Labour must turn and fight now – or give up its electoral hopes altogether

Struggling to make an impact: Ed Miliband must reject the Tory Party's narrative about the need for austerity and bring forward a vision for the future that really does make us 'One Nation' again, rather than hanging on David Cameron's neoliberal coat-tails, as many former Labour voters believe.

Struggling to make an impact: Ed Miliband must reject the Tory Party’s narrative about the need for austerity and bring forward a vision for the future that really does make us ‘One Nation’ again, rather than hanging on David Cameron’s neoliberal coat-tails, as many former Labour voters believe.

The political debate is all about the Labour Party again today – as it has been since the Budget.

The newspapers and websites are full of advice for the party, which is now clearly seen to be struggling to gain any kind of a foothold with electors who have become disillusioned at what might best be called the Party of Very Little Opposition.

Labour “must adopt new principles” according to an alliance of thinktanks and party intellectuals who have written to The Guardian; Ed Miliband has been told “don’t play safe” with the party’s manifesto according to an article on the same paper’s site.

The BBC News site has words from left-wing MP John Mann, calling on his party leader to stop trying to be “too clever” and be “much clearer” in setting out his policies.

We can probably discount the Telegraph article by Dan Hodges, claiming that Labour is “closed for business”. It plays to right-wing readers’ prejudices just a little too much.

Will Ed pay any attention to these pleas? Evidence suggests he will not.

I should clarify from the outset that, as a Labour member, I want the Party to win in 2015 (and also to gain the lion’s share of the vote in May’s European elections).

But Miliband seems to be living in a world of his own, insulated from the rest of the Labour Party – not to mention supporters of Labour ideals who are not members – by a small group of (not-so-special) advisers who, it’s claimed, intercept any decent ideas before they get to the party leader and spin them until they turn to drivel. Whether this is true or not seems immaterial as this is the perception of the general public.

And perception is everything.

As I write this article I have just received a comment stating that “Miliband’s strategy for the next election seems to be a) to accept the Tory frame of reference for any given argument and b) to then concede the field of battle on that issue, whatever it is, without a shot being fired.” This is a common complaint, and Labour has no answer to it.

Why do Miliband, Balls, Tristram Hunt (notably), Rachel Reeves (lamentably) and all the other Labour frontbenchers blithely accept the Coalition’s terms of reference on any issue, against the wishes of their own backbenchers, their party as a whole and the public at large?

Are they really just a gang of greedy moneygrubbers, determined to screw the country for whatever they can get? That in itself would be a betrayal of Labour Party ideals and their constituency parties should deselect them if members believed that to be the case for one moment.

Are they a gang of neoliberals, their political philosophy so close to that of the Conservatives that you can’t get a credit card between them? This rings threateningly true in the cases of Oxford PPE graduats Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, ex-Bank of England employee Rachel Reeves and Tristram Hunt. But Ed Miliband is (famously) the son of a Marxist. He, above all, should know better.

The trouble is, David Miliband is the son of the same Marxist and he was as much a part of the neoliberal New Labour Red Tory deception as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Oh look – another comment has just arrived. “More people don’t bother to vote because they feel that we as a people have moved on and all we really want is people who will represent us honestly, by majority and with no hidden agendas, backhanders or lobbyists pulling the strings. I don’t see any evidence that the present government or the Labour Party are capable or willing to do just that… They should have the courage to change and become the voice of the people.”

Become the voice of the people. The meaning is clear – Labour is not currently representing anybody at all.

Is this true? Let’s look at some of the other comments on my (left-leaning, let’s not forget) blog. These are from people who are generally sympathetic to Socialism and who should, therefore, see Labour as the natural home of their vote. What do they say?

“[Is it] any wonder [that] 1. People don’t vote because they are seen as “all the bloody same”? and 2. The perceived differences have become so minuscule?”

“Until Labour wakes up and realises it is the welfare cuts that are a major concern to most of us and to anyone who has a conscience, they will lose the next election due to apathy.”

“Labour have to do something different to what they have up to now but they don’t seem to want to. Are they scared of being in government over a country in the state it is?”

