It’s time to debunk a few common myths about the Labour Party

The Vox Political Facebook page has become a lively place over the last couple of days – mainly because of the presence of misinformed people purveying hand-me-down myths about Labour Party policies, accompanied by the odd troll who wants to cause mischief by supporting those beliefs, even though they know them to be false.

This makes it a frustrating place for Yr Obdt Srvt, who has had to respond to every other comment with a rehash of explanations provided to other people on other comment threads. It’s like trying to have a conversation in which you have to repeat yourself after every couple of sentences because you’re talking to people who keep coming out with the same – disproved – claims.

Clearly it is time to provide these people with a common point of reference, to which they may refer – it won’t shut up the trolls but at least they’ll look stupid if they’ve been given an answer and still carry on.

So! Let’s have a look at some of these claims.

1. “Labour voted to support the Bedroom Tax and it is hypocritical of them to oppose it now.”

Labour never – categorically NEVER – voted for the Bedroom Tax.

The entire Parliamentary Labour Party (barring possibly any who were ill or had some other reasonable excuse not to be present) voted against the Welfare Reform Act (which contains Bedroom Tax legislation) when it was pushed through Parliament in February 2012. Look up Hansard debates, February 21, where MPs’ speeches, and the way they voted, are reported verbatim.

Since then, the party’s campaigning against the Bedroom Tax has been constant.

If you have been making this claim, you stand corrected.

Do not come to this blog or the Vox Political Facebook page repeating that claim again.

In addition, you should now take responsibility for preventing other people from spreading that falsehood. If you spot anyone doing so, you just make sure they know the facts – along with everyone they’ve been misinforming.

2. “Labour has committed itself to following Coalition spending plans and is therefore no different from the Conservatives.”

The Tory spending limits myth is another one that has to be challenged at every turn because a lot of people misunderstand it.

Firstly, just because Labour has committed itself to keeping the same limit on its spending as the Tories, for one year only, does not mean that Labour will spend the money in exactly the same way!

Too many people make this assumption when there is absolutely no basis for it in fact – including some newspapers, it is sad to report. They got it wrong.

Secondly, government spending for the first year is tied down, to a certain extent, by commitments made by the previous administration. Once those are out of the way, it leaves the board clear for the new government to be as bold as it wants.

And, as the New Statesman has pointed out: “It is worth noting that Labour’s room for manoeuvre is greater than it might appear.

“First, the party’s pledge to match the coalition’s spending totals in 2015/16 does not mean that it has to spend each budget in the same way. In education, for instance, it could devote less funding to free schools and more to schools in areas where demand is greatest.

“Second, the commitment to match planned government spending only applies to the first year of the next parliament: the party is free to outspend the coalition after that and to make greater use of tax rises to reduce borrowing.

“Third, while promising to eliminate the current account deficit, Labour (unlike the Tories) has not pledged to eradicate the total deficit, leaving room to borrow to fund capital projects such as housing and transport infrastructure (provided that the rate of spending growth is slower than the growth in GDP it will still be able to meet its promise to reduce the national debt).”

3. “Ed Miliband is a closet Tory because he has said he wants to govern like Margaret Thatcher.”

Some people seem determined to shoehorn this statement into a belief that Miliband was confessing that he is a Conservative.

He was talking about Margaret Thatcher’s style of leadership, not her political beliefs – Thatcher led from the front, telling her cabinet what she wanted done and expecting them to do it. In contrast, for example, Johon Major was a consensus leader who discussed big decisions with the other members of his cabinet in order to find out their opinions before making a decision.

Now, you might have an opinion on which of those styles is the best, but you won’t even be able to start forming a judgement if you’re unable to recognise what it really is!

4. “We cannot trust New Labour, the party of Tony Blair and his brand of neoliberalism.”

New Labour ended in 2010.

Go to a search engine and type in ‘Ed Miliband new labour dead’ or something similar. The relevant articles are dated around September 26. New Labour was a neoliberal mistake.

