Explain to me again why Labour voters would welcome cuts and austerity?


12:52 pm - January 8th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Lord Ashcroft says today in a piece for ConservativeHome:

As I said at the start of Project Blueprint in 2011, the combination of Labour’s traditional support and left-leaning former Liberal Democrats means that Ed Miliband ought to be able to put together 40 per cent of the vote without getting out of bed.

Lord Ashcroft is of course a significant Tory donor and a former deputy chair, and funds very extensive and detailed polling on political issues. In other words he has no reason to play up Labour’s chances at the next election.

So who will vote for Labour and who recently joined them?

In a recent mega-poll titled ‘Project Red Alert‘ (let’s just say Ashcroft isn’t a big fan of Ed Miliband), Ashcroft breaks down Labour’s lead in the polls.

He says around a quarter of voters are Labour Loyalists, who will vote for the party regardless. He emphasises: “They are not going anywhere.”

A further 17% of voters are Labour Joiners – who did not vote Labour at the last election but say they would do so tomorrow. Combined with Loyalists, they take Labour’s current share to 42%. Our poll found that the factor that most unites Joiners is the view that Labour is on the side of people like them. Qualitative research among this group helped to show what lay behind this view, and their broader motivation for switching to Labour.

Buyer’s remorse plays a large part for many of them, particularly those who simply voted for change, or liked David Cameron, but had not considered the need for cuts or expected them to happen. Not surprisingly, this is even more the case among those for whom austerity has brought personal consequences. Public sector workers and those whose families have lost out on benefits feature heavily in this group. Blaming the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for policies they do not like, and seeing Labour as the only alternative, they have switched directly to the party.

The second paragraph is key here. A large proportion of Labour’s lead comes from people who hated the Coalition plan of 2010 and wanted to hear an alternative.

I don’t know many people who talk about Labour’s position in the polls and think its strong; most agree that the polling is soft.

But I have a question. The 17% chunk of Labour Joiners are the party’s easiest and most plausible route to victory in 2015. It cannot win without them.

But these people hate the Coalition’s austerity programme. So why do many on the Labour right (Dan Hodges, Hopi Sen et al) keep insisting that for Labour to strengthen its support, it must follow the Tory lead on cuts and austerity?

Update: Hopi Sen has replied, but see my response to him in the comments below his post.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Fight the cuts ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. Alisdair Cameron

Possibly because the labour right, the uber-Blairites and the like don’t much care for what people want, nor about doing what is right. They’re stuck in triangulation hell, moving ever-rightwards, dragged there by the Tories. It’s an old,discredited,unprincipled and disreputable formula, but they’re wedded to it, despite it making no sense.

Good post.

The challenge is to keep onside people who hate the Coalition’s austerity programme, while also addressing the concerns that ‘Labour might spend or borrow more than the country can afford’.

Labour’s plan needs to be robust enough not only to survive the scrutiny of an election campaign (where the Tories and their allies will claim that taxes will go up and the economy will collapse), but also the post-election attack of the bond markets if they are elected on an anti-austerity programme.

3. Chaise Guevara

Well, Ashcroft’s logic seems to be that those 17% will vote for Labour regardless, so it’s more important to appeal to floating voters. Which does make sense, if he’s right.

I suppose the perceived risk is that when push comes to shove, voters will think back to the economic crises of the Gordon Brown years – as filtered through the lens of the Tories and their allies – and get cold feet. Arguably that’s what happened in 1987 and 1992, with the Tories playing on memories of the Winter of Discontent etc. to erode a Labour lead.

It would be nice to think that the Tories’ failure to tackle the deficit and sort out the economy will work against them at the election, but unfortunately ‘common sense’ dictates that the more abject their failure, the more pressing is the need for deeper cuts to get the books back in balance. (And to some extent ‘common sense’ is right: there’ll be a case to be made for stimulus measures in 2015, but the idea that a simple focus on jobs and growth could make up, in the medium term, for all the ground lost since 2008, enabling us to return to pre-crash spending levels, gets less plausible with every passing quarter of stagnation. Warning about the economic damage being done by the Tories means being prepared to acknowledge its consequences: lower tax receipts and less money for public services.)

