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John Rentoul vs most people


8:53 am - December 15th 2009

by Don Paskini    


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John Rentoul, chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, writes that “the tax on bankers’ bonuses was the final act of self-destruction” for the Labour Party, and that “Brown’s reversion to class-war politics has compounded his error. The City’s fury matters…And for what? It won’t make Labour any more popular among the voters it needs to save its marginal seats at the election.”

So according to Rentoul’s argument, we would expect opinion polls to reveal that most people oppose the government’s policies, right?

ComRes:
From what I have heard, the Government’s plans for heavier taxes on people with high incomes are fair
Agree 66%
Disagree 28%
Don’t know 5%

This illustrates: (a) The Government is right, in the eyes of most voters, to tax high earners more heavily. (b) Unsurprisingly the highest proportion who agree are DEs (71%) although even 64% of ABs agree. (c) There is also a correlation between age and agreement, with older voters the most likely to agree. (d) Although Labour voters are the voter group most likely to agree, 61% of Tories do too.

YouGov:
Given the current economic climate and the need for the Government to reduce borrowing in the years ahead, do you support or oppose the following measures that Alistair Darling announced this week?

Requiring banks to pay a one-off extra tax on bonuses of more than £25,000
per bank employee

Support 79
Oppose 11
Don’t know 10

*

The sub editor at the Independent summarised Rentoul’s article as “Gordon Brown’s party is being propelled into the wilderness by economic plans that repel voters”. An improved version of this summary would be:

“Gordon Brown’s party is being propelled into the wilderness by economic plans that repel 11% of voters, and are supported by 79% of voters”.

And if you think ‘but that argument makes no sense, Tony Blair’s biographer appears to be launching an unfounded attack on Gordon Brown’, then, um, you’d be right.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


As long as we’re all agreed that “Gordon Brown’s party is being propelled into the wilderness”, I’m not much bothered……….

Worth noting John R’s graceful response:

“It’s a fair cop, donpy. Didn’t express myself well. The bonus tax is popular in the short term (on the tax anybody but me principle), but I think it will have a negative effect on perceptions of Labour over the long term because it makes the party look as if it doesn’t like success.
John Rentoul”

“As long as we’re all agreed that ‘Gordon Brown’s party is being propelled into the wilderness’, I’m not much bothered……….”

Try the news yesterday:

“Tory lead cut to nine points in Guardian/ICM poll”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/dec/14/tory-lead-nine-points-guardian-icm-poll

By estimates reported in the news, at a general election that would give Cameron a majority in the Commons of just four seats.

This is an argument about which types of voters Labour needs to appeal to at a national level in order to do the best possible at the next election. We have bigger concerns than a narrow focus aspirational skilled working class voters at the moment, and anyhow Rentoul’s argument assumes that group’s attitudes and priorities have not been affected by the recession.

What he seems to forget is that the Government has a country to run. They are not just there to look after the banks. Now as these banks are the ones who would have brought the country to its knees with possible social breakdown if the government hadn’t stepped in then I would not call the bankers successfull.
Once it was thought that the Unions would bring the country to its knees so Thatcher came along and virtually destroyed them. Now the banks can not be destroyed but they and the people in them will have to help out enormously to get the contry back in shape and think about society more than themselves. Once all is fixed then bonuses can be issued again.

For me the issue is whether we want a populist government that responds to “the mob”, or a government that actually governs, even if that means taking decisions which are politically unpopular, but necessary.

The bankers bonuses is a contentious issue as there is still a lot of debate as to whether they will even have any effect – after it is a one-off tax that wont be repeated, has numerous exclusions and has no real impact on the deficit.

What has happened is the government has responded to a mindless fury with an impotent response.

Meanwhile, the deficit continues to soar, debt rockets upwards, and we leave our grandchildren the burden of paying off the cost of our recession.

It wont be nice to bear the pain of paying off the debt in our lifetime, but heck, we were the ones who built it up in the first place, so why shouldn’t we pay it back?

A government that makes the hard decisions is one I would support. The current government is not such an organisation.

“This is an argument about which types of voters Labour needs to appeal to at a national level in order to do the best possible at the next election.”