New Labour made too many errors – it was a silly experiment to take Labour down the same neoliberal cul-de-sac as Thatcherite Tories. This is why the current leadership has turned its back on the whole project.

Yr Obdt Srvt joined Labour to help turn the party back into what it should be. Yes, there are still New Labour hangers-on, but Vox Political does its bit to expose them for what they are on the blog (as you’ll know, if you’re a regular reader).

We’re not all Red Tory propagandists, you know!

5. “Labour has not opposed any of the Coalition cuts to services or social security. Labour has supported them.”

This misconception seems to have grown from the fact that the Coalition has been able to push through all of the changes it wanted, no matter how damaging – and arises from a misunderstanding of the way Parliament works.

While the Coalition has a majority, it doesn’t matter what Labour does in Parliament – the Coalition will always win the vote.

In fact, Labour has opposed every single cut inflicted on the UK by the Coalition, except in one case where the party abstained in order to win concessions.

Labour MPs and activists have campaigned ceaselessly against the cuts that have led to many thousands of deaths, speaking out in the Commons Chamber, in newspapers, at demonstrations, rallies and public events. They have made it perfectly clear that they intend to hold the Coalition to account.

Claims that Labour “sat idle” for the last four years are dangerous nonsense as some people may believe them without checking the facts for themselves.

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  1. casalealex September 6, 2014 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I will share this on FB because this debunking needs to go viral. Too many people do not bother to research statements which need to be clarified. They tend to believe whatever the media and Tory propagandists say.

    23rd October 2013 – 12.31pm PMQs –

    “Lynton Crosby’s responsibility is to destroy the Labour party.” Cameron thunders.

    Lynton Crosby, who has declared that his role is to destroy the Labour Party, rather than promote the Conservatives, based on any notion of merit, is all about such a targeted “divide and rule” strategy. This is a right wing tactic of cultivating and manipulating apostasy amongst support for the opposition. It’s a very evident ploy in the media, too, with articles about Labour screaming headlines that don’t match content, and the Sun and Telegraph blatantly lying about Labour’s policy intentions regularly. Propaganda isn’t obvious, and that’s how it works. We need to be mindful of this.

    • casalealex September 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      PS Have bought your new book: “Health Warning: GOVERNMENT!”

      • Mike Sivier September 6, 2014 at 2:56 pm - Reply

        Thank you very much! Please could you write a review of it and post it on the site where you bought it?

  2. David K. September 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I agree wholeheartedly. The only thing that gives me niggling concerns is the assertion that ‘New Labour ended in 2010.’ I agree that while the party has moved away from the centre-right ground since Ed became leader, there are many supposedly left-wing Labour MPs who accept neo-liberal orthodoxies such as managerialism, markets, deregulation, public-private partnership, meritocracy, targets not values, and the audit culture. It’s the task of activists, I think, to put pressure on them, e.g. through constituency surgery meetings, to try to get them to change their minds on a lot of the things they take for granted that perpetuate inequality and the undue influence of commercial lobbyists, prominent people, the old boys network and big corporations.

    • Mike Sivier September 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      I think you’re absolutely right!

  3. Mr.Angry September 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Good article Mike, many thanks.

  4. foggy September 6, 2014 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    You’ve written a very good article Mike, as always, but I struggle to have a valid debate whereby I can, without any doubts, say that Labour isn’t Red Tories. I’m a lifetime Labour voter but I’m finding that Labour is giving out mixed messages and confusing the heck out of me. Labour claims the coalition’s cuts have been cruel and pernicious but then Rachael Reeves informs us that Labour will been tougher on welfare than the tories;
    I then read an article saying Labour isn’t Old Labour nor is it New Labour so what the heck is it? ;

    It’s blatantly obvious that Labours message is not clear enough and someone needs to pull their finger out and spell it out, with some detail, who they actually are and how they will be tougher than the tories on welfare. I want to vote Labour next time but I want to do it via an informed decision from all the information I can obtain so, as you suggested, I can clear up misunderstandings and falsehoods. If Labour wants people to trust them enough to back them and vote for them then surely they have to stop giving mixed messages.

