You may find this an odd headline to publish, the day after Jeremy Corbyn’s historic landslide victory in the Labour Party leadership elections; it refers to the general election, not to yesterday’s events.
Professor Simon Wren-Lewis has issued a warning that Labour most concentrate on publicity as much as policy, as follows:
It used to be said that governments, not oppositions, win or lose elections. Yet all of the comment is about Labour’s policies. A much better place to start is why voters voted for a Conservative government. That quickly leads you to the fact that voters saw the Conservatives as competent in economic terms. And that is where you should stop.
You should stop because, as I have argued many times, the raw data on the economy was terrible. If you had asked any pollster or political scientist whether a government could win on economic competencehaving presided over a huge fall in real wages they would have said no.
The Conservatives won because they reframed the economic debate. Competence became reducing the deficit, not increasing prosperity. Labour’s failure was a failure to challenge that reframing. Forget the details of Labour policy – it is of little importance compared to this crucial mistake.
Corbyn will have some advantages. He will not let Osborne’s deficit fetishism go unchallenged. But that challenge will only work if the alternative policy is solid and simple… Focusing on the current balance will allow for a large increase in public investment, which again can be spun very simply: Labour, unlike the Conservatives, invests in our future (It is not afraid to borrow to do so, just like every successful firm).
Corbyn, and the team he selects, may not want to call it spin, but if they do not match their opponent’s ability in this area they will lose.
Source: mainly macro: Labour lost
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Professor Simon Wren-Lewis is an economist not a psephologist and it shows. It is not the first time he has given us the benefit of his insight from the dreaming spires and ivorty towers of Oxford University. If economic competence were the only reason Labour lost then he might have a point, but it was not as the detailed analyses show:
1. The Smith Institute: red alert: why Labour lost and what needs to change? By Paul Hunter https://smithinstitutethinktank.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/red-alert-why-labour-lost-and-what-needs-to-change.pdf
2. The Fabian Society: Never Again – Lessons From Labour’s Key Seats, edited by Sally Keeble and Will Straw.
3. Labour lost because voters believed it was anti-austerity. Jon Cruddas
4. The Fabian Society: The mountain to climb: Labour’s 2020 challenge. Andrew Harrop
5. Project Red Dawn: Labour’s revival (and survival). Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC
6. Can Labour Win? The hard road to power. Patrick Diamond & Giles Radice (& Penny Bochum)
Corbyn wants to celebrate migration. My working class relatives and ex-colleagues want to send them home. Labour’s membership is not only more middle class than it has ever been, the middle class now actually make up most of its membership too. Less than 50% of the trade union registered voters bothered to vote so Corbynmania obviously has a limited appeal in one very important quarter.
Check out this Blairite analysis for light relief:
bbm campaigns: Listening to Labour’s Lost Labour Voters By Alan Barnard and John Braggins
One of these chaps made a sizeable contribution to Labour’s pitiful approach to the referendum campaign in Scotland. Crucially, in Scotland, Labour voters who voted Yes in September 2014 switched to the SNP in May this year and SNP voters who voted No, and there were a fair few of them, remained SNP voters in May.
Corbyn’s response was to go to Scotland, say he knew next to nothing about the situation there, but tell voters that he thinks devolution has gone too far already. He said income tax and corporation tax rates in Scotland should never be lower than those in England and Wales and that he was opposed to Scotland’s social security budget being controlled wholly by the Scottish Parliament. Time for Labour to cut its losses, close its branch office in Edinburgh and focus on winning seats in England? I guess Corbyn will not be responding positively for calls by Welsh Labour for further devolution in Wales.
Prof Wren-Lewis quotes Diamond and Radice, of course. I note also your humorous inclusion of the Cruddas article claiming Labour lost because people thought it was anti-austerity. That’s very funny, since we know the exact opposite is the case.
Corbyn is right to celebrate migration – migrant workers contribute more to the UK economy, and take less away, than the native population. This is something that was proved long ago – I seem to recall Scriptonite having a lot to say about it at the time. Your relatives and ex-colleagues would be better-served doing some research on the subject. Labour’s membership has changed radically over the past few months. If you want to discuss psephology, perhaps you should wait until the new composition of that membership has been revealed before commenting on it.
