Lessons for Labour from Eastleigh


2:18 pm - March 1st 2013

by Don Paskini    


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My former boss Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, often spoke about the importance of good local campaigning. The aim of this, he argued, was to build strong relationships with the electorate, so that whatever was happening at Westminster or in the newspapers didn’t influence how people chose to vote. Rather than remote politicians having their views filtered through the media to the electorate, this is about local politicians and people working together, while the remote media chatter away in the background.

This isn’t a particularly new insight, but the value of this approach can be seen by the success of the Liberal Democrats in winning the by-election in Eastleigh. While the hundreds of volunteers, thousands of contacts and hundreds of thousands of leaflets over the past three weeks played their part; they actually won the election months ago, when they built their local organisation, made sure that people had a positive view of their local work, gathered the data and set up their delivery networks.

I think the key lessons for Labour from this by-election are not about whether “One Nation Labour” is reaching “southern voters”, or whether Labour needs to adopt policy x, y or z. Instead, the Eastleigh result poses two questions which Labour need to consider:

1. Why did Labour fail, in so many of the seats that we held between 1997 and 2010, to build the kind of local organisation which the Lib Dems have in Eastleigh?
2. How can Labour ensure by the time of the next election they have this level of local organisation in at least, say, 340 constituencies?

Over the past few years, as trust in politicians and politics has fallen, the added value of local campaigning and effective incumbency has risen. Parties which campaign all year round and mobilise volunteers well before an election beat those which wait until the last minute, whatever the national political context.

The value of ‘early intervention’, identifying and sorting out problems early and enabling people to develop their skills and talents, is just as evident in political campaigning as it is in public services. The Tories matched the Lib Dems leaflet for leaflet, door knock for door knock during the short campaign period. But six months, 1 year, 2 years ago, the Lib Dems were active and the other parties weren’t.

Arguably, Labour should have asked its volunteers not to head to Eastleigh, where the impact of their valiant efforts was always going to be minimal, but to Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Kent and other areas which have county council elections in a couple of months.

There’s a key challenge for local councillors here, as well. Voters in Eastleigh generally agreed that the local council was doing a good job, and that the credit for this should go to the Lib Dems. I wonder how many Labour-run authorities are places where people would spontaneously say that their council was doing a good job, let alone attribute this to the Labour Party? That should be a key goal for every Labour councillor.

Getting as many county councillors elected as possible in May is much more important for Labour than their share of the vote in Eastleigh, especially if those councillors are signed up and committed to talking to voters once they are elected, organising locally and building support well ahead of the next General Election. As Eastleigh shows, it is never too early to start getting ready for the next election.

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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


1. Renie Anjeh

Great piece, building a local base in marginal seats is more important that Eastleigh. The problem is with Eastleigh in particular, that we never held the seat and the boundary changes since 2005 meant that the seat lost strong Labour wards, the local party there was almost non-existent, the selection of John O’Farrell was very late compared to other parties. I am glad that the Lib Dems came first and UKIP came second, because it would secure Clegg’s leaderhip until the next election and cause an immense crisis for David Cameron’s leadership. However, we do need to look at how we can address aread like immigration, welfare and the economy to win over those Tory voters in the South who left us since 1997.

Great piece. The Westminster Bubble does seem a bit like a prison for some politicians, doesn’t it?

Yes, but it’s hard to build a 365 day a year presence when the activist base is so small. Sadly, as the Labour party become more centralised and top-down authoritarian under Blair, many left (myself included) simply because it became their party and not ours. Labour HQ, just like the party in Westminster, is now stuffed with private school, Oxbridge educated people working as interns until a nice safe northern seat comes free.
They go up north and pretend they have a clue what it’s like to live on the dole and then run back down south as soon as they get elected.
It’s not an activist’s party anymore, it’s a plaything for Tories with a conscience.

@3 Spot on.