    • Mike Sivier September 6, 2014 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      You definitely appear to be confused!
      Rachel Reeves was horrified to see the way her comments were taken and issued a correction very soon afterwards. I refer to it here:
      Why does the Labour Party, now that it has renounced the New Labour neoliberalism, have to go back to the Old Labour ways that made it unelectable in the 1980s? All this article was saying is it’s time for socialism to come up-to-date. Nothing wrong with that.
      There is information about your concerns available online – some of it on this blog! – and I hope Labour’s manifesto will clarify matters further for you.

      • David K. September 6, 2014 at 9:23 pm - Reply

        As you said in the blog entry you linked to, Mike, “Another person who seems to have had trouble saying what they mean is Rachel Reeves. This blog – and many other people – took her to task last weekend, after The Observer published an interview in which she reportedly made many ill-advised comments, giving the impression that Labour policy on social security was lurching to the right yet again…
        “Does it mean she was misquoted in the Observer article, and should she receive an apology from those of us who leapt down her throat? No.”

        I got the distinct impression she was trying to appeal to multiple constituencies – trying to present Labour as more sympathetic than the Tories but still using the language of toughness to placate anti-welfare right-wing voters. If her message was misunderstood it’s because she wanted it to be, but it was the right, not the left, she wanted to misunderstand it. Also, Labour’s Work Guarantee, however much better it is than the Tories’ work programme, still puts the blame on the labour force and its lack of skills, for unemployment, when unemployment is a structural feature of the neo-liberal economy, and the compulsory element of the Work Guarantee plays up to conservative prejudices. I keep hearing from Labour sources that skilling up is the answer to unemployment, which ignores the realities of current underemployed of highly skilled and qualified workers.

  5. jaypot2012 September 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Hear hear. Now let’s get on with the business as usual.

  6. Jane Hartley Jacques September 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Excellent, needs to be said and publicised. Otherwise it could be 5 more years of this appalling Government.

  7. Wayne Blackburn (@crazybladeuk) September 6, 2014 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    As ever a great blog and needs to be shared far and wide. I am sick and tired of the lies and misinformation that’s being spread about the Labour Party and glad you’ve pointed out some of the very worst of them. Good stuff!

  8. Chris Mckenzie September 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Why didn’t Labour Councils apose the cuts? In the 80’s they refused to set a legal budget in Town Halls and defended their communities. Even the Greens collapsed in Brighton!

    • Mike Sivier September 6, 2014 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      Terrible things happened to those Labour Councils in response, too. They ended up being charged £200,000 between 81 councillors – nearly £2,500 each which was a lot of money in those days, and those councillors were banned from holding elective office.

  9. thesaynopartyuk September 7, 2014 at 2:22 am - Reply

    Labour opposition of bedroom tax has been ‘constant?’ We beg to differ!

    • Mike Sivier September 7, 2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

      That’s a nice bit of propaganda but it avoids the facts. Labour didn’t want the Bedroom Tax imposed on the people so Labour MPs campaigned and voted against it. After it was brought in, Labour had to do some research to make a ‘best guess’ about the condition of the country in 2015, when a Labour government may be returned, and until that time nobody there was able to make firm promises. That might be a gift for organisations like your own, who could leap in with “Oh, look, they’re not against it after all!” noises but it is the sensible thing to do.
      Then when Labour came back and said they would be abolishing the tax if returned to office, those same organisations – like your own – took the opportunity to leap up and down about Labour having made up its mind “at last” – ignoring the fact that Labour members had been campaigning against the Bedroom Tax constantly since its imposition, standing up for their constituents.
      Labour has been constant in opposing the Bedroom Tax. Differ all you like but your argument falls.

  10. casalealex September 7, 2014 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Ain’t that the truth!

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