The coming struggle within the Labour Party is long overdue

The malaise within the Labour Party runs deeper than even its most sternest critics could have conceived. It is measured in the fact that Ed Miliband’s defeat in the election and demise as leader was a cause for celebration not only by a victorious Tory Party but also by the Blairites within Labour’s own ranks. The sound of those champagne corks popping in the early hours of May 8 was not restricted to Tory Party HQ. It was also heard at gatherings at which Blair’s name is still associated with everything that was good about Labour rather than bad.

Coalescing within and around the party’s Progress faction, this staunch redoubt of the Third Way post-ideologial doctrine championed by Tony Blair has identified an opportunity to return to prominence in seeing one of their own elected Labour’s next leader in an upcoming battle that will determine the future of the party as no other has since 1994, when Blair took up the reins.

Crisis precedes opportunity, they say, and the voices of Labour’ recent past have been quick off the blocks in making the case across the media for the party to abandon the left orientation of Ed Miliband and return to the centre ground.

Peppering post-election interventions by the likes of Jonathan Powell, Alan Johnson, John Reid, Alastair Campbell and Blair himself have been words such as ‘aspiration’, ‘middle class’, ‘ambition, and ‘centre ground’. In other words, Mr Blair and his cohorts would have us believe that Labour’s defeat was down to the party shifting back to prioritise its base with a return to something approaching the core principles upon which the party was founded.

The world has changed, they tell us, and Labour can only win by appealing to a middle class and the business community in a coalitional arrangement that mirrors the aspiration (that word again) of people to do well for themselves and their families. It is a manifesto of selfishness, a smokescreen employed to justify the embrace of Thatcherite nostrums when it comes to the economy and the role of government as an enabler of market forces, rather than a necessary check on its unfettered drive for profit regardless of the human, social, or environmental cost.

Further, it is an analysis that collapses upon the rocks of the reality of Labour’s decimation in Scotland. The electoral hiding the party has just received north of the border had nothing to do with it being too left wing or failing to appeal to middle class swing voters. Its drubbing in its former industrial heartlands had everything to do with its past record under Blair and the abandonment of the very core values that once ensured its dominance in Scotland could be taken for granted.

Under Tony Blair, Labour abandoned the social base upon which it was founded in search of another one. This ‘other one’ comprised middle England, vying with the Tories for the votes of those driven by the principles of ‘me’, ‘myself’, and ‘mine’ instead of ‘us’, ‘we’, and ‘ours’.

The shedding of members and votes Labour experienced over two decades of Blairite domination of the party is a matter of record. Five million votes were shed over three elections upon ever-lower turnouts, as Labour voters in Scotland and throughout the country stayed at home, preferring a non vote to a vote for a party that no longer represented their communities and lived experience.

In Scotland the emergence of the SNP as a social democratic alternative to Labour – however justified when its policies are placed under scrutiny – has culminated in the most seismic political shift in British electoral history. It was no overnight occurrence and will likely take many years to reverse. The election of a Blairite as next Labour leader will only guarantee that it will never be reversed.

Scotland is not in the grip of some post-rational nationalist fever, as many commentators south of the border have postulated or inferred. The huge surge in support for independence last September was not driven by narrow nationalism but by an opportunity to break with parties and a Westminster system that had locked out working class communities from the political process, not only in Scotland but across the UK.

Alienation, marginalisation, and social and economic injustice has been the norm for large swathes of the country since

Thatcher’s revolution set about uprooting the foundations of the postwar settlement. The Iron Lady’s oft-repeated statement that one of her greatest achievements was New Labour is as true now as it was when she made it. The party of the millions was transformed into a party of the millionaires, responsible for inequality going through the roof as it eagerly attached itself to the coattails of big business, the City, and media barons such as Rupert Murdoch.

The expenses scandal, phone hacking scandal, cash for questions scandal, and of course Britain’s shameful attachment to Washington’s rear-end – these were the consequences of the Blair years. As for Iraq, this remains a stain on the British establishment that will not be eradicated until Tony Blair is held accountable for it. It was a criminal war that left a mountain of dead bodies in its wake, leading inexorably to the abyss in which Iraq and its people exist today, 13 years on.

The coming struggle within Labour between right and left is long overdue. And as it begins the right and those who adhere to the values espoused by Mr Blair should be under no illusions that they own the word ‘aspiration’. On the contrary, it is the very word that describes the hard years of struggle that won working people the justice and quality of life which they and their communities are now seeing assaulted under the rubric of austerity.

Individual aspiration or collective aspiration. Strip away the embroidery and this simple statement describes the contours of a struggle not only for the soul of the Labour Party but the country as a whole.

92 comments on “The coming struggle within the Labour Party is long overdue

  1. raskolnikov on said:

    Reading some of my lp friends posts up here, they don’t seem to want to learn. The obvious nonsense of labelling independence supporters as fascist and Nazi, was never going to help before, even less so now.
    Murphy as leader was seen as an open goal for the snp, the man is despised in Scotland, a careerist, opportunist political sectarian. The refusal to vote for left wing policies in holyrood, even though they were lp policies, merely because the snp proposed them,
    was seen as petulant playground politics, rather than principle. When sturgeon offers olive branches, Labour answers with thorns. If they are seen as the anti snp party, rather than anti Tory, they have lost their raison d’etre.
    Stop refighting the referendum, start fighting for socialism, and it may have a chance. Keep staggering down the same path and they are finished nationwide, not just in Scotland.