Now that Corbyn is in charge, it seems unlikely that Labour’s behaviour in the Scottish referendum campaign will form any kind of template for the future. As for Corbyn’s comments – are you saying you approve of Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to turn Scotland into a tax haven, will all the concurrent revenue losses that would entail?
My relatives and ex DWP colleagues are the people now flirting with, if not voting for ukip. They are the people Corbyn thinks should vote Labour. I am afraid Corbyn (and you) are deluded if you think they will meekly accept the line you peddle. It probably is true, but for them perception is reality and no white, middle class, affluent male MP preaching at them is going to change that perception. That takes emotional intelligence and hard work. Try going by bus in inner city Birmingham to see what I mean https://jodatu.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/i-was-standing-at-the-bus-stop-minding-my-own-business-when/
Where is your evidence, not opinion, that the voters, especially in England felt we were insufficiently anti-austerity (page 29 of the Smith Institute Report)? If that was the case, why did so many of them vote for ukip and the Tories? Labour gained 12 seats from the Lib Dems the Tories took 27. So much for the issue of tuition fees.
We already have data about the new composition of the Labour Party. It was mostly male, mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly middle aged, mostly public sector employed back in May. Women are now even more in a minority than they were back in May and the middle class have managed to push the working class to the margins of the party. Corbyn is not a tribune of the people, but the spokesman for Islington Man and Woman. Corbyn, like Cameron, has a problem with women and, seemingly, BEMs too. As it happens, Corbyn and Cameron went to boys only secondary schools, a selective grammar and Eton respectively.
51% of the electorate will be over 55 in May 2020 (page 24 of the Smith Institute Report). They, not the current membership of the Labour Party, will determine the conditions under which the 2020 General Election will be fought.
I am not very confident that Corbyn and the Corbynettes will cope effectively with their inherent cognitive dissonance. It is of a piece with the fact that many of them are responsible for the state in which we find our economy and society, but decline to accept that responsibility. They have to believe what is good for the middle classes is good for people like me (and my family) or else suffer a brainstorm (without post it notes in primary colours).
And these senior civil servants, barristers, journalists and the like live in Islington. Corbyn may look working class to them. He actually looks like what a middle class undergraduate in the 1960s thought a working class hero dressed like. John Lennon dressed like it for a while. I have a Breton Fisher Man’s Cap, just like that Lennon wore and Corbyn wears. My brother bought it over 25 years ago when he was going through his Angry Young Man phase.
I know it is fashionable, if not obligatory, in some quarters to eschew evidence based arguments, but I prefer to be seen as unfashionable, rather than blinkered and tribal.
The Scottish electorate has voted Sturgeon into office on a mandate that included the tax powers she is about to receive. I suspect, if they were deployed in full, that the policy would backfire on them in exactly the same way that the similar policy did in Eire. That, however, is their choice, is it not? And you may only change their minds by deploying emotional intelligence and not lecturing them. Look up what happened in Eire. It provides the perfect counter-argument to Sturgeon’s approach, because the evidence suggests that lower corporation and income tax rates in Scotland would result in less not more revenue going into the Scottish Government’s coffers.
Corbyn is out of step with the Scottish electorate. Polling suggested strongly that devo-max would have swept the board, if it had been on the ballot paper, last September. Corbyn (and you?) are opposed to devo-max. Changing the minds of Scottish voters will, again, require emotional intelligence and hard graft not rhetoric. In other words, the sort of approach to which Corbyn is not used to taking. And I really do think he does not know how to empathise with people with whom he disagrees and has differences. And, going by some of the reactions to criticism of Corbyn’s character and his policies then many of his supporters are similarly handicapped. It does not bode well for building the coalitions of support needed to hold on to seats next May, does it?
I agree with this entirely, however the problem will be in getting the message out there in what will undoubtedly be ‘open season’ on Jeremy Corbyn.
I mean, heaven forfend that a politician should have the temerity to challenge the austerity narrative with some socialist policies.
Beware, the attack dogs are forming a pack.