5. Renie Anjeh

@3 – ‘A them and us’ mentality in regards to people who have been educated at Oxford and private school is unhealthy for our politics. Have you heard of Tony Benn? He went to Westminster and Oxford, and sent his son to a private school unlike Tony Blair who sent his children to state schools. What we need is open primaries for our selections, to connect the Labour Party – as a major political party – with ordinary people with no affiliation. Sometimes Labour get’s trapped in this insular bubble when we need to be reaching out to a range of people. We need more women and BME candidates in winnable seats, but also more lawyers, doctors, businessmen, trade unionists, teachers, academics, soldiers, bankers (yes, I know), former civil servants, charity workers so that we can have a range of experience from all different walks of life in Westminster.

@5
tbh the educational background of the Attlee cabinet was pretty insular, but they were also people who had worked in the real world, alongside the people they represented. They’d seen and lived the trials of the working classes; there was mutual understanding and trust.
The current crop have no interest in the lives of those they represent. I watch PM questions and the attitudes and prejudices on display and, as in the last page of Animal Farm, I look from Labour to Tory, from Tory to Labour and back to Tory again and, increasingly, I find it impossible to tell one from another

7. Chaise Guevara

@ Renie

“‘A them and us’ mentality in regards to people who have been educated at Oxford and private school is unhealthy for our politics.”

Agreed.

@ Helen

“tbh the educational background of the Attlee cabinet was pretty insular, but they were also people who had worked in the real world, alongside the people they represented. They’d seen and lived the trials of the working classes; there was mutual understanding and trust.”

But “Labour supporter” isn’t synonymous with “working class”. Depending how you look at it, a Labour MP represents either everyone who voted for them, or everyone in their constituency. They don’t just represent working-class voters.

8. Northern Worker

Renie @ 5

“We need more women and BME candidates in winnable seats, but also more lawyers, doctors, businessmen, trade unionists, teachers, academics, soldiers, bankers (yes, I know), former civil servants, charity workers so that we can have a range of experience from all different walks of life in Westminster.”

Oh, Renie, I must object to what you seem to believe is a spread of representation and experience in Westminster. Apart from ‘businessmen’, you are advocating a bunch of people who are not adding but spending the value created by the manufacturing and other value-added sectors. Teachers?! Academics?! Former civil servants?! No we don’t want these people. They are the ones who are bringing this country down. How about engineers, production line workers, builders, farmers … people who do real stuff and add value to our economy rather than …. I can’t believe you said lawyers!

How old are you?

@Renie Anjeh (5)
“What we need is open primaries for our selections, to connect the Labour Party – as a major political party – with ordinary people with no affiliation”

What makes you think that open primaries would do anything of the sort? It certainly hasn’t had that effect for the Tories in places where they’ve tried it.

@Northern Worker (8)
“Teachers?! Academics?! Former civil servants?! No we don’t want these people. They are the ones who are bringing this country down. How about engineers, production line workers, builders, farmers … people who do real stuff and add value to our economy rather than …. I can’t believe you said lawyers!”

That’s an odd position to hold. MPs are in charge of education, surely they will be better at that if at least some of them are teachers. MPs make a lot of decisions on things that academics spend their lives studying. Surely they will be better at that if at least some of them are academics. MPs are in charge of the civil service. Surely they will be better at that if at least some of them know how it works from the inside. MPs write laws. Surely they will be better at that if at least some of them are lawyers.

Basically, for Parliament to be at its most effective, we need MPs with a wide variety of backgrounds. Some of the groups you want excluded are people whose careers give them useful insight into some of the things Parliament does and is responsible for. Lets have MPs from both sets of backgrounds.

“1. Why did Labour fail, in so many of the seats that we held between 1997 and 2010, to build the kind of local organisation which the Lib Dems have in Eastleigh?”

Because you didn’t think you needed to.

“2. How can Labour ensure by the time of the next election they have this level of local organisation in at least, say, 340 constituencies?”

By 2015? Impossible. 2025, maybe, but 2015, no.

“Getting as many county councillors elected as possible in May is much more important for Labour than their share of the vote in Eastleigh, ”

Well, sorta, no.