  2. Uncle Albert on said:

    Matty,

    Matty: BBC today (Marr and Pienaar) has been full of right-wingers

    This is largely a consequence of Miliband failing to promote Left MPs to senior positions within the shadow cabinet. The names you mention are the obvious ‘go-to’ figures who comprise the public face of the Labour Party.

  3. What we need is a non-sectarian, united campaign against the Tory cuts, that can draw in people of all backgrounds…including trade unions (of course) but also religious organisations, ‘user’ groups, parents, patients, etc etc. Such an organisation need not obsess about the Labour leadership or our own differences. It could also outflank and defuse UKIP’s line about metropolitan elite and the disenfranchised white working class because it would be fighting for all people affected by the cuts including of course the ‘middle class’ that the Blairite right is saying must be appealed to through ‘aspiration’.

  4. George Hallam on said:

    Michael Rosen: What we need is a non-sectarian, united campaign against the Tory cuts, that can draw in people of all backgrounds…including trade unions (of course) but also religious organisations, ‘user’ groups, parents, patients, etc etc. Such an organisation need not obsess about the Labour leadership or our own differences. It could also outflank and defuse UKIP’s line about metropolitan elite and the disenfranchised white working class because it would be fighting for all people affected by the cuts including of course the ‘middle class’ that the Blairite right is saying must be appealed to through ‘aspiration’.

    You may be interested in
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lewisham-People-Before-Profit/517282488390905

  5. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    I disagree that the SNP are a social democratic anti-austerity political party in Scotland. It is all rhetorical, the SNP have carried out cuts, that is they have passed on the ConDem austerity programme without a whimper since 2010. They have given some welcome reforms, through the Scottish Parliament, in the past decade but behind the scenes they have implemented £3.5 worth of cuts to the Scottish social fabric. The SNP are a capitalist nationalist party that has been pushed slightly to the left of Labour, which is not hard considering their capitalist orientation, under the impact of the electoral uprising that took place due to the Independence referendum; which was seen as an anti-austerity challenge by the working class of Scotland against the British establishment which I may include the Labour Party here. If the SNP was really a social democratic anti-austerity party then the SNP would refuse to make another penny in Tory cuts and bring back into public ownership the privatised utilities, Scotrail and so on. However I do not see that there is any realistic prospect of the SNP taking such a stand. I consider the Labour Party in Scotland finished and the need for the trade unions to disaffiliate from the Labour Party and start to create their own political representation the quicker the better. In the meantime Scottish TUSC will still continue to build amongst the Scottish working class.

  6. Robert p Williams on said:

    I find it strange that Miliband is being regarded as a ‘left’ labour leader. Being to the left of Blair is not the same as being on the left. It is true though that labour has abandoned its core, though that process was not reversed under Miliband, only slowed ever so slightly. Now the real heart of the Labour party is asserting itself, with predictable outcomes. Milibands distancing from the trade unions will continue and even the facade of trade union influence will be ditched.

    I ask all Labour supporters to consider for a moment: what is your red line? At what point will you find yourselves no longer able to vote for this travesty?

  7. George Hallam on said:

    Robert p Williams: I find it strange that Miliband is being regarded as a ‘left’ labour leader. Being to the left of Blair is not the same as being on the left.

    OK, I won’t disagree.

    Try the following to deal with the strangeness

    “to the left” is a relative term,

    “The Left” is a place.

    For the former to make sense one needs to identify something to anchor the relation, e.g. Tony Benn, Tony Blair, Mrs. Thatcher, Genghis Khan, etc.

    For the latter to make sense one needs to define the limits of the space.

  8. John, for most of last year you did nothing but dismiss the yes campaign and the SNP as narrow nationalism. Are you now admitting you were wrong?. After all people like yourself colluded with the Labour Party in denying Scotland independence. Your sudden conversion to what yes was really about seems a little to late in the day for me.

  9. Sam64 on said:

    Well like most people reading John’s article here on SU, I share his sentiments about New Labour and Blair. Especial contempt in my book goes to Lord John Hutton. He didn’t even bother with the courtesy, no matter false, of saying that Ed ran a fine campaign, before putting the boot in on Saturday – accusing Labour of becoming tribal under Miliband (presumably because he had the temerity to talk about inequality) and saying that he predicted that it would get the drubbing it did.

    However, no matter what you say about Labour with Blair in charge it did win 3 successive elections. Swathes of middle England that remained or turned Blue on Friday morning were Red in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Fact. So however cynical, it’s hardly surprising that New Labour figures were going to be out there today saying: Told you!

    The line that Chukka Umunna, seemingly the closest thing to New Labour amongst the likely Labour leadership candidates (although I don’t know anything about this Jarvis fella or Liz Kendal), seems to be taking is this: we need to keep the emphasis on social justice in relation to zero hour contracts etc, but marry that with being more pro-business, rebecome the party of the aspirant middle classes. Only in that way will Labour ever win back those all those seats that they held in 1997 etc. but haven’t since 2010. The alternative is that the Tories continuing to wreck public services.

    I’d suggest that anybody who wants to take part in the debate around the future of the Labour Party – that doesn’t include me, my local Zionist MP has prevented me from joining – has to come up with a convincing alternative to this. Simply expressing contempt for the Blairites – as this John’s article does – doesn’t get us that far.

