Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why Labour Lost The General Election

In the Labour Party Report "Learning the Lessons from Defeat" (by Margaret Beckett) there is an important section which states "for  all  the  strength  of  our  policies,  much  of  the  evidence  we  have  received  speaks  of  a  lack  of  public  awareness  of  much  of  their  content.  We  have  also  heard  of  a  perception  that,  while  individual  policies were  often  sound  and  popular,  we  lacked  the  early  adoption  of  a  consistent  overarching  narrative  or  theme,  which  could  be  simply  expressed  and  conveyed  on  the  doorstep,  or  in  the  studio."

Unfortunately, this point is not then elaborated upon and is not pushed to the top of the Report's analysis. It has been missed from most of the recent commentaries on the Report.

Yet Labour (especially via its Policy Forums) developed a comprehensive set of policies in the run up to the General Election, which should have been distilled and pushed for a considerable period before voting day. There were umpteen platforms that could have been used for this purpose. These platforms included the European Elections, the Scottish Referendum, the 2014 Labour Party Annual Conference and during the months running up to the fixed period of the General Election. In the circumstances (as time ran out) Labour was even late in publishing its General Election Manifesto. I wonder who ever even read it?

Whilst this was a collective failure of those at the top of the Labour Party and especially by Ed Miliband as our leader, it was a specific and direct failure by Douglas Alexander. He was Chair of Labour's Strategy for the General Election. Little wonder he then lost his own parliamentary seat in Scotland.

Labour had a mass of relevant policies for the General Election, which hardly ever saw the light of day. I listed 180 of Labour's proposals over 16 items on this blog between 8 and 20 November 2014. They can be found via this link.  These clearly needed distilling into a set of easy to handle points.Whilst this can technically be said to have been done in a ten point set of proposals which was eventually circulated on a single occasion, opportunity after opportunity was missed when contacting and organising Labour's membership. All that Labour was after was our money and canvassing activities, which had no real political script. Except, of course, for the big policy idea of that one off slab of concrete. Whoever looked at what that said?

I have made the above claims on various occasions and to Margaret Beckett's enquiry. See, for instance via this link. 


Unknown said...

You can have all the good policies in the world but if they are based on a fraud neoliberalism)and dependent on crumbs from the rich man’s table (Blairite trickle-down economics)they become meaningless political spin and as relevant to daily life of most working people as Church of England Bishops seeking social justice via prayers.

Westminster MP’s are past masters at spinning this con trick aided and abetted by the right wing press and corporate Britain. After all, they’ve been spinning this yarn for decades and blaming the victims when things go wrong.

Just like 2008 and the credit crash, which Labour made worse with is banking bale out strategy (Quantitative Easing) rewarding the crooks and derivative traders rather than (like Iceland) taking control of financial institutions and putting the cheats in jail.

Very different to Gordon Brown gave the boss of RBS, Fred Goodwin, a knighthood and through Quantitative Easing printed billions to benefit the hedge fund traders responsible for crashing the system. The very people whose self-serving avarice and illegal behaviour gave the Tory’s the excuse to trash our welfare state and make the UK’s poor and vulnerable citizens pay for the insatiable greed of the super-rich and tax avoiding Corporations and Non Dom’s.

But with the march of the robots which may create many new jobs but destroy millions of low skilled, middle class and professional occupations, it is highly likely that reliance on the free market and corporations and business to delivery balance, fairness and social justice will be more wishful thinking.

For many Labour MP’s it is acceptable for company executives and managers to enrich themselves at the expense of the people they employ all in the name of modernisation and efficiency savings. Strange then don’t you think, that Westminster politicians always keen to be seen as business friendly and to force efficiency changes and modernism onto working people, are perfectly happy to continue working in an antiquated museum themselves (they cannot even bring themselves to vote efficiently) and have learnt nothing from the 1970’s and 80’s and how to help the victims of structural change and new technology.