Well, Ashcroft’s logic seems to be that those 17% will vote for Labour regardless, so it’s more important to appeal to floating voters. Which does make sense, if he’s right.

No that doesn’t make much sense either, or what he’s saying.

If the Labour Joiners were confirmed at Labour Loyalists for the next election, then we could all go home and 2015 would be sewn up as a thumping Labour majority.

But it’s not because everyone says and knows Labour’s lead is soft. I want to know how does doing the opposite of what the Labour Joiners want make strengthen their support of Labour.

Between 1997 and 2010 labour lost 5 million voters. Of which I believe 1 million went to the tories. That is 20%. So where did 80% go? Lib Dems took a fair slice at the last election. (It is a myth lib dems take votes from tories) They take voters from Labour, but not from tories. If they did they could make a break through and get to 35%

What happened at the last election was a return to the 1980s where Labour fell back to 30% in the polls, and the lib dems increased their vote. What was different was the tories did not make the 40+% mark. There is, and has been for 35 years a left of centre majority in this country. Not in seats, but in votes. Labour & lib dems got over 50 % of the vote at the last election, as they have done for the last 8 general elections.

While Clegg can claim that the tories and the lib dems also between them have a majority, the problem is that the vast majority of Lib Dem voters did not vote for right wing tory policies. That is why the co-alition is a tory/Clegg coalition. Not a tory/ lib dem one. And is why the lib dems have become toxic.

Quite why the idiot Blairites think Britain needs yet another right wing party to add to tory, Clegg, and Ukip is beyond me. But when you listen to Murdoch, and Bankers all the time it is no wonder you talk shit.

“Labour’s plan needs to be robust enough not only to survive the scrutiny of an election campaign (where the Tories and their allies will claim that taxes will go up and the economy will collapse), but also the post-election attack of the bond markets if they are elected on an anti-austerity programme”

The simple response to this is to point a good welfare policy combined with pro-employment policies pays for itself over the medium and long term. Long term unemployment and destitution are actually massively expensive for any country with a health service, prison system and an economy that relies on a steady stream of educated children entering the workforce (unemployed parents and poverty severely harm educational achievement). Which is every advanced industrial economy with a claim to be civillised.

Sunny,

As you know from twitter, have responded on my blog: :)

http://wp.me/p1Vf1s-1mS

Hopi

9. Renie Anjeh

Well explain why people still trust the Tories on economic policy, albeit with a much reduced margin from last year? People are not stupid, they understand that there is a deficit but cuts need to be made. Labour went into the last election promising to cut spending, the Lib Dems did and the Tories did. The question is who the cuts are hitting and the pace of the cuts. The difference is, is that the Coalition decided to go faster than plans set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which is why we are in the situation we are in. But just because they cut too much, it is no excuse for not cutting at all because that’s just going from one failing extreme to another failing extreme. Labour failed to be clear and open enough with the public about the tough spending choices it would have had to take, which is why we lost support. Repeating the same mistake would be a disaster and the economy is at the top of people’s agenda above all else. If Labour is not trusted on that issue, then it we’ll be trapped in a hung parliament and instead of a Labour majority government we may have a dysfunctional Miliband-Clegg Coalition.
I agree we need to retain the support of Liberal Democrats who have come to us, but in key battlegrounds areas like Basildon, Milton Keynes, Redditch, Harlow, Plymouth and Great Yarmouth – the Liberal Democrat vote is so small, and we will need Tory voters especially those we lost in 2010 and 2005. Blowing the dog whistle and moving to the left, is not a strategy for Labour to win and I am glad that Ed Miliband is not taking that approach (despite what Dan Hodges may say).

Well explain why people still trust the Tories on economic policy, albeit with a much reduced margin from last year? People are not stupid

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1l1XGiXgo0

Well explain why people still trust the Tories on economic policy, albeit with a much reduced margin from last year?