“I wonder how many Labour-run authorities are places where people would spontaneously say that their council was doing a good job, let alone attribute this to the Labour Party?”

Because of that problem. It’s obviously possible for me to simply be snide and point out that most people don’t actually give a shit about the diversity advisers’ department. Nor most of the other things that the political obsessives who stand as councillors care about.

But leaving aside such snideness, given that you even ask the question shows that you don’t think the answer is positive. Most people living under Labour councils/councillors don’t think they’re doing a good job or they don’t know.

And much the same is true of the Tory party as well. Again, no, this isn’t me being snide, I’m not about to say that my lot in UKIP are perfect either.

But the two major political parties, as once was, in this country, have fallen apart. There’s a very, very, thin layer now between the party and the populace. And that thin layer is almost exclusively those who wish to move from one group to the other.

It was all really rather different 30, 50 years ago.

And now let me be snide:

“The aim of this, he argued, was to build strong relationships with the electorate, so that whatever was happening at Westminster or in the newspapers didn’t influence how people chose to vote. Rather than remote politicians having their views filtered through the media to the electorate, this is about local politicians and people working together, while the remote media chatter away in the background.”

So his view was, don’t worry about what the politicians do with the power that you give them, you know, that policy shit, just give them the power because you recognise their face?

My word, how democratic. And I always thought it was the Labour Party that was against false advertising.

@5 ” ‘A them and us’ mentality in regards to people who have been educated at Oxford and private school is unhealthy for our politics.”

In a way. But you can’t dismiss a concern about overrepresentation of privilege in this area any more than you would dismiss concerns about overrepresentation of males or of white people. I know and like some people who went to private school. But the fact is that private education is, on the whole, a marker of privilege. Ideally the privately educated would be no better represented in Parliament than in the general population.

“We need more women and BME candidates in winnable seats, but also more lawyers, doctors, businessmen, trade unionists, teachers, academics, soldiers, bankers (yes, I know), former civil servants, charity workers so that we can have a range of experience from all different walks of life in Westminster.”

Is the role of the Labour Party to represent the entire population? The role of the Commons is to represent everyone, but the role of Labour is to represent first and foremost the exploited and oppressed classes of society. Now I’m not saying that there should be no middle-class Labour MPs. There always have been, and after all the Fabians have been a part of the party since the start… But it shouldn’t be a big concern of the party to represent business people or bankers, since the Tories do that already. The underrepresentation of workers is a big concern, by contrast.

12. Richard W

9. Green Christian

” That’s an odd position to hold. MPs are in charge of education, surely they will be better at that if at least some of them are teachers. MPs make a lot of decisions on things that academics spend their lives studying. Surely they will be better at that if at least some of them are academics. MPs are in charge of the civil service. Surely they will be better at that if at least some of them know how it works from the inside. MPs write laws. Surely they will be better at that if at least some of them are lawyers. ”

No you definitely do not want an education system designed by teachers. What you would get from such a system is an education system that is focused on what is good for teachers. A civil service system designed by civil servants will reflect the interests of bureaucrats. A health system where doctors decide how it runs will be a health system run for the benefit of doctors.

13. Oranjepan

The message for Labour from Eastleigh is simple: Labour chose the wrong leader, the wrong candidate, the wrong strategy and the wrong policies.

Why did Labour fail after 1997 to organise effectively? Because Labour’s electoral successes were the product of tory failure, and Labour’s electoral successes were in spite of their own wholesale deficiencies. ’97 convinced Labour’s right-wing leadership they needed nothing more than a media strategy, that soundbites and fake sincerity are an effective substitute for authenticity and hard work.

How can Labour build an effective electoral machine in 340 seats by 2015? They can’t. They couldn’t do it with more than a million members giving active support to their leadership, so they won’t be able to do it with a couple of hundred thousand who are only interested in spitting bile at anyone who isn’t Labour.

Politics has changed, Labour hasn’t.

