Saturday, May 02, 2009

Labour – United in Defeat?

Many months ago, I raised the prospect that, in the event of a large Conservative majority after the next election, Labour might struggle to continue as a unified political entity.

These thoughts have been speculatively confirmed by Paddy Ashdown, who, in an interview with the Telegraph (not available online it seems), indicates that up to a dozen Labour MPs are unhappy with the direction of the Party and want to jump ship to the Liberal Democrats.

This would come as little surprise. In 1994, New Labour distanced itself from the left – the abolition of Clause 4, promotion of a market economy, and the seduction of big business, to name but three methods by which it achieved this. It appears, that after the 2009 Budget (perhaps even before) that New Labour is well and truly dead. No political party which is serious about wealth creation can think that to take over half the income of a successful businessman or entrepreneur is a viable policy. No government which swore by fiscal prudence could allow debt to spiral so inexorably upwards that its repayment would burden future taxpayers for over 20 years.

Yet that is precisely what New Labour allowed to happen. New Labour was a lie, an illogical collision of contradictory political doctrines, and now it is seen to have failed, Labour has nowhere else left to turn – for they know, and it was proved on three occasions, that they cannot persuade a fundamentally market-driven electorate that socialism is a viable alternative. ‘Ah yes’, some left-inclined commentators might say, ‘but the game has fundamentally changed. Gone is the greed and arrogance of market capitalism. The state must now step in to guard against the reckless excess of the market.’ Nonsense. The game has not changed. The British people are not about to perform a swift U-turn in the direction of Attlee and Wilson. People will still want things, people will still want more money and want to make more money. Socialists believe that much of an individual's income is best spent by the state on the greater good. The British public have not agreed with this principle for some time.

This is why Labour could face a much more uncertain future than the Conservatives did in 1997. Conservatism has shown it can adapt, through Churchill, to Macmillan, then Thatcher and now Cameron. It had appeared as if New Labour had moved the goalposts for the Conservatives. Now the economy is in ruins, it appears that David Cameron will now have to emulate the 1979 victor, not the former member for Sedgefield.

New Labour diehards like Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers have no future in this Labour Party. The more marginal seats which were won for the first time in 1997 will be lost, and those MPs who owed Tony Blair their jobs in parliament will receive their P45s. New Labour-minded MPs will be in the minority in a 2010-2014/5 Labour opposition. They will have no place in a Party dominated by those MPs whose seats were too safe to fall to the Tories – mainly the left.

There are two main options: firstly, a SDP-style split of the Labour Party, which risks leaving a Labour rump completely unelectable for the foreseeable future, and a fourth-place political party in a FPTP system which has no chance of gaining any influence; alternatively, some New Labour MPs may hold their noses and cross the floor to join the Liberal Democrats. This could leave the two main opposition parties, Labour and the Lib Dems, with similar representation in parliament, and, psephologically at least, it would be a more logical move. It would probably also cause a substantial increase in the Lib Dem vote. Look at where Labour are now – 26-27% – and you realise quite how little support is commanded by the left of the Party in the country.

Both scenarios may hand the Conservatives the keys to Downing Street for a considerable period of time. It is critical that we do what we believe is right for the country, not what we believe will win us the next election. That is real politics – not New Labour’s shameless opportunism. We will need courage, leadership and a great deal of luck; and we will, as we did in the 1980s, prove to the electorate that our approach is the right one, not the profligacy and incompetence of Labour.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Labour can still win – but not how

Many commentators have chosen this moment to sound the death knell for the Labour Party’s electoral prospects. A dismal budget, a smears scandal inside Number Ten, expenses scandals, a truly dire economic situation have all combined to create a truly hellish few weeks for the government.

Luckily for the Tories, and ICM poll which showed them only 10 points ahead has probably been proved to have been a rogue. YouGov’s poll for the Telegraph this morning shows a very healthy 18-point lead – confirming similar data from BPIX (methodology aside) and Marketing Sciences (sister to ICM). Anthony Wells’ UK Polling Report General Election Projection (AWUKPRGEP if you prefer) now stands at a Conservative majority of 102.

Despite these poll leads and the seemingly unstoppable torrent of awful headlines, many Conservative supporters like me will only believe the victory is in the bag on election night itself – likely to be June 4th, 2010. We could be 50 points ahead at the moment and I would still not deny that Labour have the ability to surge once again. The 1992 election proves that an incumbent government can win with 3 million unemployed. The major difference on this occasion, I feel, is that it appears that the public have more faith in David Cameron and George Osborne to sort the economy out than they did in Neil Kinnock and John Smith. I am hopeful, however, that the next election has more in common with 1979 than 1992.

