Have confidence – 2011 in review

23rd December, 2011 1:03 pm

A week ago David Cameron made a good joke at Prime Minister’s Questions (“it’s not as though we’re brothers or anything”). Within hours, perhaps even minutes, the Telegraph’s deputy editor Benedict Brogan, a prominent supporter of Cameron and the Conservatives, seized on this and declared that there was now a “leadership crisis” looming in the Labour party. So a week on, what are we to make of Labour’s 2011?

Much was made of a You Gov poll for The Sun last week that put the Tories ahead of Labour (unsurprisingly) after David Cameron’s European tantrum, though it was by only a margin of one per cent. Little has been made of subsequent polls that have put Labour ahead again, a position we have been in, almost without fail, for every week of the past year. Indeed, this week’s Populus poll for The Times, relegated by the paper to just a few paragraphs on page 14, gave Labour a “four point lead that was the norm prior to the (EU treaty) veto”.

Normally speaking, a new government tends to enjoy a comfortable lead early into office. But Ed Miliband has denied Cameron and Clegg a honeymoon in the polls. Indeed, when Labour was polling 29 per cent in the immediate aftermath of the general election in the summer of last year, many newspaper commentators were predicting meltdown for the party. This has failed to materialise with Labour consistently polling ten to 15 points higher.

But so far away from a potential general election, the frustrating thing for Labour is that the public are never much interested in opposition parties or even opposition leaders at this stage of the electoral cycle. Ed Miliband has been leader for a little over a year. Yet in an internal BBC memo last week, its editor of political research, David Cowling, points out that Ed Miliband’s satisfaction ratings are higher than Cameron’s during his first year as Tory leader.

But these are only polls. What about some real elections with real voters? In the May 2011 elections, Labour did badly in Scotland, for reasons that seem largely Scottish, and where we have now had Jim Murphy’s review and new leadership in place. In Wales, where Labour had been in decline for years, we took control of the Welsh government in May, winning in Lib Dem and Tory strongholds in Cardiff. In the North of England and in the Midlands, Labour did very well, including in critical general election battleground areas, though Labour still has to improve in the South of England. But every party that is on a march back to a general election victory does so by building up an army of activists in our communities, especially in local government. Overall, the May 2011 elections gave us more than 850 new Labour councillors – a whole extra battalion of pavement politicians – and 26 more councils.

This past year also saw Labour win five by-elections. This included in Saddleworth, historically a difficult fight for Labour. In Barnsley, we gained a fine asset in the decorated army major, Dan Jarvis. Leicester South was won handsomely, despite it being a constituency that was lost by Labour in a by-election under Tony Blair. Inverclyde was said by some commentators to be a potential by-election defeat for Labour, in light of the Scottish parliament elections – in the end, it was won comfortably. And only a week ago, Labour was victorious in Feltham and Heston with a swing of 8.6 per cent from the Conservatives to Labour – an excellent result, especially for a campaign that was fought on a shoe-string budget in the dead of winter.

After years of declining membership, in the last year under Ed Miliband, Labour now has 65,000 new members. By these – and indeed any objective – measure – that represents a remarkable recovery for an opposition party that only 19 months ago suffered its second worst defeat since 1918.

History tells us that once Labour is defeated, disunity and disarray almost inevitably follow. Yet far from turning in on ourselves as many predicted or feared, Labour has picked itself up and showed from the outset that we can be an effective opposition. On issues ranging from police cuts, tuition fees, benefits to cancer patients, the NHS and News Corp’s planned takeover of BSkyB, Labour has embarrassed and exposed the Government.

But we are not only opposing, we are beginning to win some big arguments too. A year ago, Westminster journalists were dismissive of the “squeezed middle”. A few weeks ago, the word “squeeze” appeared in the front-page headlines of almost every national newspaper. Ed Miliband’s warnings a year ago about the crisis of a lack of opportunities for our young people have tragically come true with now record youth unemployment. Similarly, Ed Balls has been proved right with economic growth being choked off and consequently the deficit getting worse. In the run up to the Autumn Statement, Ministers were desperate to borrow Labour’s language, though sadly not our policies, for jobs and growth.

And for the future, Labour has began to set out a new long term agenda for Britain with a more responsible capitalism designed to meet these challenges: to create a society and an economy that reflects and rewards Britain’s values of hard work, that tackle irresponsibility at the top and at the bottom of our society and not expecting something-for-nothing. Challenging the consensus or taking on vested interests is never easy. Explaining, developing and refining such a big argument will take time.

So as you’re tucking into your turkey this weekend, try to ignore the Conservatives and some of their friends in the commentariat. Labour has some way to go to rebuild after the 2010 general election defeat, and efforts to modernise our party and our policies must continue at a pace, but we have made remarkably good progress. As 2011 draws to a close, we should have confidence.

