What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “Gordon Brown”

POLITICAL REALITIES – Part One

Now that things have calmed down a bit since the local elections and Ed’s reshuffle, I thought I would write a couple of pieces on where we as a party are, and how we got here. I think that all too often those of us interested in politics can get sucked into the short term news cycle, and I plead guilty to this as much as anyone else. However it is important for me to take a look at the recent past, if only to help me redefine where I think we stand…

1: NUMBER CRUNCHING

So, lets go back to the start: In 1997 Labour won a landslide with over 42% of the votes cast, some 13,518,167 votes in all. This was our biggest share of the vote since 1966, and with high hopes, Labour went into Majority government for the first time since 1974.

Victory was repeated in 2001 on a similar scale, although we lost the votes of a staggering 2,793,214 people in four years under Tony Blair. Low turnout ensured that our share was still around 40%, and New Labour continued, seemingly unassailable.

At his third attempt in 2005, after the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq , the party under Tony Blair saw its vote reduced by a further 1,172,517 to 9,552,436 votes. The war in Iraq also contributed to a rise in popularity for the Liberal Democrats under Charles Kennedy and Alex Salmond’s SNP.

Finally, back in May 2010, Labour under Gordon Brown polled 8,606,517 votes, and just 29% of all votes cast. That was a further 945,915 down from the previous general election, although this was a considerably lower fall than in either 2001 or 2005.

The May 2010 result ensured a Hung Parliament, although it was clear almost from the first declarations that Labour had lost, even if the Tories had not won. It also meant that a stable Coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems, possibly also with Plaid Cymru and the SNP was simply not possible. Simple arithmetic dictated that if a Coalition could be formed, it would be between the Tories and Lib Dems.

To me, one of the salient facts would be that under Tony Blair, over two elections we lost the support of almost four million voters – 3,965,731 to be exact.

Arguably, Gordon Brown had not so far to fall, but from 2005 to 2010 our vote dropped by just under one million. It lost us the General Election, but I cannot help thinking that had we lost fewer votes between 1997 and 2005, then maybe we could have still been in government today.

Had we lost, say half of those votes lost in that period, then in 2010 we would have polled somewhere in the region of  10,589,382 votes – more than in 2010 and close to our 2005 result. So the questions we must ask ourselves must include why did we lose so much trust between 1997 and 2005?

Could it be that Tony Blair, as much as Gordon Brown was a vote loser after 1997? On the face of it the answer may be yes…

So what lost us those votes?

  BEST WHEN WE’RE LABOUR…”

…to be continued…

Left Foot Forward, Or A Right Load Of Old Cobblers?

A post left on Will Straws’ site Left Foot Forward has opened a debate on where we are going in the Labour Party, and predictably it focuses attention on not moving too far left.

Forgive this post, it will be erratic, as its now six in the morning, and I am just going to read up a little and get some shut-eye….(06.00hrs). Ah, that’s better…

The article – “Labour Must Speak Not Only For Organised Labour” by Rob Marchant, starts off in a reasonable tone, yet ends up, like the deply popular and loved Tessa Jowell, pressing in effect for a shift to the right.

Rob starts off identifying Labours two historic constituencies, Public and Private sector Organised Labour, and asks whether we are ignoring the growing numbers of Private sector workers with no Trades Union. As one of these, I suppose I should respond.

Mr Marchant writes of the “genius” of New Labour (a good indication of where he is going) in reaching out to these workers. In this, like some others, he has rewritten history to suit his ends. Under Clement Attlee in 1945, Wilson in 1966 and Blair in 1997, Labour won by connecting with significant numbers outside of our heartlands, this is nothing new. a brief look at the period between 1992 and 1997 shows that we would have won in’97 with the late John Smith – our most mourned leader never to be PM. It hardly took genius to beat John Major in 1997,but it takes chutzpah to forget that. It is also a feat of selective memory not to recall both the loss of two million votes between 2001 and 2005, and the utter unpopularity of Tony Blair by the time of his exit.

Mr Marchant also seemingly discounts the “grey vote”, which is odd, since it is proven that there is a direct correlation between voting and age…

In response, Darrell Goodliffe at Left Futures is no less strident – indeed his article is the very model of  polemical passion. For Darrell, the centre ground of politics is a fantasy comparable to The Tooth Fairy. My nephew will be disturbed to find out that The Tooth Fairy is a fantasy, but no matter. As far as Mr Goodliffe is concerned, it only exists in the mind of idealogues who wish to push Labour ever rightwards.

He makes the point ignored by Rob that real wages are falling across the board, and that this is comparable to the 1920s, to quote the Mervyn King. This is important – very few non-unionised private sector workers probably have any sympathy with the huge bonuses in the City, nor do they see any benefit for them in their bosses continued pay rises. At the same time, they see cuts in services that they use and need.