    But what do I know? When Mark Thomas said last night, ‘When Scotland fucks off in a couple of years Liverpool will be going with it!’ I cheered. Mind you, so did most of the audience.

  10. Robert p Williams: I find it strange that Miliband is being regarded as a ‘left’ labour leader

    Might have more to do with the Tories/right-wing media’s portrayal of him than the reality- ‘Red Ed’, backed for leadership by the trade unions (shock!), whose father was a Marxist (horror!).

    “It is true though that labour has abandoned its core”

    Exactly. Yet still they expect us to vote for them and have the cheek to act all betrayed if we don’t.

    The more Labour disassociates itself from the trade unions, the left, and the working class the more it digs away at it’s own foundations. The more similar it is to the Tories, the less reason it has to exist.

    A perfect example of this is Labour’s echoing of other parties anti-immigration rhetoric. Certainly they can’t afford to ignore the issue, but trying to compete with the Tories on who can be “tougher” on it is both wrong and really stupid.

    Rather than try to appease that prejudice, Labour should have the guts to stand up to it and argue against all the bullshit, stereotyping, and scapegoating. Even if they can’t do it out of principle they should have the sense to do it out of self-interest. People who want an anti-immigrant party have several. Try offering an alternative.

  11. John on said:

    Sam64: I’d suggest that anybody who wants to take part in the debate around the future of the Labour Party – that doesn’t include me, my local Zionist MP has prevented me from joining – has to come up with a convincing alternative to this.

    You don’t think Labour’s decimation in Scotland constitutes a strong riposte to the Blair won three elections in a row mantra?

    Or how about the fact that over those three elections the party shed thousands of members and five million votes?

    I include both in the article.

  12. Sam64: However, no matter what you say about Labour with Blair in charge it did win 3 successive elections. Swathes of middle England that remained or turned Blue on Friday morning were Red in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Fact.

    Aye, and over the course of those 3 elections its vote declined. Massively between 2001 and 2005, for obvious reasons. Also, those “swathes” weren’t so much “Red” as an ugly purple.

    New Labour won elections by taking urban working class and left-wing support for granted while chasing ‘middle England’ and centre-right votes. It worked in the short term. The long term consequence is what you’re seeing in Scotland, and what you would be seeing in England if a viable alternative was presented: Labour’s replacement. That, and incalculable suffering in the Middle East, is Tony Blair’s legacy.

    And of course, it isn’t just a question of winning elections. That’s a means to an end. It’s what you do after you’ve won them.

  13. Robert p Williams on said:

    #11.
    I think, in the past, Labour has been able to take it’s ‘core’ for granted, and so being a ‘broad church’ had allowed them to win elections for a time. However, over time, the anti trade union and anti working class situation that has arisen from these changes are catching up with Labour. This is not a repeat of the early 90’s, a further move to the right won’t help them…. but that is what they will do. This is just exposing the reality of what the Labour Party had become. Prepare to watch the final death agonies of this pointless organisation.

  14. anonymous on said:

    #8

    ‘ After all people like yourself colluded with the Labour Party in denying Scotland independence.’

    ###

    I, along with the majority of those who voted, voted no in the referendum.

    No one denied anyone anything.

    Democracy is the right to have your say, not to have your way.

    You lost, get over it.

    Fewer people voted for the SNP in the general election than voted yes in the referendum.

    If there’s another referendum any time soon I think the result will be the same and the margin greater.

  15. Sam64 on said:

    John,

    Well yes, Scotland does represent a riposte to the Blairites. It is, of course, the case that it wasn’t under Blair that Scotland was lost to Labour. But it is clearly the case that Labour’s demise north of the border wasn’t caused by the party turning to the left under Miliband. If anything the opposite is the case. But Scotland isn’t England if you take my point. It hasn’t been since the 1980s. As Sturgeon pointed out about 2am on Friday morning, even if Labour had taken every seat in Scotland, the Tories would still have won the bloody election.

    What I was trying to get at is this, it’s something Comrade Newman is possibly thinking about right now – although just by suggesting that he’ll deny it in a huff and call it a silly question. In so far as Labour is about winning elections in the UK as a whole it clearly has to regain numerous seats in England – call it middle England if you like – that it hasn’t won since the election victories of 97, 01 and 05. If it doesn’t, it remains out of power. Electorally it’s that simple. The question then is how can Labour win? Chukka Umunna has put forward one strategy to do so – one that wasn’t pure New Labour but had an aspect of that. I was suggesting that anyone who wants to rebut that argument has to put forward a convincing alternative. That’s all.

    Of course, the priority could well be for coalitions to fight the cuts etc as others have suggested above.

  16. Sam64 on said:

    JN,

    Yes, I agree more or less. Except that I think that the track record of New Labour or Labour under Miliband was/would have been far better – in terms of real measures that impacted on working class people – than the Tories. Reflect on that as the autumn round of Tory cuts – real measures that will impact on working class people – is finalised over the coming weeks. They are likely to make those of the Coalition govt look mild in comparison.

  17. Sam64,

    And I agree with that, more or less. A Miliband/Labour government would have been a much better outcome than a Tory government ‘opposed’ by a Labour Party shifting further to the right under the leadership of some unrepentant Blairite.

  18. Andy Newman on said:

    Sam64: As Sturgeon pointed out about 2am on Friday morning, even if Labour had taken every seat in Scotland, the Tories would still have won the bloody election.