Michael Dugher is Labour MP for Barnsley East and Shadow Minister without Portfolio

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  • Denial is not your friend.

    • Anonymous

      Ignore Martin.

      Please please continue along this trend. You are really doing very well.  It’s just the Tory press portraying Ed as a loser which is holding Labour back. Keep faith with Ed and 2015 will see a glorious Labour victory. Ed Balls as Chancellor is a shining vision.

      • Dai

        Ha ha

  • Anonymous

    Interesting the person who tells us that they now  have an idea of how to deal with Bankers, yet when in power had no idea at all, then your going to get the people at the bottom back to work, this of course from a bloke who left University, came to labour as a special advisor  under Blair, then under Brown and then moved up as an MP under Miliband.

    says a lot about special advisor really.

    But nothing here to worry about if Labour now  knows how to deal with bankers, they will be worried sick through laughter I suspect, the unemployed, and the sick and the disabled, the  plan to have us all working as special advisor, well we do know about  labour.

    • It just seems that the Westminster section of the Labour Party is a free-floating entity – detached from the membership and, as if that isn’t bad enough, with no life experience beyond the the green benches, strangers to the reality shared by most of us.

      The situation is getting desperate and I’m worried.

      But I suppose if Ed doesn’t take the bull by the horns and get his act together soon most will manage to grab a few fist-fulls of directorships and consultancy positions (Cameron is holding the door open), before the ship goes down.

  • Dave Postles

    Merry Christmas!      

    Dear Dave

    Merry Christmas from all of us at Lendwithcare.org
    We would like to say a big thank you to our partner, The Co-operative,
    but most of all to you, our wonderful lenders; your support has enabled
    us to fully fund more than 1,100 entrepreneurs with over £400,000 in
    loan funds – giving them the opportunity to work their own way out of
    Our fantastic partner Microfinance Institutions (MFI’s) and the
    entrepreneurs have asked us to pass on their messages of thanks this
    Christmas time. As we prepare for the festive time ahead, we thought you
    would find it interesting to know how this period is celebrated in our
    partner countries.
    We realise that this email is rather long but I didn’t want to edit out
    any of the information from our partner Microfinance Institutions.
    From WAGES in Togo
    Most people celebrate Christmas because it is one of the most important
    holidays in  our community.  The weather is dry and sunny. We are in
    the harmattan period, which is somewhat equivalent to the winter. It is
    very cold in the morning but very hot in the afternoon.
    At Christmas, many WAGES members have a special meal. In general, these
    are the dishes they do not eat every day. For example potatoes, rice
    accompanied by pasta, and fufu (yam paste). On this special day, all
    meals are served with drinks such as whiskey Coca cola or Tchoukoutchou,
    which is a local beer made from millet. Children will have soft drinks
    and cookies.  These special dishes are served on special occasions such
    as weddings, engagements and other holidays.
    Certain professions such as tailors, hairdressers, bars, restaurants,
    taxi drivers and motorcycle taxi drivers will be very busy in this
    period; they are so busy that they do not really celebrate.
    Christmas is an opportunity for our communities to do special things
    such as give beautiful gifts to families and parents like chickens,
    sheep, cloth, wine, drink cans, bags of rice. This is the time of the
    great reunion, and we took the opportunity to reconcile quarrelling
    members. Best wishes are formulated in those days.
    Our borrowers have strongly expressed the wish to say their words of
    thanks to the lenders who support them and wish them their best wishes
    for health and prosperity for the New Year.
    Mensah Dakavi, WAGES, Togo
    From ACFB in Benin
    Christmas is a Christian festival that every year celebrates the
    birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Nativity. In Benin, it has
    become more and more popular as a festival celebrated in all homes
    (whether Christian or not). It is a family celebration in which children
    are featured; adults try to give them the best Christmas. The
    celebration of Christmas for our clients, as with the majority of those
    in Benin, is spent as follows:

    Houses : Mothers assist the eldest children or other members of the
    family to organise the cleaning of their house, which is followed by
    decorations such as a Christmas tree and garlands.
    Presents : Parents give toys, clothes and shoes to their children
    according to the budget of each family. In most schools, Father
    Christmas arrives with presents for children who are less than ten years
    Church : On the 25th December, the majority of christian families go to church even if it is not their habit most weeks.
    Meal : Delicious dishes are often prepared for the family ; these meals
    vary according to the taste and budget of each family. In general,
    there is rice, beans, mashed yam, pasta, salad, tomato sauce and
    vegetables, accompanied by lots of fish and meat such as mutton, beef,
    pork and chicken. The food is accompanied by local drinks such as fruit,
    wine and beer.
    Walks and visiting parents, orphans, old people and prisoners for example.