Ed Miliband is obnoxious – his feedback from this by-election was talking about how he now ‘gets it’ on immigration, it only shows he’s a blowhard who’s completely divorced from the real world!

@Helen, I just looked this up and you might be pleasantly surprised.

The proportion of Oxbridge-educated Labour MPs today is 20%. In 1951 it was 19%. Not much of an increase, is it? (Also, 16% in 2005, but 21% in 1979.)

15% of Labour MPs went to independent school, compared with 18% in 1979. It’s not necessarily going down (since it was also 18% in 2005, and 14% in 1983), but it’s not going up, either.

Doesn’t mean we should be complacent, obviously.

Generally agree with the OP. undoing the damage caused to the activist base by New Labour is going to take some doing, though.

I’m interested by the continued references to class in these discussions though. This is largely because class in contemporary society confuses me. I remember Arthur Scargill largely dismissing old notions of class and saying there are just two classes: owning classes and the rest.

It seems to me that class-based political ideology is just a shibboleth for some left-wing circles and is otherwise practically meaningless. This is especially true for Labour. The point for Labour is that now it has to try to speak for a broader group of demographics in society, and to do so they have to develop policies that are less about class and more generally about helping more people live better lives.

Cherub: if you’re black or white and are born into a council estate in Bermondsey, your chances of being a Labour MP (never mind any other kind of MP) are vastly lower than if you’re black or white and are born into a middle-class family in Harrow. The idea that it’s solely the 1% versus the 99% is simply bollocks.

@12 Richard W
“No you definitely do not want an education system designed by teachers. What you would get from such a system is an education system that is focused on what is good for teachers. A civil service system designed by civil servants will reflect the interests of bureaucrats. A health system where doctors decide how it runs will be a health system run for the benefit of doctors.”

Whilst you don’t want a system solely designed by them, you need to have one which takes their views and expertise into account. If you ignore teachers when reforming the education system you get the kind of broken system Gove is trying to impose. If you ignore civil servants when reforming the civil service, you’ll create a lot of Sir Humphreys who make it more difficult to implement your policy. If you ignore the Doctors when reforming the NHS, then you’re likely to increase bureaucracy and the other people you’ll be taking your cues from are probably the groups who want a piece of a privatised NHS.

Nobody’s saying that these should be the only voices in Parliament, but they know how the existing systems work better than anybody else, they have a better grasp of how proposed changes will affect the services provided, and – as long as they were decent at their previous job – they’ll probably have a better understanding of what providing the service means than other MPs. Saying that they should not be there being part of the decision-making process is to suggest that policy should be made without representing the views of the people who are most knowledgeable and most directly affected.

@16 true, but irrelevant to winning elections, or even remaining broadly relevant, which is what the Left needs to be.

19. Renie Anjeh

@9 – Well in some seats like Northampton North, an open primary was useful in helping to unseat an incumbent. The Tories have also used primaries in other seats lik Bracknell, Esher and Walton and Totnes primaries led to a rather large increase in the Tory share of the vote. Many MPs elected through open primaries feel a strong sense of connection with their constituents. What frustrates me as a Labour member, is that to get selected you have to know the right people, try and appease different groups within the party and also some CLPs are not representative of the community which they seek to represent. We already have the Labour Supporters network, which allows non-members to vote in selections and the leadership are supportive of primaries but we need that reform rather than this distrust of the people. Just look at the French Socialists when they had primaries.
@13 – Labour tried your approach before and it lost elections.
@11 – Yes, it is. The Labour Party is a party for everyone not just a certain sect of society – haven’t you heard of ‘One Nation’? We have to try and get those people who voted Tory and Lib Dem at last election, rather than just appealing to our core vote. We need to be the party of the Hampstead liberal as well as the working man from Dagenham. We should be representative of all of society not just a few people here and there.

haven’t you heard of ‘One Nation’?

Would that I hadn’t, a more sinister turn of phrase you’ll struggle to find. One Nation! One Church! One God! One Party! One Leader! One Class! Ein Volk! Ein Fuhrer! – the promise of yet another Utopia pervades.