    Except that fear of the SNP came up time and time again in conversation on the doorstep with working class Labour voters, in my experience. So that did affect the result in England.

    This was because the Tories cleverly cast the choice between stablity under them, and chaos under Labour, propped up by the SNP.

  19. Andy Newman on said:

    JN: The long term consequence is what you’re seeing in Scotland, and what you would be seeing in England if a viable alternative was presented: Labour’s replacement.

    The mistake you are making is in assuming that there is homogentity across the UK. Paul Mason’s argument that there is a significant asset owning strata of the population in the South of England who fear instablity is an acute one.

    Since devolution, Scotland has developed a distinct political culture, though in my view a lot of that is (consciously or unconsciously) chameleon coloured by the mythologising effect of nationalism.

  20. Sam64 on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I have yet to see a convincing breakdown of why Labour lost so many of the English marginal seats it needed to win to achieve an overall victory – or even prevent the Tories gaining an overall majority given the Scottish meltdown. The essential reason given by Prof Curtis, the master of polling, is that it wasn’t trusted on the economy to the extent that voters were more inclined to blame Labour for spending cuts in public services rather than the Tories. As I said on the other thread, a lie of monumental proportions but that’s the way it is.

    In relation to shifts of the vote, the patterning might well be regional. I haven’t heard anybody suggest that the substantial vote UKIP achieved in parts of the North was primarily a product of English national concerns vis Scotland as much as immigration. Some of its vote was the switching of a significant BNP vote to UKIP, some of it from working class, former Labour, voters. That would explain, for instance, the results in constituencies like Bury North and Bolton West, must win seats for Labour in Lancashire. Quite possibly – this is speculation – the switching of Lib Dem voters in the West Country to the Tories was due to the anti-SNP, in fact blatantly anti-Scottish, national card the Tories and their press played.

    If some academic of journalist does undertake a thorough breakdown of why Labour lost out in marginal seats it would be worth interesting to know – and politically useful. Obviously Blairites in the Labour Party have already made up their mind that the reason Labour lost is that it abandoned the ‘aspirational’ middle class etc.

  21. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Since devolution, Scotland has developed a distinct political culture, though in my view a lot of that is (consciously or unconsciously) chameleon coloured by the mythologising effect of nationalism.

    I accept that nationalism plays a role in the success of the SNP and that is something that sits very uncomfortably with my socialism. However rather than say “distinct political culture” surely you also have to accept that the SNP took Scotland comprehensively because no party in Westminster represented them any longer.

  22. Sam64 on said:

    Although thinking about it, I suppose the perception of Labour as being economically irresponsible, incompetent could easily get with this: ‘This was because the Tories cleverly cast the choice between stablity under them, and chaos under Labour, propped up by the SNP’.

  23. jim mclean on said:

    Think Mr Findlay is making his move to become Scottish Leader by resigning from the Scottish Shadow Cabinet.

  24. George Hallam on said:

    Sam64: I have yet to see a convincing breakdown of why Labour lost so many of the English marginal seats it needed to win to achieve an overall victory – or even prevent the Tories gaining an overall majority given the Scottish meltdown. The essential reason given by Prof Curtis, the master of polling, is that it wasn’t trusted on the economy to the extent that voters were more inclined to blame Labour for spending cuts in public services rather than the Tories. As I said on the other thread, a lie of monumental proportions but that’s the way it is.

    And as I pointed out on the other thread, as lies go it wasn’t that big. Blaming Labour for the bust of 2007-8 is hardly any more misleading than Labour claiming for the boom that preceded it.

    Having said that, I agree with most of your other points. If we investigate these then we could have a productive discussion that leaves us more informed.

  25. anonymous on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    There’s two questions I’d like to ask every SNP voter.

    1. Who did you think would be forming a Government?

    2. What influence did you think the SNP would have over that Government?

  26. Sam64 on said:

    George Hallam,

    No, I think both the specific ability of the Tories to pin the blame on Labour for the UK deficit – like they wouldn’t have helped out their mates in the City with bilions – and the wider ability of the ruling class to ‘get away’ with the 2008 crash are incredible. And the lies are, of course, on-going. As I write, IDS is deliberating over the £12.5 billion cuts he’s going to wield. And we know what the justification is going to be: difficult decisions that have to be made given the continuing legacy of Labour’s spending wrecklessness.

    But there’s no point arguing about where this deception stands in the scheme of things. That would be perhaps a bit metaphysical. And who’d want that of a Monday morning.

  27. Mike Phipps on said:

    I tend to agree with Michael Rosen – a less tribalist approach to fighting austerity. Two myths that need deconstructing by the way are the so-called “metropolitan elite”, which, if we are talking about Labour gains in London, in real terms means a multicultural working class, living amid some of the greatest inequality in the country; and the “white working class”, which doesn’t exist, except in the minds of those who invent it – are there white trade unions, white working class parties, co-ops, etc?

    There is no room for Blairism because it was premised on the belief that working class voters had nowhere else to go – now they do. So what’a on offer is a particularly right-wing Blue Labour agenda of the type advocated by John Mann and Ian Austin, which concedes vast swathes of political ground to UKIP, In this context, Miliband who “only” conceded the entire economic argument to the Tories does indeed look left-wing. More here: http://www.leftfutures.org/2015/05/labour-will-not-win-until-it-rejects-the-politics-of-austerity/

  28. BigTam on said:

    #27 – with nearly 1.5 million SNP voters, that’s a tall order – how about a referendum?