Quite so. This may help voters to focus:

“There has been mounting speculation in recent months about the personal wealth of the leading figures in the Conservative Party. Interest has heightened after the Tories announced that they would implement an austerity budget, slashing public services, if elected to Government. Research carried out last year by the News of the World recorded 19 millionaires in the Shadow Cabinet, giving some indication of the level of wealth at the top of the Conservative Party. Here Times Money has updated the list.”
http://timesbusiness.typepad.com/money_weblog/2009/11/10-wealthiest-tories.html

“The Shadow Cabinet Rich List is published today by the News of the World. It shows there are 19 millionaires around that table.”
http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/859311/the-shadow-cabinet-rich-list-part-1.thtml

because it makes the party look as if it doesn’t like success.

By that same measure the whole country doesn’t like success. What a tool.

The Labour party, and the left in general, should never be in the pocket of big business anyway. It should be supporting workers and small businesses – the real drivers of the economy. And it’s the small businesses that have been hurt the most by this banking crisis. Those are the people – their mates – the like of John Rentoul and Tom Harris are so anxious to defend.

Trouble is…it’s the policies that John Rentoul supported for so long that made “the party look as if” it’s not bothered about ordinary people.

Ask where Labour’s current electoral haemorrage is and ok, maybe some on the so-called “middle ground”, but you’ll notice it’s largely Labour’s traditional constituencies that are deserting the party en masse.

The Labour party, and the left in general, should never be in the pocket of big business anyway. It should be supporting workers and small businesses – the real drivers of the economy.

And this is why NI was increased in the PBR? The one tax that hurts workers and small businesses most?

And this is why NI was increased in the PBR? The one tax that hurts workers and small businesses most?

I don’t agree with it… don’t think the govt has its priorities straight over the issue. I’m just saying what I would do. But in their defence they also raised the bar for NI contributions – which help poorer earners. No?

11 – well, which don’t harm poorer earners anyway.

The big opportunity missed with the PBR though – and I think this was the last potential game changer – was for the Govt to announce fairly stringent sounding cut-backs in public spending. If you’re too attached to the ‘don’t cut spending in a recession’ meme, then they could even have been post-dated. But a whole-hearted gallop through programmes and schemes that were being trimmed, and initiatives that were being delayed and so on, with an ever-present ‘we really don’t want to have to do this, but for the good of the country…’ theme, would have a) been the right thing to do anyway; and b) really screwed the Tories.

The narrative right up to the election could then have been – ‘we’re being honest and tough, but reluctant – we’ve made all the cuts we can without really hurting the poor. If the Tories are going to go farther then the moon will turn to blood etc.’

As it is, and by actually increasing spending in the PBR, Brown has made Labour look as though they are in complete denial over what needs to be done. Such a wasted opportunity. No wonder Mandelson is nowhere to be seen.

“The big opportunity missed with the PBR though – and I think this was the last potential game changer – was for the Govt to announce fairly stringent sounding cut-backs in public spending.”

It is very hard to think of significant cut backs which would not be wildly unpopular, though. People who lose out are always more vocal than those who gain, e.g.

cut defence spending or Trident and lose a bunch of marginal seats.
cut international development spending and Labour activists go completely ballistic
cut ID cards and get attacked as soft on terror, having wasted billions and being weak
cut public sector jobs and have a winter of discontent
pull out of Afghanistan and really annoy the Americans

or me the issue is whether we want a populist government that responds to “the mob”, or a government that actually governs

This government’s brazen populism has been one of it’s most consistent and deplorable characteristics.

Week 1 Dog bites child.

Week 2 Tabloid feeding frenzy.

Week 3 Dangerous Dogs Act

This pernicious pattern has been repeated again and again. All we need to complete the misery are Simon Cowell’s TV referendums and we can have political decisions made directly by X Factor voters.

God help us.

The Labour party, and the left in general, should never be in the pocket of big business anyway.

They’ve been working in perfect harmony for the last twelve years. Are you telling us you didn’t notice?

