10:45 am - August 13th 2013
Simon Jenkins is right: August politics is hell. Earlier in the year it was the Tories that were staring into the abyss, riven by Europe, embattled by UKIP, staring a triple dip recession in the face. Little more than 3 months later, and things are looking brighter for the party, although nowhere near as good as their chances of winning the next election are being portrayed in certain areas of the Tory press.
Naturally then, it’s now Labour and their hangers-on that are having an attack of the jitters. Quite why is difficult to ascertain: it’s not as though things have changed dramatically. The party still has a lead in the opinion polls; the economic recovery is hardly secured and for now is likely a mirage outside of the south east; and no one out in the real world gave a toss about the supposed selection scandal involving Unite up in Falkirk.
The odd thing is that on the whole, Ed Miliband has set out the general themes that the party needs to be focusing on. The squeezed middle might be the least well defined social grouping in history, but living standards will undoubtedly dominate come 2015. He set out a critique of predator capitalism, for which he was widely mocked by the media at the time, and yet tax avoidance by multinational corporations has become an issue as never before, while the spread of zero-hour contracts has exposed what a nonsense it is that employment law in this country is in some way holding business back. One Nation Labour has not been explained quite as well, but the potential is still there, especially as the Tories look set to go for a doctrinaire right-wing manifesto come 2015.
Labour’s problem isn’t then just due to indecision within the party itself, it also reflects the sad state of politics more widely in the country. We’re told endlessly that politicians are all the same, yet present the electorate with an alternative and they don’t want that either. Up until very recently they thought cuts were unfair and harming the economy, but they didn’t want to take the risk of loosening up, reflected through the lack of anything approaching street opposition as austerity as has been seen elsewhere in Europe.
The closest they’ve come to approving of an outsider is Nigel Farage for goodness sake, about as alternative as John Bishop is to Michael McIntyre. This is where some of the criticism of Labour’s current position gets silly: John Harris bemoans how Labour has missed the digital revolution, as though “a viral video” or a few more tweets from Balls and Miliband could make the difference.
In effect, the main reason behind the whinges is that Labour isn’t doing quite as well as it was. It’s not anything more deep-seated than that. How could it be? Despite the despair of the likes of Dan Hodges or the equivalent from the opposite side by Owen Jones, the party remains where it is because it doesn’t think the general public wants it any further left or right than where it currently is. What’s more, the opinion polls back them up. Hardly any MPs voice outrage at what the coalition is doing to the welfare state, how Serco and G4S are not that far off from running the country or how the Tories seemed to have settled on creating growth through encouraging another housing bubble, for the precise reason that it’s exactly what they would do if they were suddenly foisted into power. Sure, they might do things ever so slightly differently, but not massively. The most anger we’ve heard from a Labour MP recently has been Stella Creasy, and that was about fucking Twitter again.
More pertinently, why make the effort when the next election will be decided in such a small number of seats again? For the Tories to win a majority they have to increase their share of the vote, something a party in government hasn’t managed in a very long time. They seem to think they can achieve this feat through repeating the same Lynton Crosby-honed themes over and over for the next two years. The result we might have to face is another hung parliament, another five years of conglomeration and drift. And the sad thing is, no one seems particularly upset by the prospect so long as they’ve got some hold on power.
a longer version is here.
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at Septicisle.info on politics and general media mendacity.
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