Still, borrowing Nazi turns of phrase seems to be the in thing for Labour since Tony’s Third way.

Renie Anjeh:

The Labour Party is a party for everyone not just a certain sect of society – haven’t you heard of ‘One Nation’? We have to try and get those people who voted Tory and Lib Dem at last election, rather than just appealing to our core vote. We need to be the party of the Hampstead liberal as well as the working man from Dagenham. We should be representative of all of society not just a few people here and there.

Which is, quite literally, impossible. Even if it weren’t, it would be a totally inaccurate description of New Labour.

The Hampstead liberal (based on the ones I’ve known personally that lived in Hampstead and Finchley) is likely to read the Guardian and Private Eye, and to be: against the Iraq war, anti-racist, anti-EDL, pro-gay rights, ambivalent on Europe; inclined to like policies which favour the middle class and the rich, inclined to not give a shit about the benefits system because, well, they and their kids will never need it, inclined to think anti-capitalists are a kind of student disease like cannabis and pot noodles, unlikely to care about tuition fees because, again, that’ll never stop my kids going to University, and so on.

The ‘Dagenham’ working man (based on the ones I’ve known personally, ranging from Catford and Lewisham to Southampton, Leyton, Harringey and the West Midlands) is likely read the Sun, and is likely to be: implicitly racist and explicitly xenophobic, anti-EU, pro-Iraq War, sympathetic to the EDL, to think that Muslims are by definition terrorists, and anti-gay rights: they’re likely to oppose policies designed to make the middle class into the rich, they’re likely to care a good deal about the personal tax allowance threshold and the benefits system, they’re likely to not give a shit about tuition fees because their kids couldn’t have afforded university either way, and so on.

There is quite simply no way to reconcile these representative needs, even if you roll back slightly from the stereotyping I have indulged in to dramatize my point.

You can’t advocate for the middle class and the poor at the same time, because being nice to the middle class by definition involves cutting services for the poor. Economics may have stopped being a zero-sum game with the end of mercantilism, but in the absence of much higher levels of tax on capital gains, large land estates and incomes over about £50kpa, government spending certainly is a zero-sum game. At any given level of government revenues, if you want to spend more on the middle class you must by definition spend less on the poor.

New Labour was an experiment which sought to drag the moderate middle classes into the Labour electoral coalition, and they knew perfectly well that it would be at the expense of the northern poor who could be relied on to vote Labour on tribal grounds. They just didn’t give a shit about taking votes in return for ridicule and empty promises; there’s a lot more money and journalists in the southern middle-classes than there are in the northern poor.

22. Renie Anjeh

@20 – Explain how ‘One Nation’ is Nazism, because that is not only a very offensive comment but a serious smear on the Labour Party.
@21 – You have now descended into huge generalisation and stereotypes which weakens your point completely. You seem to forget that the Labour Party has always been a coalition between the ‘Dagenham’ working man and the metropolitan Hampstead liberal. There is the ILP tradition and the Fabian tradition in the Labour Party. When Labour has one majorities in the past, it is because it has represented both the interest of the liberal and the working man. In 2015, Labour has to become that coalition again because we will need to destroy the Liberal Democrats but we will also need those swing Tory voters who left us in 2005 and 2010 in areas like Essex and Kent.

@22 One of the Nazis’ most-repeated political slogans was “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” which translates to “One People, One Nation, One Leader”. Since you’re also seemingly arguing for ‘One Party’ for ‘One People’, you can see why some of us are starting to look at One Nation Labour somewhat askance, particularly since reforms that the disabled and weakest in society are fighting against found their origins within your party.

You have now descended into huge generalisation and stereotypes which weakens your point completely.

