Friday, May 23, 2008

Another mourning after

Local elections, London mayor, Crewe and Nantwich....

Part of this IS a midterm dip, part of it is caused by a misfiring Crewe by-election campaign and this is certainly all coinciding with a downturn in the economy - not a recession, at least not yet. What we mustn't do is put all of the blame on those things and ignore the reality behind it.

The Crewe campaign didn't work - we can't build everything around attacking the Tory toff status. That doesn't mean it hasn't got some power - I think that Cameron and the rest of the old Etonians populating his cabinet are still vulnerable to being tagged as inherently out of touch, but we need to be strong on policy and highlight the vacuity and inconsistencies of the Cameron/Osborne project.

We need to recognise that the old, disorganised Tories of the past twenty or even thirty years have gone. They've smartened up their election act massively and they've got the money to win.

Yet another hat tip to the ever-vigilant Bob Piper (and through him to Yourfriendinthenorth) for this quote from Jon Cruddas.
Let's not mess about - our people are abandoning us, we're sinking fast and no amount of hand-wringing and promises of 'listening and learning' from election night will change that... The New Labour attitude that you can kick the workers from pillar to post because 'they've got nowhere else to go' has reached its ludicrous conclusion with the election - with working-class votes - of the SNP in Scotland, independent radicals in Wales and the BNP in industrial English towns like Stoke-on-Trent... We don't need to play one half of Britain off against another. It's not too late to change - but choose change we must."
He gets it. Does anyone else? It isn't just about trying to hang on to the vacillating Worcester woman or Mondeo man, it is about talking in terms to which our traditional voters can relate. For more than a decade, the party has assumed that this core vote will always vote Labour because they can do nothing else. That core vote has been eroded since the heady days of 1997, when we were carried to government with a broad range of support. As the centre ground shifts, we find ourselves without our traditional support to back us up.

I'm not convinced that changing leader would help - the internal fighting would be destructive to our government and our already damaged chances of winning. Gordon needs to stop the bits and pieces stuff - he needs coherence and he needs it now. I'd simply ask him to be brave and let's take on two big issues - poverty and housing. I know he believes passionately about education and tackling poverty, but he needs to step back from the detail and organise a big picture. We need a narrative - a consistent message that tells people why Labour have been and will be a better government than any other party and that this is consistent with our principles of social justice and striving for equality of opportunity. Everything that is done and said must go towards building that narrative and that takes discipline from the party as well. He needs to listen to the people and scrap policies that are unpopular - I'd stamp on the ID card project, which will be the Labour poll tax and will screw the coffin lid down on our government. Let's have a big programme to build new houses operated by social landlords - the age old cry of more council housing. People want it and more importantly, they need it. Find ways of making life easier - perhaps a temporary cut in fuel tax now on the understanding that the oil companies cut pump prices accordingly would be a step forward, as the current elevated price is providing a massive boost to the treasury.

It is clear that the Tory message from this campaign is that this is the beginning of the end of the Labour government, that they now have an unstoppable momentum to carry the failed PR man into No 10. It is up to us to prove them wrong. We can do it, but we need more courage and we need focus on the issues that matter - not just words. Let's see some practical policies that can change people's lives for the better.

If we can't do that, if we can't reconnect with our core vote, then we won't win the next general election. And if we can't do it, then we don't deserve to.

Be brave, be bold, but above all, be Labour.


Anonymous said...

Who do you think you are kidding.New Labour is finished.

Bob Piper said...

The usual insightful polemic from 'anonymous' there, eh?

I think you are right about a leadership election. Even if we had one we would be obliged to move to a General Election pretty soon afterwards in order to secure a fresh mandate, and I can't see backbench Labour MPs rushing headlong into that one just now.

Just one point on Cameron. He isn't a 'failed salesman'. He is a very slick, very effective salesman. He would, of course, be a crap and indecisive Prime Minister... but that's a different point.

Anonymous said...

4 million on local authority housing waiting lists and Labour promising to deliver 45'000 affordable homes over the next three years.You can double the 4 million when you take into account families having to have their grown up children stay with them due to a lack of rented affordable housing.If Labour wants an issue which Labour should be tackling they should start there, think big ,act big.

Anonymous said...

The housing slump is an open opportunity for Labour to place a large chunk of money into buying not cheap affordable houses to sell, but to buy and rent, selling houses cheap is a political gimmick. We need a strong rental sector to allow people the chance to live in a good house, if you want to buy then you have to enter the rat race.

But right now in my area I know companies are struggling, empty brand new houses which have been empty for a year or more buy these up helping building companies and helping the homeless, but no more cheap to buy because it's wrong.