“Labour have had four years to do something – anything – to fight against the welfare cuts, and to help the people they are supposed to be the party for! They’ve really done nothing when all is said and done.”

If Ed Miliband was reading this, I would be asking if he was getting the message yet (are you, Ed?) and what he proposes to do about it. You think not? Let’s have some more comments from people who should be supporting Labour – I’ve got plenty of them!

“There has been absolutely no fight in this opposition and I am ashamed of them.”

“People need a reason to apply their votes to Labour and Miliband-Balls are not providing them with one. They are sleepwalking into another hung Parliament and a very real risk of the Tories teaming up with UKIP. Then we’ll really see Nazism grip this country.”

“The would-be voters demand change and need bold new policies to blunt the Tory cutters. If the Labour Party cannot come up with policies which are radical then they don’t deserve to be in power at the next election, or ever.”

“Ed Balls worries me because he seems intent on copycatting Osborne. For example Osborne says he will run a surplus by the end of the next Parliament and Balls promises the same. Osborne say he will be introducing a Benefit Cap on social security spending on working age benefits (which could have devastating effects and lead to real terms cuts in benefits for years on end) and Balls says that Labour will vote with the Coalition to introduce it.”

“Surely we need some clear red water between Labour and the Tories? Surely Labour needs to differentiate itself more from the policies of the Coalition?”

“I sent an email to the Labour Party asking for its policy on TTIP (the rightly-feared Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will force employment standards down to third-world levels, or below), amongst other things. They were decidedly equivocal and I felt no reassurance at all. I think it’s about we faced facts, Labour aren’t being coy in a pre-election year to avoid frightening the horses, they really are just another pack of neoliberals.”

This is how left-wing voters (and the squeezed-middle waverers to whom Ed Miliband keeps trying to pander) see the modern Labour Party: Carbon-copy Tories with no fresh ideas who aren’t worth the effort of voting.

If any of Ed’s shadow cabinet is okay with that description, he needs to sack them and bring in someone with a clue. And he needed to do it last year.

If the Conservatives win in 2015, it seems clear that responsibility will lie as much with Labour’s failure to provide any clearly-visible alternative.

We have already seen carnage inflicted on the poor, the sick and disabled, and a Conservative-only government (or in collaboration withUKIP) would increase that bloodshed tenfold (senior citizens take note: the bribe you were given last week was a trick and if you vote Conservative, many of you will not live to rectify your error at another election).

Unless Ed Miliband sorts out his party – pronto – that blood will be on his hands as well, and the people will not forgive him.

Note that I did not say they won’t forgive Labour. I said they won’t forgive Ed Miliband.

Words cannot describe the way people feel at what has been done to them by the Coalition. If Labour reveals even the slightest element of complicity, I wouldn’t give a farthing for Miliband’s safety.

That goes for the rest of the shadow cabinet too.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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25 thoughts on “Labour must turn and fight now – or give up its electoral hopes altogether

  1. Ian Duncan

    I agree. Totally 100%. It’s almost like Miliband and his team are deep cover corporatist agents who were planted in the Labour party to kill it from inside, clearing the way for neoliberalism to reign unopposed.

    This government might be shockingly poor, not to mention spiteful, maliciouss and crooked, but Labour are truly terrible. How can a government so genuinely shit still be level pegging with the opposition? How bad does the government need to be for Labour to take advantage? Why have we heard nothing on the Conservatives interests in private healthcare companies? Or any of their shady dealings? Where’s the aggression?

    I’m tired of this country. Tired. I want out but have no way of going.

    1. Dr Lawrence S. Roberts.

      I live in Oz mate and its the same here. The Australian Labor Party,(ALP) are just a bunch of middle class career “Polies” who are only in for the Pay, Perks & Pension. It does feel like a conspiracy whoever you vote for Tweedle Dum or Dee.

  2. thoughtfullyprepping

    Same shit. different tie.
    That’s what the people are thinking.
    Both sides made of wet, self serving, rich, out of touch with reality, twerps.
    What is needed is a new outlook, a new approach, not the same old tired, failed politics we’ve had to put up with for years.

