Recent Elections2010 Articles

It’s time for left-liberals to join Labour

by John B     May 12, 2010 at 3:57 am

Well, I called that one wrong. My analysis was basically sound at a party level: there was nothing that either Gordon Brown or David Cameron would be able to offer Nick Clegg that would be worth the savage electoral beating his party would end up taking as a result of joining up with either.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the ability of ambitious people to sell out their supporters for a massive dollop of bugger all, in cases where personal rewards are on the table. This was a textbook example of analytical failure; of course I should have been looking at the incentives for the agents rather than the incentives for the principals…

Birthrights, pottage, etc

So Nick Clegg gets to be John Prescott, and four other Lib Dems get cabinet roles (not confirmed at time of writing, but probably the poisoned-chalice ones – Home Secretary, Foreign Aid, Scotland… you get the idea). And when the Liberal Democrats lose all their seats next Parliament, I wonder if the Tories will reward him with a candidacy somewhere rural and blue where they weigh the vote…?

Meanwhile, as far as policy programmes go, the Lib Dems have basically acquiesced to the Tory manifesto. We’re still going to give the US tens of billions of pounds for the sheer love of the American military-industrial complex. We’re still going to put a cap on visas for filthy furriners. We’re still going to rig the tax system to bribe married Tory voters.

In exchange, schools in deprived areas will get a bit more money, the Tories will drop their plans to leave enormously rich people’s heirs completely untaxed, and we’ll have a referendum on Alternative Vote (remember, AV isn’t PR, it’s just “the current electoral system if it were designed by someone who wasn’t clinically insane”) at some point, which will probably fail when the Tories spend vast sums campaigning against it.

The only way this could possibly not be a terrible outcome for the Liberal Democrats is if Cameron has pledged not only to allow a referendum on AV, but that the Conservatives will support the “Yes” campaign. If that’s the case – which I haven’t seen any evidence for yet, and which would surprise me – then the collapse in the Lib Dem vote share at the next election will partly be offset and the party will at least survive.

What next?

The country will benefit in the short term. While the Tory government isn’t going to drop any of its core commitments, it’ll be deterred from doing anything really socially nasty by the need to keep the Liberals onside (equally, a lot of the socially nasty Tory PPCs who we all feared would get in last year were denied seats by the Labour resurgence in core marginals).

I don’t think that’s worth the long-term damage to the country caused by destroying the one viable alternative option for the non-authoritarian left, but heigh ho.

But the big winners, in a funny sort of way, are Labour. Who d’you think centre-left people looking for a change are going to vote for next time round, following five years of brinksmanship and savage cuts? Yup, that’d be the one.

I’ve made this point here before, but especially with this defeat (oh, come on, yes, I know, but it really was in the end, wasn’t it?)  and Gordon Brown’s departure, it’s time for lefties to join the party and lobby to get the Blairites out and the non-warmongering, non-civil-liberties-hating left in.

I’d also expect an influx of left-liberal former LD supporters into Labour (if I still lived in the country, I’d be signing up today) – join now, and you’ll have a say in who stands next time, and what platform they stand on. And in five years, or whenever the coalition collapses, it’s the duty of everyone left-leaning to get out there and flyer for Labour.

And if, by some miracle, AV does get passed, it’ll also be good news for the smaller parties of the left. Not great news – AV still won’t allow any of the 5-10% parties any seats, unlike STV – but it means that next time round you’ll be able to put Green first, Labour second and not risk letting in the Tories.

So overall, as a traditional Lib Dem supporter, I’m absolutely livid. As a liberal, I’m in two minds. At least the country’s not solely ruled by the Tebbit/Dorries party, at least there’s some hope for a left-Labour future, and at least there’s a tiny amount of hope for a multi-left future…

Why Lefties should worry about the Con-Dem-nation

by Sunny Hundal     May 11, 2010 at 9:55 pm

1. While I would have liked to see a broad Labour-Libdem alliance, I think that a “coalition of losers” would not have worked with the electorate unless there was a compelling reason why a Con-Lib coalition was not happening.

Clegg had always said his party would first negotiate with the party that won the most votes and he had to stick by that.