  29. Andy Newman on said:

    Sam64: The essential reason given by Prof Curtis, the master of polling, is that it wasn’t trusted on the economy to the extent that voters were more inclined to blame Labour for spending cuts in public services rather than the Tories. As I said on the other thread, a lie of monumental proportions but that’s the way it is.

    Yes, I think so. I made that point in my article on the eve of poll, which in understandavly guarded language did criticise that aspect of Labour’s campaign

  30. jim mclean on said:

    Sturgeons rhetoric was rather strange, vote SNP and she, not the SNP, she would give Ed some backbone. As she is not an MP I did not get this. So the Scots voted SNP in the hope of a progressive SNP Labour alliance, that worked out well. Now Holyrood is next and it will be interesting, the EU referendum even more. I also think we might see another Scottish referendum, do not know if my liver will handle it. Would like to see a totally new face as Scottish Labour Leader but such a small pool to choose from.

  31. Andy Newman on said:

    Sam64: Obviously Blairites in the Labour Party have already made up their mind that the reason Labour lost is that it abandoned the ‘aspirational’ middle class etc.

    They were quick out the blocks as they were already planning a coup against Miliband if there was any result other than an overall majority, IMO.

  32. Andy Newman on said:

    Mike Phipps: o what’a on offer is a particularly right-wing Blue Labour agenda of the type advocated by John Mann and Ian Austin, which concedes vast swathes of political ground to UKIP

    I think it is a mistake to see Blue Labour in these terms, if you take away the more iconoclastic language, they have some sensible ideas, as well as the silly ones

  33. anonymous on said:

    #27 – ‘with nearly 1.5 million SNP voters, that’s a tall order – how about a referendum?’

    ###

    Given that ‘nearly 1.5m’ is significantly fewer than the number who voted yes in the referendum I can’t see the SNP leadership wanting to hold another referndum any time soon.

    In the meantime I suppose I’d just have to ask the questions on a case by case baisis as the oppotunity arises.

    Maybe you’d like to have a go at answering them.

  34. anonymous on said:

    jim mclean,

    What I don’t understand is this.

    Having declared that the SNP would never under any circumstance support a Tory government how did the nats ever think they were going to be in a position to influence a Labour government?

    I mean, what bargaining powers did they have?

  35. anonymous on said:

    Mike Phipps

    ‘There is no room for Blairism because it was premised on the belief that working class voters had nowhere else to go – now they do.’

    ###

    I’d be wary of planning to fight the next general election on the basis that UKIP will be a threat.

    The EU referedum will render them obsolescent if not obselete.

    I can’t see any replacement gaining the traction they have built up.

  36. Can i put a small brake on one aspect of the beating ourselves up? Let’s not forget that in spite of all the hammering that Miliband got for being ‘communist’, ‘in the pay of the unions’, crap at eating a bacon sandwich, looking like a cartoon from Wallace and Gromit, owed everything to his treason-loving, Britain-hating father, was a shitty brother-stabbing bastard…9.3 million people voted for his party. In its own way, that is something to be celebrated. In my mind, every one of those votes is a small act of resistance.

    In the beating ourselves up, people (me too) get sucked towards the agenda of ‘where did it all go wrong?’ Yes, a worthwhile question. But put it this way, another worthwhile question to ask, is how come 9.3 million people resisted all that anti-Miliband (and by implication, anti-left) talk? And, by extension, can we not also spend some time, therefore, asking, how could those motivations be built on?

    It will hardly happen because the right invest heavily in demanding a Tory-lite Labour Party which can serve as a sub in the class war to be brought on as and when the Tories implode over Europe or when their own individual and naked greed becomes too public. And there have been occasions in the past when the capitalist class (through the press they own) have thought Labour would be better able to dampen or divert dissent and revolt than the naked greed and aggression of rampant Tories.

  37. George Hallam on said:

    Sam64: No, I think both the specific ability of the Tories to pin the blame on Labour for the UK deficit – like they wouldn’t have helped out their mates in the City with bilions – and the wider ability of the ruling class to ‘get away’ with the 2008 crash are incredible.

    Well, yes and no.

    Let’s agree that distrust of Labour’s ability to manage the economy was a factor in their electoral failure.

    How far was Labour taking the blame for the UK deficit due to the Tories? (Personally I prefer to refer to them as ‘the Conservatives’, but doesn’t matter as we both know to whom we are talking about. In the interests of the discussion I’ll use your terminology.)

    I would argue that the Tories needed a lot of help from other sources, the media of course, but also the Labour Party itself, as both its leaders and its rank and file accepted the terms of the debate.

    Another thing to consider is the general lack of clarity about and/or reluctance to analyse the nature of the crisis.

    The emphasis on the fiscal deficit is very superficial, especially as the objection to Labour management is about the structural deficit not the current deficit. It’s generally agreed that fiscal deficits are not only inevitable during recessions/depressions but that they are a jolly good thing. This crucial distinction is seldom made.

    There are a lot of economists who still regard the whole thing as a financial phenomenon rather than a deep-seated crisis of the world economic system.

    It’s also interesting that you refer to the “2008 crash” when for some people the crash is dated from the summer of 2007.