Seems to me that unless Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum can bring about a change of direction and challenge the lies and fraud associated with establishment lies and economic orthodoxy, a big ask, then Labour will continue to fragment and change won’t happen. Hopefully, some in the Corbyn, Momentum camp will be serious about making the case for a statutory living wage, in banning zero contracts and are grappling with an economic strategy to ensure, balance, fairness and state intervention to ensure this happens in the here and now not in some fairy tale future.

This will require an alternative economic strategy that the party and electorate can buy into and support for a benign state and a welfare state based on a living wage and citizen’s income. In this respect, the Labour movement, what is left of it, seems to embody the statement attributed to Santayana: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it"

But change won’t happen with crack-pot ideas about Trident submarines circumventing the world without nuclear missiles as a sop to some trade union leaders.

I mean is it beyond the wit of Labour politicians (in the Westminster bubble or anywhere) to promise enhanced redundancy and inward investment to the communities affected by job losses in order to provide an economic cushion and new opportunities for the Trident workers who lose their jobs when this weapon of mass destruction is scrapped.

But sadly, no matter what Jeremy Corbyn says and does the Blairites are determined to get rid of him and when the party fragments further and its deemed unelectable, they will jump ship and join the Tories, Liberals whatever.

But there again, I might be wrong and usually am.

Harry Barnes said...

Ernie : I selected 180 points from Labour's Policy Reviews. These can be found in 16 items on this blog which my above article provides a link to. My complaint is that Labour overwhelmingly ignored what we then had under our belts and did not make use of the matters we had developed.

I am not claiming that all the points were either ideal or comprehensive. But the general trust was a distinct impovement on what emerged in the days of Blair and Brown.

But whilst ideally I would like to have seen additions to numbers of the items, I felt that it was a start towards moving Labour in a better direction. The door against socialists in the Labour Party seemed to me to have been unlocked, even if it would take a lot of pushing to get through it.

Of the 180 points, one which concerned me was the seeming acceptance of Free Schools - see the fifth item in block six of those I listed. Then block 12 had six items I was unhappy with. Number two needed to be gone beyond in its opposition to TTIP. Then I was worried that items 8,9,10, 11 and 12 seemed to be being used as a sop to anti-immigrant views.

But this left 173 points which (at least) started to creep in a positive direction. My complaint is that we then virtually buried these, although numbers appeared in our Manifesto. But this was another document we hardly used.

Remember this was in a different universe from today's Labour Party. No one in the run up to the General Election could ever have dreamt that Jeremy Corbyn would soon become leader - least of all Jeremy.

We now need considerable tactical sense to be come from Jeremy and those around him. Whilst his Trident initiative lacked this, his early change of ground on the European Union showed what can be done. His traditional stance was against our being a member. He shared this view in the Socialist Campaign Group (and on many other matters also) with Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner and Bob Cryer. But once he became leader he moved his stance which is much nearer to item four in my block 12 - " See Britain's national interest as being at the heart of a reformed EU which should include binding and robust human rights clauses, including ILO core standards". Corbyn is now close to a line I used to argue in the Socialist Campaign Group - stay in the EU but tackle its major defects which are a democratic deficit and a lack of a social agenda. We have links with the Party of European Socialist containing 32 political parties in the EU to help push such programmes.

Although Jeremy has problems within the PLP, he holds important cards. He exercises powers of patronage, in spite of recent problems over his re-shuffle (a move which seemed to me to be unnecessary). Blair bought off many in the Tribune Group by his use of patronage. Jeremy can try the same with Progress. Then we need the democratisation of the Labour Party, with a leader who seeks to influence (but will also accept) its decisions.

The Labour Party has many shortcomings, but I am not sure of the alternative to work with and through. Is it the ex-Militant Socialist Party, the Greens, Left Unity, the SNP or whom ? If it is Momentum, then when it gets properly established that will (I assume) require holding a Labour Party Membership Card. There are of course other avenues to work through. We could spend all day looking for and signing e-petitions.

The future may, of course, hold the unforseen. In the days when "every child that is born alive is a little Liberal or ConservATtive", it was difficult to imagine that Labour would replace the Liberals within the two-party structure. And now we have just had a General Election where the total Tory and Labour vote is down to almost only two-thirds of the total - and there are mass non-registrations and non-voting.