2. And the Libdems were under no obligation to do a deal with Labour. Brown was unpopular as leader and it’s not clear what was offered on the table. Some say Labour offered a referendum on full PR. But what about ID cards? Trident? Cutting taxes for the poorest? Libdems had an obligation to go with the party that offered them the sweetest deal and had a good chance of delivering on those promises. They did that, clearly.

3. This coalition won’t fail easily, and a lot of Labourites should be careful of being optimistic about that. Cameron and Clegg know that if their government fails soon, then a new Labour leader plus severe budget cuts would hurt them electorally. So expect this to be at least a 4-5 year parliament.

4. Which brings us to the biggest worry: if the Con-Dem-Nation works well, then it may seriously re-align politics in a way that could put Labour out of power for a generation. Why?

For a start the parties will happily pursue a broadly right-of-centre economic agenda. It may be fairly anti-Trade unions, pro-civil liberties and may even take some good elements from the Libdems (a serious agenda on the environment and cutting taxes for the poor). This means that the political centre will shift right-wards, and a lot of Libdem voters will become less anti-Tory.

If the future of politics is indeed coalition governments, then there is a real danger here that the future is anti-Labour majority than an anti-Tory majority.

5. And this potential anti-Labour majority is why Labourites should avoid burning their bridges with Libdem voters and activists.

The way forward now is surely for the left to argue even harder for civil liberties, low taxes for the poor and better policies for the environment. Otherwise there is no reason for Libdem voters to abandon the Con-Lib coalition and vote Labour.

6. Will Libdems be more sympathetic to Labour now? I’m not sure that will be the case. Senior left-wing Libdems will say that Labour did not offer them enough sweeteners. I don’t know if this is true, but it is true that Labour determination for a coalition government started faltering yesterday.

The political will just wasn’t there, and it’s no surprise then that a deal didn’t happen. There is no point blaming parties: the electoral results almost certainly made this happen.

The focus now should be to make sure that the Left can rebuild and expand in opposition.

A good point made by Ellie: Scorched Earth: A plea to labour and the left. (cheers Rupert)

Our new overlords are here – open thread

by Sunny Hundal     May 11, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Discuss thoughts on the new government here.

Some policies and posts confirmed are here.

– Tories to put on hold (or drop) marriage taxbreak
– Tories put on hold IHT for rich people
– Libdems drop commitment to amnesty for illegals.
– A tax cut for the lowest paid moves up the agenda

William Hague – foreign sec
Andrew Lansley to be health secretary
William Hague foreign secretary
Liam Fox will be Defence Secretary

Not confirmed
Nick Clegg – deputy PM (not confirmed)
Vince Cable chief secretary to the treasury (not confirmed)
David Laws Education secretary (not confirmed)
Secretary of State for Scotland: Danny Alexander

Henry Macory: No 10 press job.

A Con-Lib alliance would push us further into neo-liberalism

by Guest     May 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

contribution by Alex Andrews

Reading the papers it would seem that all Clegg needs to do is decide, yet the reality is he will face a far more difficult task, particularly with the majority of the party considerably to the left of the leadership.

It is this dischord between the leadership of the Liberal Democrats and the majority of the party which leads to a more natural alliance between the leaders and the Tories, whose interests are far more harmonious.

David Laws, former investment banker and chief negotiator with the Tories, was co-editor of the notorious Orange Book to which Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and Vincent Cable also contributed.

Here Laws and the other authors claimed that the Liberals must become more friendly to the economic liberal (ie neoliberal) elements of their legacy and avoid ‘soggy socialism’ that seem to have slipped in. The fact that Clegg is quite prepared to indulge in pro-Thatcherite union bashing and Michael Gove would step aside to allow Laws to implement his crazy free market educational proposals confirms, along with the fact that George Osborne asked Laws to join the shadow cabinet, that formally and ideologically the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaderships are closer than the base of both parties.

For this reason, it is a genuine fear that an alliance will result not in a tempering of the neoliberal strands of the Conservative party, but rather an amplification of the worse neoliberal elements in both parties.

Those elements which the Liberals and Tories agree on, even if restricted only to a ‘confidence arrangement’, will result only in savage cuts and a further extension of the unjust, unequal neoliberal nightmare.