Um, no I haven’t, I made use of a well-understood argumentative device, and did so openly. You might have a point, if I had not recognised explicitly the fact that I had distilled a quite large sample of real people, whose opinions vary a bit for clear reasons, into slightly stereotyped summaries. But each paragraph also accurately reflects the avrage issue positions of people I know well, in those classes and areas. You cannot have this conversation without generalising; and if anyone in this thread has deployed a ‘huge’ generalisation, I think that award would have to go to whoever used the phrase ‘One Nation’ non-ironically.

You seem to forget that the Labour Party has always been a coalition between the ‘Dagenham’ working man and the metropolitan Hampstead liberal.

Yeah, in the 60s maybe.

Your point is that you can represent the poor and the rich at the same time. My point is that you can’t, because the poor mostly need defending from the rich. Your point is that Labour is for liberals as well as for, well, labour. My point is that you’re describing Old Labour, for which that was true at least some of the time: and that New Labour is a completely different animal, and one with a much stronger radical Christianist faction driving extreme social conservatism into the party’s agenda. And that’s leaving aside very traditional class-based wedge issues like xenophobia and gay rights.

Huge amounts of expensive propaganda have been pressed into service to ensure that the Hampstead liberals (who are typically anti-racist and pro-gay rights) are split from the underprivileged working class, who are typically anti-immigrant and anti-gay. The Labour party cannot legislate policies which both keep the Mrs. Duffys of their traditional northern, working class base happy, and appeal to educated liberals Those two demographics have different interests, and radically different views of social justice and, ultimately, what it means to be a free society.

There is the ILP tradition and the Fabian tradition in the Labour Party.

And more or less anything you say about Labour which has the word ‘tradition’ in it ceases to be relevant at some point between 1994 and 1997. Organised labour used to be core to the Labour party, as well, but compare and contrast Labour in the 60s when it came to dealing with unions, vs Labour in the 00s.

The whole point of the Blair experiment was to detach Labour from it’s traditional values and capture the centre-right middle classes. It worked, for a while.

When Labour has one [sic] majorities in the past, it is because it has represented both the interest of the liberal and the working man.

Nonsense. Prior to Thatcher, when Labour won majorities it was because the ‘working man’ constituted better than 60% of the actual population, and because the ‘working man’ could rely on the Labour party to advocate for their interests. The massive expansion of the middle class between the 60s and the 90s turned that around, and created a structural advantage for the Tories; party politics since 1982 has been a war for the middle classes. The ugly genius of Blair’s New Labour was that it eroded that structural party advantage, but it did so by abandoning the interests of labour.

By far the most revealing thing in your little rant is this line, right here:

In 2015, Labour has to become that coalition again because we will need to destroy the Liberal Democrats

That this, rather than say beating the Tories or fixing the economy, is your main goal in 2015 tells one everything one needs to know about Labour activism.

Labour has traditionally been a left-wing party, but it has never been a liberal one. It used to contain liberals, but the party taken as a whole, Members, activists, organisers, members, unions and tribal voters, was never liberal. It was left-wing, in the industrial-era sense of left-wing.

I find this one a bit odd:

The Hampstead liberal… inclined to not give a shit about the benefits system because, well, they and their kids will never need it, inclined to think anti-capitalists are a kind of student disease like cannabis and pot noodles, unlikely to care about tuition fees because, again, that’ll never stop my kids going to University, and so on.

All of my Graun Lib acquaintances (both my generation, ie “sprogging now-ish”, and older generations) are absolutely pro-benefits and anti-tuition fees. And as a North Londoner I think I’ve got this one. I’ve never met a left-ish person who was anti-benefits; that’s solely Daily Mail folks who hate foreigners and dole scum.

Also:

Are you planning to address any of my actual points? Like, the fairly uncontroversial observation that the poor have fundamentally different policy interests than the middle class? Or like the equally uncontroversial observation that the social agendas of the northern labour-movement working class and the home-counties liberal middle class are directly in opposition on several policy issues?

You may not like my conclusions, but to date you have made no attempt to even remotely engage with the reasons behind them.