At this point, Mr Goodliffe becomes almost a parody of the kind of writing that can be found in any copy of Socialist Worker, or worse, an old copy of Militant, circa 1988.  Darrell wants to see “a trenchant critique of a capitalist system which has failed not just the poorest … but also failed the hopes & dreams of anybody who is not a member of the super-rich elite.”

Fine stuff, although unlikely to encourage anyone not already versed in left wing politics to join in is it?

In response to both these articles I say the following – yes, the centre ground is vitally important in politics, and the point of political parties is to shift it.

The Economic Crash has shaken the certainties of the post-1974 monetarist consensus. this takes time to feed into the political system, but the signs are there. Non-Unionised private sector workers, such as myself, are scared, and have seen wage cut and redundancies. we see a Government of Millionaires warning us not to “price ourselves out of a job”, whilst watching our bosses and bankers trouser huge bonuses. We want fair taxation, and that means more bands at the higher levels of pay. We want an end to tax avoidance, and to the corruption in the higher levels of the state. we would like meaningful rights to join a Union, where we could be ensured that we won’t be blacklisted, particularly in hospitality. We like the minimum wage, and we love the NHS.

We are the people that both Marchant and Goodliffe should be campaigning and organising to get to the March 26th TUC Demo.

Mr

Clem’s Christmas Roundup

It was (almost) Christmas Eve  babe,

and in the drunk tank,

an old man said to me,

” I could go nuclear…”

So time to take stock of the year, and consider the good and bad that we’ve been through…

First of all, losing the election has been a massive blow, yet Gordon Brown managed to leave office with more dignity and in better grace than David Laws did less than a month later. A fundamentally good man made way for a shyster.

The coalition was initially heralded as a “New kind of politics”, yet has settled down into the most radically conservative Government  since 1983. Everyone agreed that Ham Face and Little Nicky looked jolly nice on the lawn, giving civil partnerships a boost.

The Government decided that you and I would be better off with 50 less MPs, as it cost too much for us to have adequate representation. We all agreed that 50 less Coalition MPs would have been a good thing. the Guardian felt silly, and The Daily Mail  was grumpy, possibly that UKIP didn’t win outright. The Daily Telegraph did its best to bring the Coalition down by chatting to Liberal Democrats.Sales of Werther’s Originals plummeted in Tory seats.

The BBC found the correct term for a Conservative Culture Secretary. Jeremy should go far…

Liberal Democrats have been apologising to their best friends after admitting they don’t really like them, and apologising to the rest of us for making such a rotten deal. they still held on to the Ministerial cars though…

It was decided that not only would tuition fees have to treble, but that funding for Higher Education would be cut by 80%. A well organised, fearsomely armed group took control of the streets around Westminster – The Metropolitan Police.

The Duchess of Cornwall was poked with a stick, and (oh, the irony) went on to a Royal variety performance featuring 25 minutes of Les Miserables – featuring student revolutionaries waving flags – ” Did she hear the people sing…?” don’t worry Camilla old girl, they were French.

Speaking of our allies, it was decided that the Royal Navy should specialise in becoming a landlord – renting out 50% of our carrier force to Les Bleus. Can’t see them defending the Falklands, but still, annoyed a few yanks…

Wikileaks told us what sensible people already knew, namely that diplomats don’t always like their hosts.

Julian Assange may or may not be someone that you would like your daughter to meet on a regular basis.

Once again, the world failed to find a collective answer to Global Warming, whilst we shivered a bit, and were given no credible answer as to why the country cannot deal with a little snow. Boris claimed to have bought the deserts of Araby, and then slunk off to cancel FIFAs bribe – sorry, all expenses paid stay at The Dorchester for the duration of The Olympics.

Gideon Osborne, The 14th Earl of Whyborn, sat on the Treasury Benches looking more and more like a pale evil toad. Dr Fox ( no, not that Dr Fox) let it be known that although he doesn’t like it, he was prepared to sell servicemen short. Again. The police warned that without constant pay rises and overtime payments, crime would rocket. Then proved themselves inadequate to their core task of keeping the Queens peace, thrice.

After a drawn out campaign, the much-vaunted David Miliband was done low by his supporters, notably Lord Mandy, who then wrote a rubbish book, and still has no inkling as to just how much everyone in the nation hates him. Tony Blair wrote nonsense, and we learned about both his sex life and his toilet regime. Lucky us. Mr G W Bush turned out the best book of all three, at least in terms of fiction and plot.