With this in mind, it is necessary for progressives to begin lobbying the Liberal Democrat federal executive to let them know that allowing a Tory coalition is a very bad idea indeed.

For progressives, voting against the Tories would be a huge betrayal of the primary reason they cast their vote and their party need reminding of this, whatever the opinion of their leadership.

A Tory alliance will lead the Liberals shedding their progressive voters and will likely reduce them to a level lower than just their core support, considering how many in the party itself would desert them, as well as killing any sense of them being any alternative.

This tension between not wanting a Tory alliance and wanting something different must be an element to any progressive position in the coming weeks, particularly as leadership battles begin within Labour.

Alex Andrews is a writer and activist. He has written for Comment Is Free and blogs on politics, philosophy, religion and economics at the group blog An und für sich.

Against the coalition of the losers

by Don Paskini     May 11, 2010 at 11:00 am

Jess Asato has a good article about the need for Labour to learn the lessons from the elections:

“If Labour is going to win back the key seats needed to form a government next time, it needs to identify the best campaigns across the country and replicate their winning elements. This means selecting personable candidates who are willing to work 24/7, appointing diligent consituency organisers and identifying local issues which galvanise the electorate to identify Labour as a party which cares about their day-to-day needs, not the demands of lobby journalists.”

Jess could have added that it also requires candidates prepared to vote against their party when they think Labour is doing the wrong thing – whether that’s Andrew Smith over Trident, Andy Slaughter over Heathrow, Gisela Stuart over Europe or John McDonnell over everything.

One implication of this which people haven’t yet realised is that it means that Labour can’t be part of a Lib/Lab “coalition of the losers”. Dozens of Labour MPs got elected by pledging to be strong, independent voices who would put their constituents first.

But in a coalition government, if as few as two or three Labour MPs put their constituents ahead of their party, it would lead to the defeat of the government on key pieces of legislation. Even if it were possible to get them all to vote exactly the same way on everything, it would be undesirable.

The Labour MPs in the last parliament were the most rebellious ever. How can a coalition which depends on Jeremy Corbyn, Frank Field, Tom Harris and John Hemming all voting the same way ever get any legislation passed?

The electorate gave a clear preference for independent-minded, effective Labour candidates who are rooted in their communities, who keep in touch all year round and are on the side of the people they seek to represent.

It’s vital for democratic renewal and social justice that Labour learns how to campaign effectively in every constituency and every community, spreading and learning from the good work where this already happens. This is far more important for the people who need Labour’s help most than trivia such as which Oxford educated former Special Adviser becomes our next leader.

This process of learning and renewal will take a little time, but will reap great rewards. But just at the moment, it means that Labour can’t, and shouldn’t, enter into coalition government.

The markets have spoken, and they couldn’t care less

by John B     May 11, 2010 at 8:48 am

One of the reasons continually cited by Tory commentators for why we need to get the election resolved Quickly, and with a Committed, Majority Coalition Government Of Only Two Parties (which, entirely coincidentally, could only consist of a Lib/Con pact), is that of The Markets.

The suggestion is that, if we don’t have a strong, firm hand on the economy wielded by, erm, an ex-PR man and a scary manchild, then The Markets will punish us. In this sense, The Markets are rather like God: if they do exist, it’s certainly not in the kind of interventionist form that the tossers who invoke them to bolster their own political power claim they do.

The evidence for my claim is simple: none of the events of the UK political campaign or the election’s aftermath have had a significant impact on the value of the UK pound against the two other most important global currencies.

The chart below shows exchange rates (ie the value of a pound; higher is ‘better’ in the eyes of the sort of people who rant about this sort of thing, which is debatable but an argument for another day) from the start of 2010 onwards – i.e., the period when the expected election outcome shifted from a Tory majority government to “meh, don’t ask me, I only work here”:

GBP/EUR/USD rates from Jan-May 2010

In words, the only noticeable trend is that the GBP lost ground against the EUR up to mid-February (still pre-Cleggmania) and then stayed more or less flat, while there was no impact at all of the uncertainty on the US$ rate. So, what about the election itself? Well, this chart runs from April 21 to today:

GBP/EUR/USD rates immediately prior to May 2010 election

Yup, that’s right: bugger all against the dollar, a tiny fall against the EUR (which was mostly driven by the vague agreement on Greece’s bailout, but that’s another story that’lll keep). There’s nothing that reflects any serious concerns by The Markets about the value of the UK’s currency.