Labour were in power when the economy crashed thanks to the banks. A lot of people, including many who think it should have regulated banks better, were annoyed with the party and Labour lost credibility with them.

I agree we need to retain the support of Liberal Democrats who have come to us, but in key battlegrounds areas like Basildon, Milton Keynes, Redditch, Harlow, Plymouth and Great Yarmouth – the Liberal Democrat vote is so small, and we will need Tory voters especially those we lost in 2010 and 2005.

As I’ve said before – politics is almost always a zero sum game. You can go chasing for wavering Tory voters, but you should then answer two questions: how far are you willing to go to chase them, and what about the people you lose from the left?

12. Renie Anjeh

@10 – That was a very funny video, but let’s face facts. When the Tories lost economic competence during Black Wednesday, they lost power in 1997. When Labour lost competence over the economy, we lost power in 2010. Voters aren’t idiots.
@ 11 – Of course, but people know that the Tories wanted more deregulation but they still trust them more than they trust us. The deficit does come into it and we need to start telling people the alternative spending choices that we would make, rather than abandoning the question of cuts altogether. Labour is a party of government, not a party of protest.
I get what you are saying on how politics is a zero-sum game, but surely what Labour should be doing is creating a broad coalition of voters just as Tony Blair did in 1997. We need to win support from wavering Tory voters and from disullioned Lib Dems, there should be no trade-off.

I’d rather Labour cease to exist than go along with Tory austerity policies. If you think otherwise you have no place in our party. It’s not the party of Tony Blair, he was an aberration. It’s the party of Hardie, Lansbury, Attlee, Bevan, Wilson, Callaghan, Foot and Benn.

“while also addressing the concerns that ‘Labour might spend or borrow more than the country can afford’.”

Since those concerns have been spread by Tory lies, Labour needs to denounce the Conservatives as lying scumbags whenever possible.

Labour was right to oppose the 1% rise today and would have lost my vote if it had supported the Government. Obviously, Labour will need to have a credible line on the deficit in 2015 but there is no need for it to be the same as the Tories. However, I agree that Labour will probably lose the next General Election if the economy grows at 2% and the deficit falls significantly over the next two years, but that is a big ‘if’ when the economy has hardly grown since May 2010!

PS This comment was also put on Hopi Sen’s website.

labour voters must be either thick or so brainwashed by these goebel like torys who are doing a great job at turning the working class poor against the underclass poor,these torys are disgusting in nature as a rule,to see and hear nick clegg sucking up to the torys and kicking the working class in these teeth is sickening,for the left to go down the same road as the torys in demonising the working clases and the poor is beyond belief,where is the left and the unions in sticking up for the working classes and the poor,why are they so silent,expect serious social unrest in this country in the coming months,there is only so far you can push people who have nothing to lose.

I note none of the above analysis or comment takes anything other than England into account? Labour Party policy in Scotland for example (where the Tories are an irrelevance) now calls Scotland the ”something for nothing society’ ! The only reason this position (which is part of the aforementioned triangulation designed to appeal to ‘middle’ or southern England ) is because for fifty years Labour were so dominant they could have a monkey elected.
An let me tell you I voted labour for forty of those years!
How long Labour voters will continue to vote for this position remains to be seen.

18. Renie Anjeh

“I’d rather Labour cease to exist than go along with Tory austerity policies. If you think otherwise you have no place in our party.”
No one is calling for that, what we want is for Labour to be credible on the deficit and clear that it would cut spending. Ed Miliband agrees with that, Ed Balls agrees with that, party members agree with that – why don’t you?
“It’s not the party of Tony Blair, he was an aberration.”
I never knew that putting the party in the wilderness for 18 years made you a Labour Party hero, but winning 3 elections in a row makes you an aberration. Hardie’s three demands for the Labour Party: home rule for the Scots, a minimum wage and the end of hereditary privilege in the House of Lords – all achieved by Tony Blair. Yes, mistakes especially on immigration and the Iraq War, but why don’t you rejoice in the successes such as SureStart, devolution, record investment in public services, record low unemployment, Good Friday Agreement, the minimum wage, Lords reform, winter fuel allowance, academies, gay rights legislation, our commitment on international aid etc. Our party is the party of Atlee, Lansbury, Hardie, Morrison, Gaitskell, Crosland and Healey.