“Week 3 Dangerous Dogs Act”

Except that the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced by Kenneth Baker, as Home secretary, and passed into law on 12 August 1991 when John Major was PM:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8391175.stm

8. Sunny H . It was the owners of small businesses which supported Thatcher in 1979. It is small businesses which are most affected by red tape so loved by Labour. It is small businesses which have to cope with the poor standards of so many children leaving comprehensives- both Rose of M and S and Leahy of Tescos have commented on this. Just listen to shop keepers complaining about teenagers uable to do mental arithmetic. It is small businesses which are impacted by crime- shops which stay open late, builders with their vans and yards being broken into, nurseries having their stock stolen etc, etc, . Many aspirational skilled working class are now self- employed. One of the changes in the last 30 years is the reduction in the number of large employers with thousands on their payroll and the increase in SMEs. The unions, especially those with most of their members employed by the state have little interest in furthering the interest of the self employed and those SMEs. Many self employed and those in SMEs consider many civil servants a bane of their life.

At the last election, most people agreed with policies A, B, C until they were told they were Tory policies.
They hated the Tories more than they liked the policies.

Now Labour is suffering the same fate.

So, in that narrow sense, Rentoul is wrong.
But it’s no comfort to Labour.

@Don:
cut defence spending or Trident and lose a bunch of marginal seats – most of the $ on Trident goes to the US, so you could always announce conventional weapons programmes providing the same jobs in whichever docks would lose out.

cut international development spending and Labour activists go completely ballistic – plus there’s not much of it anyway, and cutting it would be morally wicked.

cut ID cards and get attacked as soft on terror, having wasted billions and being weak – it’d still be the right thing to do – and IIRC the current Tory position on ID cards is sufficiently ambivalent that they wouldn’t be able to play the “soft on terror” card convincingly.

cut public sector jobs and have a winter of discontent – indeed, Is Not Happening.

pull out of Afghanistan and really annoy the Americans – and the drawback is?

@Charlie, err, Rose of M&S and Leahy of Tesco aren’t the best possible examples of struggling managers of SMEs, perhaps?

Except that the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced by Kenneth Baker

Good spot Bob.

But they would have, wouldn’t they?

Logical inconsistency in this article number 1.

Government announces a policy. Policy is popular in polls. Therefore government will be popular.

Ignoring of course the fact that whilst people will support the policy, they will not (as cjcjc pointed out) support it as a stated Labour policy with an alternative (which was not provided in the question). People do not vote by starting with the question ‘Labour or not’, then if not ‘Conservative or not’, and so on. They select a party for a variety of reasons. Very few will do it on who will bash the bankers. Many more will do it on who is likely to allow their aspirations to develop.

Also worth noting that the Conservatives are quiet at the moment. I can’t help but feel that they have set an elephant trap for Mr Brown to stumble into and are staying quiet around this area to lure him into a false sense of security. I doubt the Conservatives will really leave Labour promoting the banks and the debt as a success story. Downing Street advisors may be advised to check comments and attack lines carefully.

“It wont be nice to bear the pain of paying off the debt in our lifetime, but heck, we were the ones who built it up in the first place, so why shouldn’t we pay it back?”

We’ve also built up lots of schools and hospitals and transport infrastructure. I’m pretty certain my grandchildren will be making use of those (in 1997, about half of the NHS estate dated back to the 1940s, so I’ve certainly used things built up during my grandparents’ time).

Charlie2 – I’m all for reducing red tape for small firms.

This government’s brazen populism has been one of it’s most consistent and deplorable characteristics.

Amazing that this same argument isn’t used when it comes to social issues like immigration huh? Damn that populism! Who cares what the people think. This is a democracy don’t you know?

(and to counter the incoming strawmen, I have also become more stringent on immigration in line with changing attitudes and concerns… so I do think people should be listened to).


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    :: John Rentoul vs most people http://bit.ly/6GYw8C

  2. thabet

    John Rentoul is a moron RT @libcon: :: John Rentoul vs most people http://bit.ly/6GYw8C

  3. Tom Miller

    John Rentoul vs Everybody else: http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/12/15/john-rentoul-vs-everyone-else/

  4. Tweets that mention Liberal Conspiracy » John Rentoul vs most people -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liberal Conspiracy, thabet. thabet said: John Rentoul is a moron RT @libcon: :: John Rentoul vs most people http://bit.ly/6GYw8C […]

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    […] polls by YouGov and ComRes seem to support this hypothesis. ComRes shows that 66% support the notion that those with high […]

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    […] December 17, 2009 at 9:05 am Oh dear, John Rentoul feels slightly stung by Don Paskini’s criticisms that his ‘please don’t hurt the rich‘ narrative doesn’t seem to be […]





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