    entrepreneurs financed through lendwithcare live in southern Benin. The
    equatorial climate is characterised by two rainy seasons (May to July
    and September to October) and two dry seasons. From November to March in
    the south it is the long dry season. The moist coastal air withdraws
    and dry continental air progressively invades the country. From December
    to February, this air is especially dry: the harmattan wind is a hot,
    dry and dusty wind in West Africa that blows south from the Sahara into
    the gulf of Guinea. This wind is full of fine particles of dust and sand
    which make visibility very difficult.
    The celebration time at Christmas is the period par excellence for
    business in Benin. Trading is intense, especially on the markets selling
    toys, gastronomy, clothes, shoes, garlands, and ornaments for example.
    Each stall owner manages to keep on their shelves the products in higher
    demand by customers both regular and new. The main routes in the towns
    and countryside are transformed into temporary markets. Usually during
    this period the majority of ACFB’s clients are rushing to get loans.  We
    would all like to wish you a very happy Christmas.
    Olga Idahou and all the staff at, ACFB, Benin
    From CCSF in Cambodia
    The majority of our members are Buddhist. They do not celebrate
    Christmas, but their businesses may grow as they sell to those who
    celebrate Christmas and the New Year period..
    On behalf of the members, I would like to express my sincere thanks to
    all lenders, who support Cambodian entrepreneurs to improve their living
    standards through a small loan. Although the loan is small, it
    is helpful as it makes a big difference to their lives. The loans can
    generate self-employment for themselves, and the larger loans can
    generate employment for those who are less fortunate.
    For the occasion of Christmas & New Year celebrations, on behalf of
    CCSF and members of associated credit unions, I would like to wish all
    lenders and their families, CARE International UK staff and their
    families, good health, prosperity, happiness, and great success in both
    their personal lives, and businesses.
    Best wishes to all.
    Chantra , Phal Pisey and Meas Thon, CCSF, Cambodia
    From SEED Finance in the Philippines
    Since 90% of the population in the Philippines belongs to the Christian
    faith, almost all people in the country celebrate the birth of Christ.
    Christmas is considered as one of the biggest holidays in the
    archipelago. This occasion celebrated yearly symbolizes loving,
    forgiving, caring and giving.
    The weather this season is sunny, but at the same time rainfalls do
    occur on unexpected circumstances. Most people especially in Mindanao
    region is anticipated to celebrate the event less joyous and fruitful
    because of the tragedy happened in Cagayan and Iligan wherein almost
    1,000 persons died from the flash flood caused by Typhoon Sendong.
    However, the spirit of Christmas still continues to inspire and give new
    opportunities to the survivors through the help they are currently
    receiving from different institutions and organisations in all part of
    the country.
    Philippineshas earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s
    longest Christmas. Christmas carols in the country are heard as early as
    September wherein groups of children, or even adults, visits their
    neighbours in a house-to-house basis to sing Christmas songs and ask for
    small amount of financial gift in return. Most homes are decorated by
    different designs of lanterns and lights to show that the families
    commemorate the event. Simbang gabi or Misa de gallo, also known as the
    Rooster’s Mass, is one of the common traditions done by most Christians.
    People wake up as early as 4 in the morning to attend a mass for 9
    consecutive days before Christmas day. Aside from their given religious
    commitment, it is also believed that a person who can complete the 9
    Simbang Gabi will have his/her personal wish granted by God.
    Christmas is a chance for the family to become united together with
    their close relatives. Most people consider this as a reunion wherein
    they also prepare various meals and dishes as part of the celebration.
    Hams and Queso de Bola (Edam Cheese) are the two most significant foods
    during the season, however; due to its high price most low-income people
    are only able to acquire regular classes of hams and cheese. Also,
    there are various meals that will always be present in every Filipino
    dining table in Christmas Eve like pancit (noodles) and fried/roasted
    chicken.  On the exact Christmas day, children visit their respective
    godparents to give them a “bless or mano”. This act represents honour
    and respect to the elderly. In return, the godparents will give their
    “inaanak” or godchildren with money or simple presents.
    This season of the year is truly an important occasion for all
    Christians in the Philippines. As long as God’s spirit and guidance is
    present to everyone’s heart, Filipino Christmas will always be the
    happiest no matter what challenges come ahead.
    We would like to wish lenders and lendwithcare staff a Happy Christmas.
    Reymond, Adrian and Jun, SEED Finance.
    From Zene za Zene in Bosnia and Herzegovina
    I do not celebrate Christmas, as a Muslim I have two ‘Bajrams’ (these
    are the two major Muslim festivals that mark the end of the month of
    fasting or Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca) which I celebrate as
    well as a lot people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have friends who
    celebrate Christmas, they mostly use holidays for the Christmas, as way
    to celebrate and stay longer with their family and friends. I know that
    many of our Christians fasting before Christmas Eve, they preparing food
    and cakes for guests. Very often we go to visit our colleagues on
    Christmas. We spent nice time in their warm house with decorated
    Christmas tree. There is a lot discount in shops because of Christmas
    and NEW Year also. For all holidays in Bosnia and Herzegovina peoples
    are more close and friendly to each other.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to lendwithcare supporters!!!
    Ajsa, Zene za Zene
    We hope you enjoyed learning about how our partners will be spending
    this festive period and reading their messages of thanks.  Weenjoy
    learning about some of you by reading the many inspirational ‘why I
    lend’ statements you post on your lendwithcare profile and seeing some
    of your photographs. 
    Our heartfelt thanks for your support.
    Tracey Horner & Ajaz Ahmed Khan