  38. George Hallam on said:

    Michael Rosen: another worthwhile question to ask, is how come 9.3 million people resisted all that anti-Miliband (and by implication, anti-left) talk? And, by extension, can we not also spend some time, therefore, asking, how could those motivations be built on?

    The best explanation is the general weakness of political engagement in Britain.

    Nationally turnout was 66.1%, compared with 65.1% in 2010.

    I haven’t done the arithmetic but I suspect that some of the increase was due to the particularly high in Scotland at 71.1%,

    This means that one in three people who were registered didn’t vote. This is not an indication of a politically engaged culture.

    Of those who did vote many will have been on autopilot. I think that this explains a lot of the Labour vote.

  39. George Hallam on said:

    Sam64: Most economists, especially at elite institutions, have participated in one of greatest frauds of history – no exaggeration.

    Never believe anything an economist tells you.

    Sam64: I can recommend this brilliant book.

    If you be so kind I would be grateful.

  40. anonymous: 1. Who did you think would be forming a Government?

    Whoever won the most seats in England, because England is much bigger than Scotland. If the entire Scottish electorate had voted for Labour, we would all still have a Tory government. The South East of England alone elected 79 Tory MPs (+ 4 Labour and 1 Green). Maybe that’s where you want to be focusing your attention if your wondering why the Tories won.

  41. anonymous on said:

    JN,

    Your failure to answer the two questions tends to confirm what I thought the correct answers would be.

  42. anonymous: I’d be wary of planning to fight the next general election on the basis that UKIP will be a threat.

    UKIP’s support derives at least as much from anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim prejudice, and reactionary sentiment more generally, as it does from opposition to the EU. They may have failed to win many seats, including South Thanet, but they got 3.9 million votes. Under a more accurately representative electoral system we’d be looking at a very strong possibility of a Tory-UKIP coalition government. I see no reason to believe that they’re just going to disappear, or that an EU referendum would weaken them. More likely it would do the opposite.

    “First past the post helped, under straight PR system they would have 29 seats.”

    Yes, FPTP heavily distorts the actual number of votes cast leading to over-representation of big parties and under-representation of smaller parties (if not locking them out entirely). That’s what it’s designed to do and what it has always done. Sure, it was unfair in this election same as it was in all the previous ones. Suddenly Labour and Tory supporters/politicians are starting to realise that? Good! They probably wont change it though because the benefit to them in England outweighs its cost in Scotland.

  43. BigTam on said:

    #27, #35, #45 – Will this wind of which you speak be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the earth?

  44. anonymous,

    I did answer. The winner of any British election will ALWAYS be whoever wins in England, where the majority of the seats are. I don’t know how to make that any more blatantly obvious than it already is. See every British election ever. Or just look at the numbers.

    In this specific election, it was widely predicted that the result in England would be fairly evenly split, a hung parliament. So that’s what I and presumably most of us were expecting to happen. If it had turned out as predicted then the SNP may have been able tip the balance in favour of Labour. That is, the elected representatives of (most of) Scotland could have added their support to roughly half of the elected representatives of England and Wales to create a majority of the MPs elected across Britain.

    That didn’t happen because the Tories won a lot more seats in England than Labour did. So much so that even if even if Labour had won every seat in Scotland, Britain would still have a Tory government.

    As to the extent of the SNP’s influence in that scenario, who can tell? It would depend… As it is, the question is now irrelevant, as is any speculative attempt to answer it.

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  46. anonymous on said:

    JN,

    It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the SNP and UKIP have been the Tories useful idiots in this election.

    And I think it will become clearer still as more and more comes out about Tory party strategy.

  47. Omar on said:

    Andy Newman: I think it is a mistake to see Blue Labour in these terms, if you take away the more iconoclastic language, they have some sensible ideas, as well as the silly ones

    Ohh, here we go…

  48. Matty on said:

    Uncle Albert,

    Well, the PLP was dominated by the right. Previously shadow cabinets had been elected by MP’s. If that had continued the shadow cabinet would have been even more right than it was. Ed M did away with that but wanted to preserve some unity.

  49. Andy Newman: Except that fear of the SNP came up time and time again in conversation on the doorstep with working class Labour voters,

    Fear of the SNP doing what exactly? I mean I understand this coming from the Tories, from UKIP, from Scottish politicians losing their highly paid jobs, from Blairites. I don’t understand what anyone on the left has to fear.

    “The mistake you are making is in assuming that there is homogentity across the UK.”

    I’m not assuming that at all. In fact, I’d say it’s very obviously not the case. However, would you say that the Labour voting urban constituencies in England more closely resemble the formerly Labour voting Scottish cities or the Tory voting South of England (with the exception of places like Exeter)?

    Most of us are voting SNP not out of any hostility to the people of England, but precisely because we’re tired of being ruled by Tory governments we didn’t vote for, and we’re alienated by the direction Labour has taken over the last 20+ years. I’m sure a lot of English people (not to mention the Welsh) feel the same. The difference is we have someone else to vote for and they don’t. It just so happens that that party is committed to Scottish nationalism, rather than the British kind. Effectively we’re being pushed towards independence by the parties that oppose it. Even more so when they start treating Scottish votes and elected MPs as somehow illegitimate.

  50. Matty on said:

    John,

    I’m not much of a Harriet Harman fan but glad to hear that she put the boot back into Mandelson’s treacherous comments.