    It’s time for a REAL leader to rise, preferably from the streets, and come to think about it, how’s about a little bit of regime change too.
    Perhaps the US can help there , after all they have a “little” experience haven’t they?

  3. G Jones

    That’s pretty much exactly my feelings. Either they distance themselves from the Neoliberal rubbish that’s driven us all into increasing misery over the last thirty years, or I won’t vote for them.

  4. HomerJS

    I think that Ed may try to do things differently, but he is too cautious and tries to be too clever. You can see some subtle moves towards change in some of the rhetoric, but although I can understand the reluctance to peak too early, I think that being subtle is not going to win votes. That is probably where Miliband is going wrong, he is more worried about losing votes rather than being positive about winning votes.

  5. sonya lippold (@LippoldS)

    I`m as worried and angry at Labour’s lacklustre performance. It’s a huge mountain to climb, to give credible solutions to where we find ourselves, with problems on so many fronts. Extreme policies only give ammunition to our foes, but how do you give hope to a beaten down population, without it being labelled maliciously as extreme leftist solutions?

  6. Pingback: Labour must turn and fight now – or give up its electoral hopes altogether | Warcraft, Books & Fibromyalgia

  7. jess

    Two pieces in the Guardian this weekend from Reeves, both of which accepted the tory budget, without even a whimper.

    Tory failure to tackle financial squeeze on families is pushing up welfare costs
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/23/tory-failure-financial-squeeze-welfare-costs

    Labour backs principle of George Osborne’s pension shakeup
    http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/23/labour-george-osborne-pension

    Leaves one asking whether Milliband is leading an ‘opposition’ or a ‘rubber stamp’?

    Is he that scared of the blairites remaining in the party that he cannot act to curb their nonsense?

    Or is this where he really stands…?

  8. hilary772013

    Totally Agree with everything said above.. Labour MUST start listening or face the consequences in 2015.. The EU elections will be very interesting & if Labour do badly they (fingers crossed) may then decide to do something about their failings & they need to do it quickly to stand any chance in 2015 of gaining a majority or indeed to get enough votes for a hung parliament.. the consequence of Labour failing are too horrendous.. Wish I could emigrate I would in a flash..

  9. Tim

    If puny and ultra-weak Chris Leslie is an example of the very model of a modern Labour minister then Labour have had it. I’ve seen this little twit popping up all over the place on behalf of the Labour party and making no impression whatsoever. In fact I recently heard him say (to a Conservative politician) on the Daily Politics that Labour was all for the global welfare cap in order to “control” welfare spending which had “got out of control” under the coalition! Can’t we have some competent representatives, well briefed with a bit of fight in them to send out to challenge the Tories? These people seem so weak and almost embarrassed to challenge the coalition’s orthodoxy that the poor must be made continually poorer in order to reduce the deficit and enable those who “do the right thing and want to get on” to prosper. How can you win a war when you surrender the field before every battle?

  10. Julian Wright

    The Labour response to four years of Coalition Government has been nothing short of scandalous. As a lifelong Socialist I voted Labour at the last (and every other) General Election, yet I was pleased when the Tories and LibDem’s formed a coalition Government. WHY? I hear you ask. Because I knew that whichever party was in power for the next term were on a hiding to nothing given the Global recession (Global – remember, not of Labour making). I knew that whichever party got in would be destroyed as either they would fail to deal with the recession, or that cuts to counter it (which is the default position of a Tory Government) would be painful to the general public. With a coalition Government we could see the annihilation of two parties for the price of one – a double whammy for the LibDem’s who would be loathed by floating voters for being party to these policies and loathed by it’s members who would recognise the selling-out of ideal (important to party members) for a play with power. But here is the real travesty – whilst the LibDem’s are destroyed by what I described above, Labour look no where near winning the next election with a landslide, let alone overall majority which should be a given considering the draconian policies implemented by a coalition government, led by the Tory party. The wholesale destruction of all that is important to genuine Socialists, the NHS, Welfare State, Education, etc. does not seem enough material for Ed’s and co. to produce policies that show the difference between the two parties. If Labour cannot be climbing, no scaling, the polls now, then I can’t see when!