“No one is calling for that, what we want is for Labour to be credible on the deficit and clear that it would cut spending.”

For me it’s not so much about being clear that we would cut spending even further after 2015. Maybe we’ll judge that any further cuts will do more harm than good, and maybe we’ll judge that there’s sufficient scope to increase tax revenues during the next parliament, by raising taxes and stimulating growth, to close the deficit that way on a reasonable timescale. The truth I think we can’t duck is that there’s going to be no prospect of reversing £80bn+ of existing spending cuts in the short or medium term. We’re going to need strong growth and substantial tax rises just to sustain spending at the levels we inherit.

Remember, the Tories’ plans for eliminating the deficit were based on the assumption that the economy would grow by around 15% during this parliament. 15% = c. £225bn = c. £90bn of additional tax revenue. In a best-case scenario, we might now see a third of that. That’s a £60bn hole in tax revenues that needs to be plugged by tax rises and/or above-trend growth before a single cut can be reversed.

In 2010, it was just about plausible that we could make up most of the ground lost during the 2008-09 recession in the medium term simply by focusing on growth, with any remaining deficit small enough to be closed by tackling tax avoidance and raising taxes for the rich. But we’ve lost a lot more ground since then. We can’t expect to make up for seven years of zero growth by growing the economy at triple speed for three and a half years, and we can’t expect to raise more than a few tens of billions of pounds by extracting more money from the rich through the tax system. There is going to be a lot less money available to spend on public services in 2017 than there was in 2007, and Labour needs to confront that reality. (As it is doing, I think.)

It’s not the party of Tony Blair, he was an aberration. It’s the party of Hardie, Lansbury, Attlee, Bevan, Wilson, Callaghan, Foot and Benn.

Funny you should say that really. Because Atlee and Bevan oversaw the longest and most severe period of austerity in British history (cutting back spending so sharply that they were running a budget surplus in 1948), and the Government of Callaghan, Foot and Benn cut public spending more in one year than any other Government has ever managed.

Whereas under Blair, spending rose pretty much every year he was in power.

21. Planeshift

“There is going to be a lot less money available to spend on public services in 2017 than there was in 2007, and Labour needs to confront that reality.”

Indeed, but that equally doesn’t mean accepting the tory way of running a state. I think there are probably 3 ways of getting credibility on fiscal matters; (1) Retain offfice of budget responsibility – good ideas are good ideas regardless of where they come from, (2) pass legislation requiring statutory bodies to all adopt the same accounting and reporting rules – you would be amazed even within one system how much variation and spin there is (health trusts an example) – this isn’t a sexy policy, but those who monitor finances will be impressed, and (3) adopt a far greater focus on preventative spending accross all departments – the long term costs of prison, long term unemployment, child poverty, and homelessness/poor housing is far greater than the costs of a sensible safety net and pro-active policies to tackle poverty.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ Sunny

“No that doesn’t make much sense either, or what he’s saying. ”

You’re quite right, got me stats all jumbled.

“that equally doesn’t mean accepting the tory way of running a state”

Of course. If anything good comes out of the present situation, it will be that Labour is forced to look beyond sticking-plaster solutions and tackle some underlying problems. Instead of thinking a long-term unemployment rate of 6% is acceptable because we can afford the benefit payments, we’re going to have to start talking about full employment. Instead of thinking poverty wages are acceptable because we can afford to top them up with tax credits, we’re going to have to start talking about the need for employers to pay a living wage. Instead of thinking spiralling housing costs are acceptable because we can just spend more on housing benefit, we’re going to have to start talking about social housing and rent control. And so on.

I think this is roughly where the two Eds are coming from, but the risk is that the right will accuse them of being pie-in-the-sky, Old Labour, anti-business loons, while the left will accuse them of buying in to the Tory cuts agenda.