  51. anonymous on said:

    JN on 11 May, 2015 at 7:05 pm said:

    ‘Most of us are voting SNP not out of any hostility to the people of England, but precisely because we’re tired of being ruled by Tory governments we didn’t vote for’

    ###

    That would be a coherent reason for voting yes in the referendum. It was not a coherent reason for voting SNP in the general election.

    The SNP were never going to form the government. They were never going to have influence over the government.

    The SNP colluded with the Tories in stirring up nationalism on both sides of the border, each for their own electoral advantage.

    The SNP got the result that suited them. So did the Tories.

  52. John on said:

    anonymous: It was not a coherent reason for voting SNP in the general election.

    I think you’re underestimating the impact of Labour’s involvement in Better Together with the Tories. The SNP were hugely successful in exploiting it, along with the preception that that hastily cobbled together ‘vow’, inspired by Gordon Brown, was a con designed to trick people. True or not, both gained enormous traction across Scotland.

    One factor I haven’t seen mentioned is the advantage the SNP gained from the proximity of the GE to the referendum. It provided a clear electoral objective and allowed the disappointment and demoralisation of the referendum defeat to be channelled positively. If the GE had been held in 2016 this momentum would have dissipated and I don’t think the SNP would have made the gains they have.

  53. anonymous on said:

    John on

    ‘I think you’re underestimating the impact of Labour’s involvement in Better Together with the Tories. The SNP were hugely successful in exploiting it, along with the preception that that hastily cobbled together ‘vow’, inspired by Gordon Brown, was a con designed to trick people. True or not, both gained enormous traction across Scotland.’

    ####

    Yet further evidence that nationalism appeals to people’s emotions rather than their intellect.

    In my view a substantial number of Scottish people have taken leave of their senses when it comes to politics and are now immune to reason or logic.

    It’s just a wee bit scary, because you can’t be sure where it’s going to end up.

  54. Joseph on said:

    I think because they knew devo-max is coming, westminister has become some joke parliament to the scots who believe will have little effect on them. Like the euro elections which see Ukip win them.

  55. Joseph on said:

    Another point is that, despite all the rhetoric about the Tories, the Scots didn’t really find them particularly scary. After Labour were elected in 97, an untold story of that era was the millions of conservatives who lost their fear of Labour and stayed at home in 2001.

  56. anonymous on said:

    Joseph,

    Holyrood election 2011— turnout 50%

    Westminster election 2015 —– turnout in Scotland 71.1%.

  57. BigTam on said:

    #59 – yeah, yeah – they’re all mad except me – I’m the only sane one left. As to where it ends up – Craig Dunain for you, boy.

  58. jim mclean on said:

    Brown, Blair, Callaghan, Wilson, Attlee, MacDonald.
    Not exactly a list of the Radical Left, only MacDonald opposed war, and looking at the list, I was born when Attlee was PM, and he, and every other PM since supported the Nuclear option. Don’t care too much about the British leader at the moment, they probably wont last the five years, have a some interest in how the party is going to reform and who will lead in Scotland.

  59. Feodor on said:

    George Hallam: The best explanation is the general weakness of political engagement in Britain.

    You might be interested to know, George, that the Ipsos MORI people are noting that turnout was particularly low among labour voters–of the roughly 12 million expected to turn out, only 3 million did, which represents a staggering failure to get out the vote. (Conversely, of the 12 million expected Conservative–I like to use that too!–voters, only 1 million failed to show.)

    http://www.slideshare.net/IpsosMORI/ipsos-moris-intial-view-on-polls-accuracy-in-the-u-ks-2015-election — go to slide 11 in particular.

  60. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor,

    Thank you.

    The organisations of both the Conservatives and Labour parties have declined to mere shadows. From what you say, the Conservatives have suffered less from this than their Labour opponents.

    It seems that Labour’s policy of relying on the media to mobile its supporters has failed.

    On the other hand, perhaps defeat at the polls is less disagreeable than trying to run an organisation packed with oiks.

  61. anonymous on said:

    stephen marks:
    Apparently Andy Burnham supports land value taxation.

    Other well known advocates, at one time or another, include Karl Marx and Winston Churchill.

    Can’t get more third way than that.

  62. Matty on said:

    Feodor,

    I think you must have your 3’s and 9’s mixed up. 9.3 million voted Labour so maybe 3 million failed to turn out. There is a message there though, the missing voters need to be inspired and persuaded that their vote can make a difference and that Labour is worth it.

  63. Matty on said:

    George Hallam,

    Not sure about that, the Tories membership has declined greatly. However, they do have the newspapers and wealthier people are always more likely to turn out. Your comment about oiks is just silly but the point I think you are making about building a movement rather than relying on the media so much would be correct.

  64. George Hallam on said:

    Matty: the missing voters need to be inspired and persuaded that their vote can make a difference and that Labour is worth it.

    The Best of Luck with that.

    Just hope that the punters don’t bother to read the small print on Labour policies on the bedroom tax, rents, privatisation of the Health Service, etc., etc.

  65. George Hallam on said:

    Matty: Not sure about that, the Tories membership has declined greatly.

    FYI

    Latest membership estimates from the parties suggest that the Conservative Party has 149,800 members, the Labour Party 190,000 and the Liberal Democrat Party 44,000.

    http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN05125/SN05125.pdf (Last updated:
    30/01/2015)

    Matty: However, they do have the newspapers and wealthier people are always more likely to turn out.

    True. Perhaps this had something to do with the result?