John B: the distinction I was drawing, which I wasn’t actually clear enough about, was between what they say they think, and what they *care* about. Most people I’ve known in that category claim broad University access is a good thing, and say that benefits are clearly a social necessity and so on.

But in practice they don’t actually give a shit, and if pressed, will admit that they’re much more likely to change their vote (or just stay home) if the Labour Party threatens to raise middle-income taxes or cut middle-class subsidies, than if they threaten to raise tuition fees, or cut benefits. Most of the Hampstead set that I knew were strong advocates of social freedoms in conversation but really didn’t care about, or hadn’t noticed, our nearly universal surveillance infrastructure.

Equally most liberals of that type will say they want more action over the environment, but virtually none of them will actually act like it, let alone vote like it.

There are issues each class talk about (for the working class in Coventry, for example, one of their big verbal issues is the homeless problem) but in practice they just don’t care. There are then others where, in my experience, the position is passionately held and will be a good predictor of active and sustained opposition if challenged. I tried to illustrate that.

Like you, I know North London pretty well; I was living in Finchley and hanging out with Hampsteaders and Golders Greens for several years, as well as having lived in the nasty bits down Turnpike Lane way and over in Leyton. I was at the time a core network engineer for Demon, so my circle was very much the rich, internet-generation liberals.

What I’ve said here reflects, not so much those people’s opinion of themselves (which was pretty much how you described them) but my observations of them over ten years or so. Yes, they all supported the welfare state; but none of them had ever been on benefits, and they all shared the middle-class moral disdain for anyone who has actually claimed them.

Still to John B:

Further to that, a good example is the Iraq war; I knew a lot of people who shifted to the LDs because Labour supported the war. They actually cared about that.

I knew precisely no-one who decamped because of Labour’s egregious attacks on civil liberties in the mid-00s. My good friend and co-civil liberties activist Laurie Penny, for example, remained a Labour supporter even after seeing what they did to the Climate Campers in 2008, and I’ve never understood why.

Labour are not a liberal-friendly party. They have not been one since at the very latest 1997, and I would argue since much, much earlier. But so many on the British left who hold liberal personal opinions still support them.

Mind you, back then I was a Liberal Democrat supporter; I hadn’t realised, ’til the coalition, the extent to which the LD party has back-benched the Liberals in favour of the Democrats. Now that I no longer live in Lynne Featherstone’s constituency (she, I liked) I would find it difficult to support the LDs for any office above the council level until or unless they turn into Liberal Democrats.

29. Richard W

@ 17. Green Christian

I present as evidence the UK legal system designed in parliament by lawyers for lawyers.

Hang on. Chris, are you JQP? No reason why I should care one way or another, apart from it making my question the other day a bit silly.

31. Oranjepan

@Renie Anjeh
classic, I didn’t propose any approach for Labour, so saying what I proposed has been proved to fail is both incorrect and redundant. Pure hot air, pure Labour.

@Chris Naden
agreed, politics now is not what it was 50 years ago. It is pluralising as a result of technology and social media.

If Labour is a serious political movement then it shouldn’t resist this trend and seek a return to the old days of command and control, but accept it must begin building real partnerships based on equality where it can effectively seek to exert influence.

First step should be to disaffiliate the Cooperative Party.

32. Renie Anjeh

Okay just to address a few points.
@24 – Complete rubbish. You not only failed to characterise these two characters (as Jon B pointed out), but you clearly have failed to understand how the Labour Party has won elections. Firstly, we can keep the Mrs Duffys and the voter in Hampstead happy if we acknowledge their concerns. New Labour was good at this. Labour was very strict on crime (have you heard of David Blunkett) and pushed forward strong welfare reforms. On the other hand, Labour managed to bring in civil partnerships, gay rights legislation, equality laws, not overtax the well-off and record investment in public services. Blair’s ‘Singapore speech’ spoke to the idea of solidarity (One Nation if you like) but he also talked about aspiration and success. You mention the 1960s, but look at Hugh Gaitskell. He was a middle-class North London liberal who led a party which had many people from the ILP tradition as well and has he lived longer, he would have led Labour to victory. Harold Wilson – a working man from the North – leading the most socially progressive government of his time. You are also wrong about Blair because New Labour was not a divorce from the Labour tradition but a different expression of the Labour tradition but in the modern era.
Oh, and fixing the economy is a priority for the Labour Party and I agree with that but in order to do that we need to be the party of the ‘Dagenham’ working man and the Hampstead liberal. We need Liberal Democrats and Tories.

