expand our left flank too. The problem is not that we are on the wrong space on the spectrum. It’s that the part of the spectrum we are sat on is too narrow, and needs expanding, probably in both directions. We don’t cover enough of it, compared to the parts the Tories cover.

    Don’t trust anyone who says there is an easy answer to 2015. If they do, they’re either lacking in rigour or lacking in honesty.

  • “there seems to be no clear ground between what you have outlined above,
    and what many of the members of the Tory party would be happy to sign up
    to”.

    Correct. And why is that?

    It’s because Daniel wants Labour to move into the centre-ground where elections are actually won, a zone which is currently occupied by Cameron’s Conservative Party, a re-cast version of Toryism which to great fanfare has symbolically introduced gay marriage, slashed the armed forces and protected the NHS and international aid budgets in ways that make it far harder to nail them as the dangerous hardline right-wingers, “more extreme than Thatcher”, that hyperventilating Guardian commenters keep telling each other they are.

    With the unintended assistance of UKIP, which has helpfully syphoned off some of the more buffoonish elements of the reactionary Right and which continually tells everyone who’s listening that the Tories are now “left wing”, even “Marxist”, Cameron has partially detoxified his party’s brand and positioned it successfully close to the centre-ground. Meanwhile instead of trying to compete on those terms, many Labour people prefer to seek differentiation (“clear red water”) by retreating into conventional left-wing postures that the activists generally love but which too many middle-of-the-road voters suspect means the party can’t be trusted to keep their tax burden manageable and a market economy functioning.

  • What a splendidly inverted take on life! It’s not you who’s wrong, it’s everybody else!

    Of course!

    Second Tory majority nailed on in 2020.

  • I’m not trying to be funny but what is the point or purpose of the Labour Party in 2015? I may have my history wrong and if so then someone is sure to correct me. Originally there were no political parties as such in Britain. With the coming of the industrial revolution there was a clash of interests between the landowners and the industrialists. Tories and Whigs. The Whigs/Liberals being in the main the industrialists and the merchants. The working class felt closer to the Liberals and several were elected under their umbrella. But they got dissatisfied and formed the Labour Representation Committee, later to become the Labour Party. So the Labour Party had a real reason for existence. Could we discuss what we consider the real reason for its existence today? Sorry if this is a bit garbled.

  • Could we discuss what we consider the real reason for its existence today?

    That won’t take long.

  • Quick tip,stop calling people like me “Tory scum”, stop desecrating war memorials, and stop dancing on the grave of former Prime ministers.
    Ms Sturgeon does not help, I heard her almost spit the words “We have to stop the Tories”, as though we are evil, I have voted Labour in the past, and have a proud photo of me with Harold Wilson, but I am not “Evil” and I am not ” Scum”, and will not support a party with such divisive views.

  • If that’s what you think then respond to the challenge to repute the facts stated above. No more mud, just reasoned argument – please.

  • Rubbish. You’re so blinded by hate of Labour that you can’t even be coherent about it.
    Scotland was governed mostly in a fairly patronising and poor manner from Westminster directly until 1999 when Holyrood was thankfully set up.

    In Scottish terms the establishment parties are Labour, Tories & to a lesser extent the Lib Dems. There has been little in the way of socialism for either good or ill. Scotland has had moderate Labour/Lib Dem coalition governments and then social democratic SNP minority & majority government. Scottish governments have typically run a surplus so again pop goes the idea of socialism throwing money away.

  • I do not agree with most of your conclusion. Because New Labour Kept all Margaret Thatcher polices, that is why we won the 1997&2001&2005. The 20015 I honestly think we lost the election because we never rebut the Collation Government that the last Labour Government wreck the economy, which became their mantra. As for win back Scotland, the business played a big part in the outcome. Labour should challenge UKIP and this Tory Government to stay in Europe, I do believe it would be one of the biggest mistake this Country would make if were to come out of Europe.

  • The middle ground changes 1974′ most Liberals were just as Appalled as labour voters were, at how Heath treated the miners ,10 years later most liberals/SDP supported the democratization of unions,and wanted Scargill to have balloted his members, & for those not on strike not to have been stopped crossing the picket lines
    2001 most libdems felt labours Pro immigration policy was good, 2010 most libdems in Coalition with Tories,felt that it was under cutting pay of ?UK workers, by getting cheap labour from abroad,

  • I have real problems with this analysis, not least because it seems to abandon almost all Labour values.

    I’m not sure that the medical profession could consent to Daniel’s proposals to send “irresponsible” people to the back of the queue. Has he never heard of the Hippocratic oath? Doctors assess priorities on the basis of clinical need, not a moral judgement about the acceptability of an individual’s behaviour. Just how far would should this principle be taken? Is it right to refuse to treat alcoholics? Users of Class-A drugs? Reckless drivers with life threatening injuries or those who engage in dangerous sports? Where should the line be drawn between the self-destructive personal behaviour that Daniel apparently deplores and a pattern of behaviour resulting from mental illness?

    There’s compelling evidence by the way that the obesity epidemic is a consequence of awful income inequality – see for example Sir Michael Marmot’s work (Status Syndrome, 2004)

    I can imagine a saloon bar bore coming up with this but find it somewhat surprising from a member of the Labour Party.

    The same might be said for his proposal that families should not be able to have “indefinite numbers of children paid for by the taxpayer”. Kids don’t “deserve” their parents, whether responsible or irresponsible. This approach would almost certainly deepen the problem of child poverty – as we shall see following George Osborne’s budget announcements. Eugenics has a not entirely happy history on the British left (think Sydney and Beatrice Webb). Is Daniel proposing we should go back to policies for “improving the race”?

    I’m a little more comfortable for his contributory approach to social security (which after all is what Beveridge intended), but this comes with a price tag attached (higher national insurance contributions to reduce reliance on means testing). Proper provision also has to be made for those who cannot work and will therefore never make the contributions required.

    Most of Daniel’s proposals are a policy blind alley. It’s a good indication of what the Party should NOT do if it wants to win in 2020.

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