I’m not going to go into bond yields, because they’re complicated. But what we do know is that the UK’s debt is denominated in pounds, so there is no prospect of default – instead, the government can always print more money. So any perceived risk to UK bonds solely consists of currency risk (you’ll always get GBP10 million back from your GBP10 million bond, but GBP10 million just might only be worth USD2.50 at the time).

So if The Markets believed that the current election bargaining meant that there was a serious risk the UK wouldn’t pass a budget, make the required cuts to bring the deficit down over a reasonable time period, and so on – in short, if there were any real financial risk posed by any of the possible electoral combinations – then the pound would have fallen rapidly already, both because it’d hit the economy and because the only way to deal with the debt without cuts is devaluation.

Now, let’s get back to the politics.

The system is completely and utterly unstable, as unstable as it could possibly be, anyone staking more than they can afford to lose on the identity of the next PM would be a raving idiot – and The Markets couldn’t give a rat’s arse. They know that, whatever happens (my money’s on a minority Tory government, but not very confidently), the leaders of the main parties will instruct their MPs to vote in favour of a budget that allows the debt to be serviced, and enough of them will agree to get some kind of budget bill passed that keeps us from going Greek.

So anyone using The Markets as a justification for a Lib-Con pact, or indeed as justification for anything other than enjoying the current glorious Westminster farce, is doing so for political reasons. Now, why might the kind of people who’re normally taken seriously as commenters on The Markets talk up the Tories for political reasons…?

Look away now if you don’t want to know the shocking, unexpected answer.

Because if you work in financial markets, you have a much higher than average propensity to be a rich selfish bastard; and if you’re a rich selfish bastard, you have a much higher than average propensity to support the Tories.

This has been another round of Simple Answers To Simple Questions; see you next election (which, I’m estimating, will be when the Tory party tears itself apart over Europe in about 18 months’ time).

Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name

by MatGB     May 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm

So, it looks like a deal is on the table and is now subject to the democratic processes of the Liberal Democrats. It also looks like Mr Cameron has been persuaded that keeping his own MPs on board might be a good idea.

There’s a lot of idiocy going around online, a huge amount of hyperbole, including DoS attacks on the Lib Dem phone lines, and flashmobbing the LibDem meetings.

Um, guys? It’s not the Lib Dems you need to persuade. Here’s why:

The Liberal Democrats are a democratic party

This means the leadership can’t just jump into bed with any other party, there are rules (the “triple lock”). In summary, 75% of MPs and 75% of the elected Federal Executive must agree to a deal. If they don’t, but the leader wants it and a majority of each do, then a special conference is called, at which 66% of conference reps have to agree to it. If they say no, but the leadership still want it, then a full postal ballot of members can happen, at which a simple majority can say yes.

Without approval? No deal. As commenter Mark Lightwood observes on a previous thread:

75% of Lib Dem MPs will not sign their own political death warrant – which is what agreeing to a deal with the Tories that doesnt have PR in it amounts to. It just won’t happen. Clegg knows this, and is a smart guy.

Mark appears to be a Green member (Mark, care to confirm?), but is spot on on this. Without a substantial commitment to STV, Lib Dem MPs know that propping up the Tories would lead to them losing their seats at the next general election. They won’t approve a deal.

So it goes to a special conference. I’m a voting member of the party, and would attend such a conference. For me, I joined the party specifically to campaign for electoral reform, it’s the main reason I’m involved. That’s true of a lot of members. For the rest? It’s a commitment that’s in the blood of the party. As the founder of modern liberalism, J. S. Mill, observes:

nothing is more certain than that the virtual blotting out of the minority is no necessary or natural consequence of freedom; that, far from having any connection with democracy, it is diametrically opposed to the first principle of democracy, representation in proportion to numbers. It is an essential part of democracy that minorities should be adequately represented. No real democracy, nothing but a false show of democracy, is possible without it.