There are a few reasons why it’s still possible Labour will win:

  • The FPTP system is biased towards parties whose vote is more evenly spread across constituencies. The Tories rack up huge majorities in safe seats where they are effectively ‘wasted’
  • Hence, in connection with the last point, the Tories still need to be around 9 or 10 points ahead to enjoy an overall majority, and need to achieve a very large swing across the country
  • The Tories need to deal effectively with the Lib Dems, in particular weaker LD incumbents, otherwise safer Labour seats need to fall in order to provide an overall majority – an expanding Lib Dem parliamentary Party has greatly assisted Labour
  • The expenses row will reach a peak in the summer, when all MPs’ claims are published. We do not yet know if this will take an equal toll on the Tories and Labour. Could the Lib Dems benefit?
  • Will the economy be as dire as we think it is? Well, to be honest, probably, yes. But who knows? A few encouraging figures here and there and maybe, just maybe, Brown and Darling can emerge as architects of a recovery.
  • I don’t believe voters in suburban seats are yet convinced that the Conservatives are a better alternative to Labour. There are countless seats in the north of England which the Tories simply must win to form an overall majority.

However, as I allude to in the title, the above are all reasons why Labour can win the next election. I am at a total loss as to how they can win.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lib Dems back down to earth with ICM

Con 42 (+2)

Lab 30 (+2)

LD 18 (-4)

Not a lot to say here, other than the Tory number is heading in the right direction, Labour appear not to be crashing into the twenties as they did last year, and the Lib Dems’ 22% appears to have been anomalous. We’ll have to wait for March’s poll selection to see if the Tories increase their lead. I doubt any further Ashcroft coverage would do them any favours.

The Polls – Running Average

This is a test I’m doing using Google Docs to see if I can satisfactorily embed my Polls spreadsheet into the blog. It’s certainly a better result than Scribd, which refuses to publish it in landscape mode. I am not, however, satisfied by the lack of dates on the x axis – it starts in May 2005 and runs to Feb 2009.

Polls Latest

A quick update, taking all February polls so far into account. Word from Anthony Wells is that we’ll be hearing from ICM this evening. It will be interesting to see if they confirm their previous Lib Dem increase of six points, and how far ahead the Tories are. At the moment, there is a large margin of eight points between the best poll for the Tories (MORI) and this one. Will the Tory number increase?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Welcome back to a 20-point lead (and other boasts)

MORI suggested earlier this week that the Tories might be returning to the sort of poll leads they enjoyed in the Summer of 2008, although one poll on its own is, of course, not enough.

Con 48 (+4)
Lab 28 (-2)
LD 17 (-)

CON MAJ >150 (silly nonsense, utmost conjecture and very unlikely to happen - 'CON GAIN BOLSOVER', etc)

It doesn't appear that MORI's respondents agree that the LibDems' position is improving either.

It also appears that Labour may be entering another hilarious phase of internal mucking about, as several newspapers are reporting that Harriet Harman might be positioning herself to become the next leader of the Labour Party, with further chatter than she might team up with John Cruddas to form a so-called 'dream ticket' for the lefties, silly lefties, ultra sillies and completely deluded neo-Marxist ultra statist 1983ites, oh, and the unions. Such a team would only be a dream for the Tories. It's inevitable that an internal debate must ensue in the Labour Party after New Labour has, in the eyes of most, been shown to fail - but as Charles Clarke has often warned, Labour must debate how to take votes off the Tories, not how best (or indeed worst) retreat into idealistic and prejudiced leftwingdom, which so dogged its electoral performance in the 1980s.

Many see James Purnell and Alan Johnson as a future Labour leaders. I would suggest that a pairing of those two might save Labour from its most potent threat - a return to its core beliefs. Such a duo may, however, threaten Labour with terrible factionalism, or worse still, a complete split. This scenario would probably consign them to electoral oblivion. So - excellent.

It may be that Labour will do as badly in 2010 as they did in 1983. If they do, however, it will not be because voters wanted a left wing alternative. It will be because they are sick and tired of a government that thought it could do everything, and suddenly found out everything that it thought it had done, had amounted to nothing.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lib Dems up to 22% with ICM?

Don’t forget one of Mike Smithson’s golden rules – a rogue poll is one where you don’t agree with the numbers!