Ed M became our leader, and has scored a few telling points against Bullers Dave, yet the hardcore Blairites, after three years of disloyalty, have still to learn that unity cuts both ways. A few right wing placemen showed their true inclination was to power rather than principle.

Phil Woolas was finally ousted from both Parliament and from The Labour Party, after running a nasty smear campaign that really did us no good.

Charlie Kennedy proved top be correct when it came to the coalition, fat lot of good it will do him.

And the government Front Bench looked for all the world like the Thirteenth Earl of Whybourne from The Fast Show…”Me? With my hands on the public purse? With MY REPUTATION?”

The BBCs Nick Robinson, at last able to see his pals in power, looked on the verge of a massive orgasm every time
he reported for the News. Is he sponsored by Kleenex we wonder?

The Big Society turned out to be a big “fuck you” from Millionaires to the rest of us.

Pavement reformed and toured the USA and Britain, and The Pogues started a long fairwell tour – though Spider stacey hinted at this only being a break – please let it be so…

Ed wins – what next?

So, after all the debating and argument, by the narrowest of margins, Ed Miliband is our new Leader. We have as a party shown that electoral defeat no longer produces a knee-jerk move to the Left, whatever the media say.

I voted for Ed as my second preference, after voting for Diane, my vote for her being a way of drawing a line in the sand after the New Labour period, and to try to foster wider debate within the party. We are now in a position that needs careful handling if we want to win in 2015, as a number of factors come into play:

Firstly, Ed has already stated that our opposition stance will have to be a lot more constructive than it has been so far. This is to the good, as we were clear before May that cuts would have to be made, and it makes no sense to the general public if we spend our time denying the deficit exists. where we disagree with the coalition is on how deep and how fast, and on what should be cut. We all know that we need to have a credible alternative to the worn-out monetarist guff coming from Osborne and Co.

On regulation, it may well be that Vince cable will be able to propose far-reaching changes that will help re-balance the economy in the future. We need to support him where we can, while developing his arguments further. On the Reform Bill, we have a greater problem, and also much more to gain – the blatant gerrymandering that has been included in the Bill is the one serious bloc to Labour support (see Nick Cohen in the Observer yesterday). However, a fairer voting system is manifestly just. In one sense, the passing of this Bill by the coalition would solve one problem, whether or not we support it. The problem of the AV referendum, which is going to b a tough fight, is that if we do not support it, we are open to charges of double standards. Therefore our opposition needs to stress the undemocratic nature of the seat culling and boundary changes, whilst showing support for the Yes campaign.

Charges from the right that Ed is just a Trades Union puppet, such as those made by the (unelected) Baroness Warsi, are not new, but need to be handled carefully. The usual Tory anti-Union line is followed up by the £80 billion cuts to the public sector, which face huge  Union opposition. We must be sure that every cut we oppose can be met with an alternative. And we must strenuously propose our alternatives, if we wish to effectively back any fightback, and give it a chance of success.

Within our own ranks we have to be honest as to why we were so rejected last May. This means asking tough questions, and taking tough measures. Phil Woolas and his agent should be immediately suspended from the Party until an internal inquiry has judged whether or not they have brought the party into disrepute. Likewise certain councillors in East London, Doncaster, and in certain areas of Scotland. We need to clean out the stables, and to win back the trust that we have lost, not just in government, but also in local government too. Ex ministers who have dodgy links to shady businessmen cannot be allowed onto the opposition frontbench. this will be hard, and I doubt that the PLP will like it much, but this needs to be done.

We have an opportunity to recreate our party as the sole national party of opposition, we could be instrumental in helping to redraw the political map of Britain, and we could be back in power in 2015, but only if we are honest, bold, and determined. This week at conference, Ed and the rest of the candidates have the chance to show how far we have already come since May, comrades, don’t blow it.

“A period of silence from you would be most welcome.”

So said the great Major Attlee in response to Harold Laski, and I have to say, after reading Harriet Harmans’ words in the New Statesman (www.newstatesman.com) this morning, it seems like good advice  to all those who are busy hawking books around,  responding or commenting on them.

The seemingly endless reams of gossip, innuendo and self justification that have deluged the public over the last few months have served no positive purpose, and like most political autobiographies, are of limited historical value. Hysterical value is in abundance. Where is Leo Abse when you need him?

None of the major players in the New Labour drama have much to say outside of their little set, save for walk-on parts for the general public and various moguls, charlatans, villains and comic figures.

This constant re-fighting of battles lost and won brings little to the debate inside our Party, and the wider Social Democratic world, save vanity. So please, Gordon, don’t add to this pile of nonsense – write another biography instead, like the one you wrote on Jimmy Maxton, I think Manny Shinwell is due one right now…

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