And by minorites, we’re not talking “minor parties”, we’re talking everyone under or unrepresented in Parliament.

No agreement without a commitment to genuine electoral reform (and not just some fudge as if AV is enough) will work with the Lib Dem party. The membership won’t allow it.

If you’re wanting to lobby someone, and wondering why the Lib Dems are even talking to the Conservatives, turn around and ask the Labour party Where’s the offer we can’t refuse?

Tories are reticent for reform, but I believe they can be persuaded. Labour? Labour sold out their promises again and again. Even now, they’re not making a serious offer.

Stop wasting your time and theirs by harassing Lib Dem MPs, let alone paid Lib Dem administrative staff. Lobby the big two parties, the two that didn’t put a genuine commitment to genuine electoral reform as a bottom line issue in their manifesto. To read/listen to people moaning at this stage because Nick is attempting to find a workable solution with the Tories is nothing short of ridiculous.

Five reasons why Labour should take time to elect a new leader

by Sunder Katwala     May 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm

The Labour party is likely to be in opposition very soon. Gordon Brown has done much for Labour since entering Parliament in the party’s darkest days of 1983, including thirteen years as Chancellor and then Prime Minister.

His strengths and weaknesses as a leader have been endlessly debated, but his final resilient contribution was to turn the billed David Cameron coronation into the election which nobody won, even if Labour must now ultimately accept that it lost.

Everybody knows that Gordon Brown will not lead the party into another General Election. So he will no doubt step down as party leader at some time in the near future.

What happens next could be crucial. We therefore remind you of Katwala’s first rule of political recovery – How to get a leadership election right

No party which loses a General Election should elect its next leader within the first six months following the defeat.

The Labour party should not use its Autumn conference to crown a new leader – it should use the conference to put the spotlight on the contenders for a leadership election which takes place later in the Autumn.

This can easily be achieved, either by Brown staying on as a caretaker leader or, if he prefers to step down earlier, by his elected deputy Harriet Harman to be acting leader. (The Cabinet could choose an acting successor if Brown departed while still in office – but there is no good reason for this not to be Harman.

The only possible argument is wanting a ‘neutral’ caretaker if Harman wants to run as a leadership candidate, but Margaret Beckett was both a candidate and acting leader in 1994). After an enormously male-dominated election campaign on all sides, the party might seem to be acting rather strangely if it usurped the role of its elected female deputy.

Not convinced? Here are five reasons.

1. If the Tories had not followed this approach in 2005, David Davis and not David Cameron would probably have just led the Conservative Party into the General Election. (Right-wing Tories who blame David Cameron for the electorate’s reluctance to vote Tory no doubt think that would have been a triumph – but perhaps not).

So Gaby Hinsliff is right to advocate the Michael Howard model of leadership transition.

2. No Leader of the Opposition elected immediately after an election defeat has ever made it to Prime Minister in the post-war period.

Here’s the history. Wilson, Heath, Thatcher, Blair and Cameron were all elected later in the cycle, while Kinnock, Hague and Duncan Smith were elected straight away. There is surely an element of coincidence, but there are also important reasons why this is a rational approach.

The Tories took six weeks to elect William Hague after being crushed in 1997; and began balloting MPs within a month in 2001, with IDS crowned by September. On neither occasion did the party properly debate its election defeat. A Labour party whose new MPs, tomorrow morning, have their mind primarily on which Miliband brother they may prefer to nominate as leader risks being in denial about defeat – and the need for a proper debate about the party’s future.

3. Nobody in the party really knows what any of the potential contenders really think about Labour’s record and future agenda – since they have almost all been entirely constrained by collective responsibility in office. Nor can a strategy for opposing the Tories be set out very clearly before we see how the next government approaches.

So “who should be the new leader” is a premature question before the party has begun a post-election debate. Whoever the candidates, it would be a healthier election if we hear a wide range of contributions .