JohnB: Yes, I was JQP 🙂 I dropped a line in that other thread mentioning it as well. I just started up again and decided I have no need for anonymity this time.

The other due:

Firstly, we can keep the Mrs Duffys and the voter in Hampstead happy if we acknowledge their concerns.

One of the concerns of the Hampstead liberal is that refugees be well-treated, that labour markets be fluid and open for the good of the economy, that discrimination should be dealt with and so on. One of the core concerns of the Mrs. Duffys is that all the darkies should go home and never come back. There is simply no reconcilable position between those two, and that’s true on a number of issues. The working class may be left-wing in the sense of welfare state but they are most certainly not liberals in the sense of social policy.

On the other hand, Labour managed to bring in civil partnerships, gay rights legislation, equality laws, not overtax the well-off and record investment in public services.

And in the process pissed off quite a lot of their northern base because a lot of their norther base don’t like gay people.

You mention the 1960s, but look at Hugh Gaitskell. He was a middle-class North London liberal who led a party which had many people from the ILP tradition as well and has he lived longer, he would have led Labour to victory.

Yes, that was my point: in the 60s, you could find room for people like Red Ken and for the common working class in the same tent as Benn and Gaitskell. Not so much now. In part because:

New Labour was not a divorce from the Labour tradition but a different expression of the Labour tradition

New Labour was absolutely a divorce from the Labour tradition. The Labour tradition was to look after the working man, drawing in considerable support from middle- and upper-class liberals because such liberals believed the working class needed looking after. The New Labour idea was to shift the party’s focus away from the working class towards the vastly expanded middle- and lower-middle classes, and in the process, to march lemming-like down the rabbit-hole of neo-liberal economics. Excellent electoral strategy after 18 years of Tories: bloody horrible politics.

34. Renie Anjeh

This is complete nonsense, I am sorry but this is just slanderous. Firstly, you are implying that people like Mrs Duffy are racist. Wrong again, you are like Gordon Brown. These people have coexisted with black people, Muslim people etc. for years (I say that as a ‘darkie’) but they are concerned about jobs, wages, housing and public services. I was doorknocking in Ilford and a woman said the very same thing to me. Lovely woman but she said, “you lot don’t listen to us there are a lot of pressures on the schools, the hospitals and our homes.” Secondly, on the welfare state, the ‘working men’/Mrs Duffys are tougher on welfare. They want the Beveridge system of welfare based on contribution, not ‘free money’ (as the Daily Mail would put it). On the liberal policies, this did not piss of Northern people, they did not care. They were asking Labour, what are you doing about our jobs, our wages, our housing, our hospitals and our schools. You keep on saying in the ‘1960s’ but you were not sufficiently making that point. As for, New Labour, anyone who has been involved in New Labour would tell you that what you said was nonsense but a common perception. It is because New Labour wrongly failed to demonstrate that it was expressing Labour traditions in a modernised manner, not divorcing the Labour Party from itself. The three key demands for Keir Hardie were all achieved by New Labour. Put it this way, the Mrs Duffys/’working men’ are concerned about their energy bills, cost of living, the family, jobs, immigration and globalisation but the ‘Hampstead liberals’ care about the environment, equality, gay marriage, constitutional reform etc. These do not contradict each other, in fact I’d argue that they can even complement each other and in some cases there is common ground. Rather than making sweeping generalizations to offend certain groups in society, perhaps you should grapple with the real issues instead.

35. Oranjepan

Renie,
as you say yourself, Labour doesn’t listen. So there’s no point engaging with you.


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