Who’d be a politician, eh?

@Hopi Sen @Sunny

Hopi, you mentioned that we will need Tory voters in places like Plymouth because the Lib Dem vote is so small…

Plymouth Sutton & Devonport:

Tory Majority 1149

Lib Dem vote 10,829

Renie: The deficit does come into it and we need to start telling people the alternative spending choices that we would make, rather than abandoning the question of cuts altogether. Labour is a party of government, not a party of protest.

These are a series of value judgements, and to back them up you have to show me why more of those people care abotu the deficit than care about growth and jobs.

I’d rather Labour talked about how they would grow the economy and create more jobs than just narrow spending choices.

We need to win support from wavering Tory voters and from disullioned Lib Dems, there should be no trade-off.

In theory, but reality is different. Most of the new Lbdems came over because they wanted an alternative to the Coalition. If you want to get into a bidding war with the Tories on cuts, then why should they stick with Labour?

“Labour was right to oppose the 1% rise today”
+1
i would have found it hard to go along any party that would support this move.
in time i think people will look back and see it for the divisive policy it was.
that of of course is of no help to those on the receiving end now.

“winning 3 elections in a row makes you an aberration.”

Well it does really doesn’t it? There are obviously still those who will never forgive him.

“Labour was right to oppose the 1% rise today”

Indeed, but opposing isn’t enough. Opposition must be coherent and effective. Only one opposition MP really achieved that. Name’s on the tip of my tongue…

@ 25 – Well, recent research shows that 40% of people asked fear that Labour would spend and borrow more than what the country can afford. 50% of voters think that debt would be worse under a Labour government. 52% of people think we have not learned from our mistakes. Just to point out these are people who are switching to Labour and considering Labour in marginal seats.
Growth is important, but I do not think there is a choice between a plan for jobs and growth and cutting the deficit we are going to have to do both, requiring some tough choices.
I acceptknow you are sceptical of whether a ‘broad coalition’ approach can work in practice but if Blair could get a broad coalition, why can’t Ed Miliband? In 2012, we did not just retain the ex-Lib Dems but we also started taking votes from the Tories. It is not about having a bidding war on cuts with the Tories, we all know they have gone too far, but it is about realistic about how we will spend money and how we will get the deficit down. Ex Liberal Democrat voters won’t leave us because all major political parties will be committed to deficit reduction of some sort, they have no where else to go. What we should do is set out the pace of deficit reduction under a Labour government and we should stick to the Coalition’s spending plans until 2018 but make different spending priorities which show whose side we are one for eg. limiting pension tax relief to £26,000 to fund free childcare. But if people don’t trust us with their money, then we won’t get elected.

@28 ‘They have no where else to go’. Cept for, ya know, not bothering to vote at all or spoiling your ballot.

30. Renie Anjeh

@29 – You seriously saying that 17% of the electorate will spoil their ballots. Ex Lib Dem voters are not anti-cuts people, the Lib Dems were clear about spending cuts, the difference is is that the Lib Dems backed a slower pace of deficit reduction. Also, many Lib Dems have come to Labour because they are fundementally anti-Tory, hated some of the cuts that were being introduced, the NHS reforms, tuition fees but also the overall toxicity of the Lib Dems that they are now seen as a party of the right.

“, but I do not think there is a choice between a plan for jobs and growth and cutting the deficit we are going to have to do both, requiring some tough choices”

Jobs and growth automatically cut the deficit.

You seriously saying that 17% of the electorate will spoil their ballots.

Turnout for the 2010 election was 65.1%, the other 34.9% either didn’t vote or spoiled their ballot. That 100% those two figures make up only encompasses registered voters as well, so you can add on to that figure all those of voting age who simply aren’t registered. Does that sound a bit more serious to you now?


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  45. A quick reply to Sunny Hundal about voters and deficits | Hopi Sen

    [...] example, in a post today Sunny quotes a Lord Ashcroft mega-poll on Labour’s support and [...]





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