    Matty: Your comment about oiks is just silly

    Not my style. I was just trying to make a point.

    Matty: but the point I think you are making about building a movement rather than relying on the media so much would be correct.

    Yes, but I was taking it further. Building a mass movement would involve recruiting a lot of ordinary people (aka oiks), not just careerists and hangers-on. Now ask yourself, how long do you think a campaigner like myself would last with the current leadership?

  66. George Hallam,

    Well as someone who spent the entire election day knocking up Labour voters in a marginal seat, voters who had been.identified through litteraly months and years if knocking doors and phone calls, I think you are somewhat Ill informed about Labours GOTV (getv out the vote) strategy, which involved 4 million personal conversations during the campaign

  67. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: Well as someone who spent the entire election day knocking up Labour voters in a marginal seat, voters who had been.identified through litteraly months and years if knocking doors and phone calls, I think you are somewhat Ill informed

    Shoot at the messenger if you like, but if you have problem then you need to take it up with Ipsos/MORI.

    Andy Newman: about Labours GOTV (getv out the vote) strategy, which involved 4 million personal conversations during the campaign

    The poll suggested that Labour had 12.2 million likely votes of which 2.9 million failed to turn out. If your party only had 4 million personal conversations (presumably some of which would have been with non-Labour voters) your organisation was way short of what was required.

  68. jim mclean on said:

    Scottish Labour about to turf out Jim Murphy, his situation is becoming untenable, think both Scottish and rUK members think it is time for the Scottish Party to seperate, only rejoined three days ago and apparently I am about to particate in a Scottish Dawn, Year Zero or maybe even Ground Zero, depending whose twitter account you follow.

  69. Feodor on said:

    George Hallam: The organisations of both the Conservatives and Labour parties have declined to mere shadows.

    Well, there’s certainly something up with the Labour organisation, when despite their many ‘conversations’ they fail to get out a quarter of their potential vote. Something’s gone badly awry.

    And Matty, yeah, did get my 3s and 9s mixed up. Should have either read ‘of the roughly 12 million expected to turn out, only 9 million did/3 million didn’t’. Was only testing you though… Ha! Knew some clever bugger on here would get my *cough* *cough* deliberate mistake. 😉

    Edit: The new winking smiley is a bit raunchy a guys? Looks like I’m trying to flirt rather than having a joke!

  70. Robert on said:

    I went down to vote Greens 9.30 pm, but after a life time of voting labour, in my wheelchair , I asked where do I vote and they said we do not have a wheelchair both, because hardly any one comes in with a wheelchai

  71. Robert on said:

    I went down to vote Greens 9.30 pm, but after a life time of voting labour, in my wheelchair , I asked where do I vote and they said we do not have a wheelchair both, because hardly any one comes in with a wheelchair, so I did it in the corner of the room in the end I had to hold my nose while voting labour.

    But that is, with Reeves Murphy hunt and all the other right wingers telling me I’m less then human, with Reeves telling uis all she will be harder on welfare then the Tories, labour ios the party of people in work, I’m not surpsied labour hoty trounced telling people your wages will be held at 1% then trying to get ar

  72. George Hallam: The poll suggested that Labour had 12.2 million likely votes of which 2.9 million failed to turn out. If your party only had 4 million personal conversations (presumably some of which would have been with non-Labour voters) your organisation was way short of what was required.

    Clearly Labour lost, and my expereince is that three issues came up time and time again for why people didn’t vote Labour. i) Miliband; ii) immigration and iii) SNP

    But more to the point, in our electoral system the election is decided in perhaps 100 constituencies, and we have the information about who are long term non voters, so the target is smaller than *all* voters, or even all potential Labour voters

  73. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: But more to the point, in our electoral system the election is decided in perhaps 100 constituencies, and we have the information about who are long term non voters, so the target is smaller than *all* voters, or even all potential Labour voters

    Yes, this is very true and I can quite see why the Labour Party would choose to deploy its limited forces in this way.

    However, this is not just a one-off strategy. The Labour Party has focused its efforts on ‘key marginals’ in election after election for decade after decade.

    Taking the long view, concentrating just a sixth of the country implicitly sends a message the other five sixth. The Labour Party has put winning elections above building a mass movement. There have been three consequences:

    1. When Labour governments have been elected they have been confronted by a powerful ‘establishment’ that they have to placate because they lack active popular support. This leads to them accepting establishment policies that undermine their electoral support.

    2. Because there is no mass popular movement to articulate the interests of ordinary people the formation of ‘public opinion’ is left to the media. When it comes to an election the Labour Party fights on this terrain. Inevitably, ordinary people feel that “politicians are the same”. Apathy rules.

    3. The minority of ordinary people who are politically engaged (a process that then marks them out as a bit odd) become frustrated with the general line of the Labour Party, leading to…
    I won’t go on as I think correspondents on the site will be able to fill in the details from their own personal experience. [While I have been known to poke fun at people on this site I do recognise that most of you are activists and, personal foibles notwithstanding, are a potential force for good.] The result of this disaffection has been fragmentation and an enormous amount of political ‘energy’ has been dissipated.

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  75. I liked Alan Milburn (enthusiastic supporter of the war in Iraq) describe the Miliband era as a ‘ghastly experiment’. As ‘ghastly experiments’ go I thought the war on Iraq was pretty ghastly. At least Miliband didn’t kill a few hundred thousand people while being cheered on enthusiastically by Milburn.