Con 40 –4

Lab 28 –4

LD 22 +6

I certainly don’t agree with these. What have the Lib Dems done to deserve an extra six points? With the exception of The Cable, they’ve been largely out of the media spotlight since economic woe took over last autumn, crushed by the might of the other two parties. We shall see if other polls confirm this odd trend, not forgetting, of course, that ICM is the pollster which tends to give the best Lib Dem scores. YouGov, MORI, Populus and Comres would have to show 4-6 point jump in the Lib Dem score for this not to be a rogue in my opinion.

Ukelect yields:

Con 329 +116

Lab 235 -112

LD 55 –5

Con maj 10

The Tory figure of just 40% is quite disappointing, but seeing Labour return to the twenties is a pleasure indeed.

This Age of Offense

I’ve been brewing a post on this topic for a day or two now, after the recent mini-scandals involving Thatch junior and Clarkson.

It seems to me that the centre-left consensus of the past decade has conspired to create a nation of hypersensitive types, who feel unable to accommodate any sort of offense, either in seriousness or in jest. It’s part of the culture of the apology, of compensation, political correctness, of fault assignment and blame management. I’m sure the leftist bureaucracy can fully approve those terms, and there are probably about 10,000 people employed in such positions in the NHS - ‘blame management consultant’, or ‘fault assignment coordinator’.

Some might know that I possess a fairly offensive sense of humour myself, and I don’t shy away from joking about supposedly taboo subject matter – race, religion, terrorism, etc. What infuriates me most is that supposedly near-the-knuckle comedienne Jo Brand was present during the Thatch junior ‘golliwogate’ (that’s g******gate for the lily-livered) and is rumoured to have found Thatch’s quip unacceptably offensive. What wholesale hypocrisy from this woman. I have seen plenty of Brand on television, both on stage and on shows such as QI and Have I Got News For You, and she is capable of causing far more offense to a much wider audience than Carol Thatcher.

Now, had Carol Thatcher not been joking about golliwogs, and had actually been systematically banding about colonial-era racist terminology in an effort to offend, then I might have sympathy with the BBC’s actions. But it was a joke, for fuck’s sake! Is there now a BBC humour code which excludes sensitive subject matter? Because if that were the case, we’d still be watching The Good Life, early episodes of The Goodies, and similarly inoffensive and tepid material. I’m not saying these comedies aren’t funny because they’re not offensive – that would be very childish. I’m just observing that near-the-knuckle humour makes people laugh. That includes jokes about race – because it’s risqué, precisely because it appears to risk offending people. Whether it’s the old pun about ‘entering a horse at the Grand National’ or the late Humphrey Lyttelton’s frequent, outrageous, and pre-watershed observations about Samantha’s lifestyle on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, this sort of humour has a long established tradition on the BBC, and its recent actions suggest it’s following a very dangerous path indeed.

Now, on to Clarkson. I am an enormous Top Gear fan – I am counting down the days to a new series, and watching the old ones again and again on Dave. Sure, I often find Jeremy’s surprisingly childish and dismissive attitude a little frustrating, but that’s always counterbalanced by the tremendous amusement caused by him consistently buying the worst car in a Cheap Cars Challenge. I would like to take this opportunity to examine Jeremy’s comments about Gordon Brown during his time in Australia doing Top Gear Live. He referred to the Prime Minister as:

‘a one-eyed Scottish idiot’

So, let’s examine those words one by one:

a: the indefinite article

one-eyed: well this could mean that the Prime Minister has literally only one eye, in the middle of this face. According to recent television footage, this clearly isn’t the case. The Prime Minister is, however, blind in one eye. Is this wildly offensive? Not really – it’s crass and insensitive – and I’m sure Gordon is thick-skinned enough to take it.

Scottish: it is unarguably the case that Gordon Brown is indeed Scottish. Why is this more insulting than if he were British? Surely ‘British idiot’ bears the same insult value as ‘Scottish idiot’? What about ‘Welsh idiot’? No sniggering at the back. How about ‘golliwog idiot’? Smarting yet, lefties?

idiot: well this is obviously down to one’s own opinion, but taking into account Gordon’s track record as Shadow Chancellor, Chancellor, and Prime Minister, I come to the conclusion that yes, he probably is. If your name’s Derek and you spend your time adding all of Iain Dale’s followers to your Twitter feed, recent emails and deluded rants provide evidence that you might disagree with this view.

Taken as one phrase then, one-eyed Scottish idiot doesn’t appear to cause enormous offense – it’s a combination of unavoidable fact (one-eyed, Scottish) and opinion (idiot). If you find this hugely offensive, you’re a c**t of the highest order. 

In other news: 9/11 – yes or no? Diana: was the car made of marzipan? Religion – is it all a load of old bollocks? Race – was Hitler right?