  11. Thomas M

    I hate the Tories, despise the BNP (for their racism) and the Lib Dems (for being traitors). I think the Greens and TUSC are too small to get anywhere. And I don’t trust Labour.

  12. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This is strong words, but true, and I very much doubt that they will be welcomed by either Balls or Milliband. Both have their political roots in the New Labour project. I’ve already put up a piece on my blog detailing the role of the British American Project in shaping New Labour, and Ed Balls was certainly one of the aspiring British politicos, who won a scholarship at an American university through their agency. As Milliband, he clearly rejected his father’s Marxism. Part of this lies in the psychological effect the collapse of Communism itself had on the Left around the world. It seemed to discredit not only Communism, but any kind of Socialist politics. It also led to the development of a Marxist Right, which took the view that Socialism had lost the dialectic with Capitalism, and so the only thing that could be done was for Marxists to embrace and manage capitalism. This small group of very peculiar Marxist radicals also formed part of the core of the New Labour project. The parapolitical magazine has devoted a number of issues to the development of and criticism of New Labour, and there’s also a large section about it in Owen Jones’ ‘Chavs’. At the heart of this is the inertia of the party leadership to realise that Neo-Liberalism is not as popular as they thought, nor is it nearly as efficient as Maggie claimed, and that by embracing it, far from being modernisers they are rapidly becoming yesterday’s men and women.

  13. jaypot2012

    I’ve always voted labour and am really angry how this party has become more and more about the rich rather than the poor and working class. I find it disgusting that they brought in the welfare changes in the first place, although is wasn’t supposed to end up anywhere near what the tories have done – for the labour party to just accept that there are people starving, freezing, unable to pay bills, have no money at all, are losing their homes, and mums and dad’s don’t eat because the children need the food – labour are the ones that are supposed to fix this, to fight against this austerity, to look after the people, yet 4 years later and they haven’t done a tap! This shows that their leanings are not for us ordinary folk so I can understand why the people are torn about who to vote for.
    I am torn as I believe an awful lot of the Greens’ policies and their common sense, on the other hand I am a labour voter?!?!?
    I know for sure I am going to be voting for independence in Scotland so would not have to choose anyone for the election as ours won’t be until 2016? I think????

    1. Mike Sivier

      What did you think Labour were going to achieve during a period of Conservative-led Coalition government?
      Remember, in a whipped vote the Coalition MUST win because they have the majority. You cannot blame Labour for this; it’s how your Parliamentary democracy works and I’m getting tired of explaining this every day.
      So that does NOT show that Labour’s leanings are against ordinary folk. Never mind, there are still plenty of policy points that suggest the same.
      If you’re voting for an independent Scotland, does that mean you support the SNP, rather than the Greens or Labour? That’s how they’ll take it.

  14. jess

    Agreed that Labour were never going to win a vote against a the coalition

    That does not mean they have to jump up and endorse tory policies.

    When people like Hutton point out the flaws in Osborne’s budget, one can at least expect Labour shadow ministers to argue against it

    When the meanness of the benefit cap is obvious to all, could we not hope that a Labour shadow minister would not endorse it, then say they would make even more cuts?

    That is Labour’s problem, complicity with tory policies

    1. Mike Sivier

      You’ve put your finger on the problem all right.

      Labour haven’t supported Tory-led policies at Parliamentary votes – but they do speak in support of them. That’s just confusing.

      I think I’m right in saying we don’t want an ‘opposition’ party that supports the government. We want one that opposes it.

      I also think I’m right in saying the party of opposition should come up with alternatives to the government policies it opposes.

      What Labour is actually doing will cause nothing but confusion. Nobody will vote for a party if they don’t know whether they can trust it.

  15. jess

    What we could do with is Labour shadow ministers doing what kittysjones has done here
    http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/21-more-good-reasons-to-vote-labour/

    I know that would put a spring in the step of many potential Labour voters

    And make a nice change from the feelings of trepidation currently endured when one reads an interview with members of the shadow cabinet.

    [I know that you will have already reblogged it, but who wants to ‘whine’ all the time?]

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