  • Dave Postles
  • Anonymous

    Michael. I am confused. You seem to be saying the opposite to what Paul Richards and Anthony Painter say on this site P Richards on many occasions – he is the John Rentoul of LL) . As it happens I want Ed Miliband to succeed because I don’t want to see Labour dragged back to the hypocritical psuedo-Tory days of Tony Blair, but I  rather suspect Richards would actually like that to happen. I am sure he goes weak at the knees at the thought of the long-winded unctuousness of Jack Straw back at the cabinet table. God forbid!

  • CharlieW

    “Little has been made of subsequent polls that have put Labour ahead again, a position we have been in, almost without fail, for every week of the past year.”
    You say that, but take a look at the recent YouGov polls, the Tories are back neck and neck with Labour. The post-veto boost has yet to diminish. 

  • Anonymous

    nd for the future, Labour has began to set out a new long term agenda
    for Britain with a more responsible capitalism designed to meet these
    challenges: to create a society and an economy that reflects and rewards
    Britain’s values of hard work, that tackle irresponsibility at the top
    and at the bottom of our society and not expecting
    something-for-nothing. Challenging the consensus or taking on vested
    interests is never easy. Explaining, developing and refining such a big
    argument will take time.

    Words?  Bottom of society, I know the bottom dwellers they do seem to get in the way of Newer labour.

    Bankers, we will see myself I think if they sneezed labour would jump

  • Mike Homfray

    I think that some people judge Labour’s success purely by how well we do in the south of England. We can win without needing to take many seats there and given that the attitudes are clearly much more sympathetic to the Tories in that area, should not expect to do so

    • Anonymous

      Without Scotland, do you really think that’s true?

      • derek

        All the evidence suggest that in a general election Scotland still votes labour by majority.

        • Anonymous

          Yes we remember the evidence about the elections in Scotland labour would white wash the SNP….

        • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Have a nice Christmas and forget the worries and woes, always somebody worse off then your self or so they say……

    • Dave Postles

      @ treborc
      Nice thought.  You take care now.  I hope it doesn’t go too badly for you in 2012.  To all the people with disabilities: good luck.  To all others: best for 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Rob Marchant tweets: “No offence to the decent Mr Dugher, but you’d hardly expect a Shadow Cabinet minister to say anything else…that’s his job.”

    No offence to Mr Marchant, but you’d hardly expect him to say anything else… systematically undermining the Labour Party is his obsessive mission.

  • Leslie48

    Some sound points here. Interestingly I feel we have to unpack more analysis of the “squeezed middle”  and focus on the fact that they are bearing more of the austerity costs than say the upper/upper middle class groups ( and by these I mean business owners etc.,)
    This is obvious to anyone who knows “wealthier” parts of  London and the home counties where prosperity/ wealth is very evident.

    But at the same time the squeezed middle are also angry with those self-employed and other advantaged tax payers who also and can repeatedly “underrecord”  their income for tax purposes. So many people say this is widespread for example taxi-drivers who  “under report”  earned income and then claim tax credits & working tax credits. We can not ignore the voters’ feeling that our state has been overly generous to some who either are dishonest ( tax wise) or who are fit but do not work , claim benefits and are nurtured into a benefits society.

    So dealing with “irresponsibility” and “something for nothing”  is crucial – at the end of the day we cannot just unreservely  defend all those on benefits when there is so much anger that something is wrong with our state. Knee jerk reactions are no longer possible as the UK state will heve to reduce public spending. Its tougth love. 

    Some how this policy has to be articulated for all those who feel that the UK  became “a soft touch welfare state”. Economically not just politically we have to be harder because the autumn statement showed we will be billions of pounds down anyway on our public spending and any spare money “will have” to go to public investment in university high value technology, infrastructure etc not transfers to able young men claiming weekly benefits for them their partners and kids.

  • Pingback: » Labour in 2011: A Year in Review What's Next?()

  • Labour2012

    A good review accurately highlighting many areas where Labour has reason to be positive but the woeful handling of the public sector pensions attacks has eclipsed all this for a huge number of Labour supporters (real people, not the media or Westminster).


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