The dynamic of a contest will inevitably see much convergence in language and positioning between candidates – for example, if Ed Balls and David Miliband were both candidates, I predict that a great many of their statements about Labour’s record and future would prove pretty much interchangeable, even as the newspapers tell us they offer starkly different future agendas. This risks the real debate taking place in code, in newspaper commentaries, and the proper debate taking place after the contest ends.

The real gain is not so much that somebody different may emerge, as that the party would have a healthier debate in selecting its leader. So the biggest gainer from a longer process would be whoever is elected at the end of it. Strong candidates among the current front-runners could hardly object. Whose supporters would want to advocate a quick contest on the grounds that they could anticipate doing worse if the party took more time?

4. Labour needs a very open election process which brings more people to Labour.

After the Coronation of 2007, it does not need a quick fix in 2010. Setting out a timetable now would enable the party to invite supporters – and potential converts, who may include anti-Tory LibDems and others – that they can play a role in debating and deciding how Labour rebuilds. This is the ideal opportunity to use the party’s new presence in social networks to bring more people into the party as members, to open up the party’s culture and debates to to build campaigning strength for the next election too.

As Hopi Sen tweets:

As soon as Con-Dem alliance launches Labour should invite angry LibDems to send in their membership cards to get free Labour membership

5. Why throw away a chance to engage voters and to be in the media and political spotlight this Autumn?

Oppositions are not very interesting: the Labour party will have to adjust to this after more than a decade in power. An immediate contest will be very little noticed with most of the focus on the new government, and by the Autumn the question will be why the new leader has not yet broken through. By contrast, using the party conference as a showcase for the candidates is also the best way to simulate the new tests of leadership created by the new televised Prime Minsiterial debates.

The party should not fear an open debate and contest. Rumours of a civil war are enormously exaggerated, but risk an aversion to opening up the party’s political culture in a way that is necessary to recover. The only credible counter-argument is that there may be a very quick election this Autumn. But we shall know very soon how likely this is.

In any event, most of the Labour leadership contenders have rather more experience in government than David Cameron: there would still be important advantages in as much public engagement and profile in the next Labour leadership contest as is possible in those circumstances too.

Cross-posted from Next Left

How do we persuade people on Proportional Representation?

by Robert Sharp     May 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Take Back Parliament

Take Back Parliament rally, 8th May 2010. Photo by Lewishamdreamer on Flickr

*This post contains excessive alliteration, which some readers may find offensive.

Politics means different things at different times. During the election campaign, it was the politics of presentation: of a leader (and his lovely wife), and of a suitable narrative that you think chimes with the voters.

Now the election is over, we seem to be moving into the politics of game-play and strategy. The discussion centres around what Nick Clegg can force out of the tories, and how to bounce David Cameron into Proportional Representation. Associated with this are the recriminations over failed tactics. For an example, see @hopisen (his debates with @sunny_hundal yesterday were a good example of this kind of politics).

This kind of politics assumes an intransigence on the part of your political opponents, and it is useful to remember that this is not always the case. At this crucial juncture, we need a politics of persuasion too, especially on the case of electoral reform.

@ellielevenson: RT @ericjoyce A near-painful read, near-pathetic, read. RT @krishgm: Guardian group feeling guilty?

The above comments, discussing the Guardian’s Saturday editorial, sits within the second type of politics, the politics of strategy. But as a piece of persuasion, I think the article is very useful.

But the fact remains that victory, under the electoral system we have, means securing a Commons majority. Constitutionally, no other metric matters. If the Conservatives believe that share of vote and lead over the nearest rival should have some moral weight in deciding a winner, they have already conceded a vital point about the need for electoral reform: the proportion of overall support in the country as a whole matters. …

The Tories by contrast are confused about electoral reform. It cannot have escaped their notice that they have suffered as a result of the system they are determined to keep. It is Labour whose results are most inflated by systemic bias. The Tories insist that first past the post delivers clear results, when it has just failed to do exactly that. Conservatives have always grumbled that coalition politics means shadowy deals between parties cobbled together in dingy corridors. The opposite is now proven.

Now, I am not a Tory, but I think this sort of logic that might persuade them. These kinds of arguments need to be in the foreground. My three aspects of politics overlap here: A persuasive argument, presented right, can give your cause a strategic advantage. In this case, if the Conservative party become a little less cold to the idea of electoral reform, that’s a good thing.

There has also been some discussion over political power in the past few days. Here’s Laurie Penny, barging in on that Sunny/Hopi debate I mentioned earlier:

@PennyRed: @sunny_hundal @hopisen yes and no. I think there’s enough damage that only a real defeat, preforably temporary, can make us regroup.

@sunny_hundal: @hopisen @STEPearce @PennyRed I dint believe in power for it’s own sake. That is where labour is at and that is the path to hell

Its little comfort, but the politics of persuasion persists even when the party is out of power.

All of this is a way of saying, that while the Tories and Liberal Democrata hammer out whatever deal they can; while the Labour front bench has been told to keep quiet; and while Gordon Brown keeps a low profile, it would be a good use of Labour supporters’ time to help promote and grow the Take Back Parliament Campaign.

The coalition has taken only three days to amass over 41,000 supporters, which is very impressive. However, I think it needs a broader base than the middle-class Lib Dem supporting demographic I saw at the rally on Saturday.

This is a practical task that Labourites can take on right now, while we all twiddle our thumbs waiting for opposition.


Cameron’s Tory critics are deluded beyond belief

by Paul Sagar     May 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm

The only surprising thing about the descent of the Tory party into post-election civil war is the rapidity with which it is occurring.

Lord Tebbit – who last year was telling Tories to vote UKIP in the EU elections – has declared that he’d rather see the Conservatives in opposition than power-sharing with the Lib Dems, something which has been echoed by backbenchers like Daniel Kawczynski MP, chairman of a Tory group opposing electoral reform.

But if Cameron does fail to negotiate a deal with the Lib Dems and ends up in opposition, he will be seen as a complete failure by his party. After all The Observer already reports today that the knives are out for him.

The irony is that these criticism have a great deal of truth in them. But what Cameron’s critics in his own party fail to see is that they are far more culpable than he.

I agree with Chris that the TV debates gave Nick Clegg a moment to shine, and made it clear to many voters that if they want a Blair-clone, it makes more sense to favour Clegg than Cameron. Because the Lib Dem leader genuinely is a sort of Blair, whereas Cameron’s entire purpose has been to pretend that’s what he is, so as to distract attention from his party.

Cameron has run the party via a tiny clique, and he has ignored backbenchers. And the Big Society idea was a load of “crap”, and no doubt it was completely unsellable on the doorsteps. But what’s amazing about these Tory discontents is their sheer myopia.

They cannot see that Cameron had to run the party like that so as to distract attention away from the unreconstructed Thatcherite, homophobic, xenophobic, intensely Euro-sceptic, callous, Christian-fundamentalist loon contingents that make up huge chunks of the Tory grass-roots and Parliamentary party.

Although it’s true that Cameron is a failure relative to his poll-highs of 20+ points 18 months ago, from another angle he’s also a remarkable success. Like he keeps saying, he’s overseen the biggest transfer of seats in 80 years, and made the Tories the biggest party in Parliament with the biggest share of the vote. The irony of all these Tory back-stabbers is that they cannot see that it wasn’t Dave wot lost it, it was them.

For despite Cameron’s best efforts he simply could not conceal from the electorate the true nature of his party. Whether it was Chris Grayling and Co’s homophobia, George Osborne’s stench of sneering privilege, Not-Lord Aschroft’s unapologetic non-domism, or simply being unable to offer any meaningful big-picture policy for fear of setting off an internal revolt, Cameron lost it because of his party and he’s actually done well in spite of them.

Cameron is cool in a crisis, is an impressive public speaker, and has approval ratings way above the Conservative Party itself. That, we might recall, is largely why the Tories ditched David Davis and backed D-Cam in 2005; he was seen as the best possibility for decontaminating the brand.

Yet rather than seeing that the contamination problem remains at their end, knife-wielding Tories are exhibiting classic ressentiment and blaming it all on Dave.

The sheer self-deluded ingratitude of their behaviour, combined with the arrogant sense of entitlement that it was their turn to govern therefore Dave must be to blame if they’re not in power, is astounding.

And, frankly, hilarious. Get me some popcorn.

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