Deconstructing Labour’s tax credit counter-offensive

12th December, 2012 3:10 pm

It will never be out of fashion to write stories about divisions between a Leader and a Chancellor or the disorganisation of party HQ. Which is why it’s all the more important when things do go right to step back a moment and appraise what’s actually going on.

Today’s coverage of Labour’s anti-tax credit cuts attack is a superb example of an integrated strategy* that unites the compassionate values of Ed Miliband’s Labour Party with the steely resolve of the Shadow Chancellor, the data of the Party’s number crunchers and the cut-through of clear and successful press briefings.

What was particularly pleasing for this inside baseball watcher was the crafting of an attack rooted in Ed’s understanding of Labour values – that this cut is simply a cut too far and on some issues, at certain times, no amount of poll numbers can justify acting so immorally – combined with Ed Balls’ determination to defend a key aspect of the social justice legacy of Gordon Brown’s tenure.**

Moving from the gamble of opposing welfare cuts represents to the attack itself, it is telling that the Party chose to play offense with briefings to traditionally Tory papers like The Times and did so not with the high minded moral language that Fabians like me might feel on the matter but rather with a cold and calculated critique of the electoral pounding on marginal seats these cuts could augur. This integration of field data on Tory at risk seats and policy shop research on the impact of tax credit cuts translated into a press saleable message is a classic example of how to do politics right: values, teamwork and sharp attack.

At the risk of going too deep into the Kremlinology of the matter, this is precisely what Ed Miliband and Iain McNicol’s hard won management changes at One Brewer’s Green were always meant to bring about. In the place of a fractured, silo’d Labour Party in which communications, field and policy were separate fiefdoms and the Leader’s Office and Party HQ were all too often in direct conflict with one and other, today’s joint operation between Shadow Cabinet and Party Directorates prove what this Labour Party is capable of. The top rank unity of economic message with its pivot from statistics to stories (“everyone knows the next election will be a living standards election”) is also to be welcomed.

And for those that think this kind of thing is easy or should be taken for granted let me assure you it isn’t: there are a lot of competing power centres in a political party, a range of strong personalities and a plethora of potential policy positions to choose from to boot. To align them all with one and other and sing as one from the same hymn sheet is anything but easy.

That said, it should be the norm. The voters that Labour seeks to serve desperately need a Party with this level of ruthless efficiency across a range of issues and causes. From the all too common scandal of poverty pay to the great climate change crisis of our time Britian needs a Labour Party that can campaign effectively at both local and national levels alike. The Labour Party that is defying conventional wisdom by opposing welfare cuts with success and élan can be that Party. To do so it must now make success stories like this not the exception but the rule.

* = technically, in strategic jargon this would count as a “combined arms operation” but even my sophistry of strategic nomenclature has its limits

** = oh, and that my old friend Mr Hodges thinks this is all a fool’s errand in the first place is just the icing on the cake of my delight

  • Amber_Star

    Dan Hodges saying that Ed is “politically immature” is LOL funny. I have been pleasantly surprised by the way Labour have managed to run rings around the Tories on a number of issues. The weaker Labour’s hand appears to be, the better they play it!

    • AlanGiles

      Dan Hodges and his business partner Hutwal dressed up in gas masks like warmongers on their little PR business website are the last people to talk about immaturity. I suppose surrounded in his early life by his mum ‘s theatrical clique has inspired his play-acting streak.

  • girlguide

    My daughters don’t qualify for any tax credits, but they have gained significant income through the Coalition’s policy of increasing the tax threshold ( a policy on which Labour remains silent). They lost income when Gordon Brown took away the 10p tax rate, and Labour never made up that loss in any way. Since every working person has gained from the higher tax threshold, why the big deal about tax credits, especially for those who don’t even get them?

    • Dave Postles

      Have you looked at the IFS report?

    • Dave Postles

      The IFS modelled effects of tax and benefits in the autumn statement.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Yes, this is odd.

    I do not like the concept of those wholly dependent on benefits having their finances squeezed tighter by the 1% cap. That is not right. They have nothing else to offset this against.

    But Labour’s positioning is about protecting the “strivers”, those who work and pay taxes, and also receive benefits. If you add in the additional income retained as a result of the rise in the personal tax threshold, workers are gaining money in real terms even after allowing for inflation. Extra money kept in their pockets from the tax threshold raise (8.4%), and a 1% rise in any benefits beats inflation for any income of work+benefits up to £42,500.

    I do not believe this to be a master-stroke by Ed Miliband, as the mathematics is easily proven. And on the wider argument as to why so many people with significant incomes receive benefits at all, at the expense of those who really need benefits, he has nothing to say.

    • Graeme Hancocks

      “Workers are gaining money in real terms” You obviously haven’t been on a two plus year wage freeze then?! Usual right wing troll crap from Mr Candelas.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Please try to work it out with your calculator. If the tax threshold is raised, you pay less tax. If the tax threshold is raised sufficiently, then even allowing for inflation, you may have something extra to spend. It is a ratio between the amount the threshold is raised, the tax percentage applied, and the rate of inflation. Currently, it results in a slight increase in effective earning power.

        This is a progressive measure, as the tax threshold has proportionately greater impact on those who earn least above it.

        As far as your last sentence is concerned, I will accept your thinking when the usual socialist ignorance of basic arithmetic is acknowledged.

  • robertcp

    I have just read Dan Hodge’s piece. Labour is 10% ahead in the polls because Ed Miliband does not listen to fools like him.

  • Louie Woodall

    I’ll be watching with interest whether this “ruthless efficiency” in communication and dissolution of silos means a return to the New Labour grid strategy where politics came first, and policy second. While everyone welcomes a politically savvy Labour Party, it should not come at the expense of pussy footing on social justice

  • Graeme Hancocks

    Good article, well argued. Thank you for the links to related articles.

  • Tim Swift

    The missing element in this integrated strategy, though, is any element of local campaigning support. Why isn’t there a briefing to Labour council leaders on a line to take? Or some artwork for a risographed leaflet, with advice in which areas are best to target? Two and half marks, then, but our local campaigners are the most cost effective local resource we have


  • Comment Featured Now is the time to renew, not retreat

    Now is the time to renew, not retreat

    When the exit poll appeared on our screens at 10pm on 7 May, the floor gave way beneath the Labour Party. Like me, every candidate, activist and supporter across the country felt a sickening sense of disappointment and disbelief. It got worse than we all feared at that moment. We got a majority Conservative government. Since that fateful night Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise to the leadership has had a profound and far-reaching impact on the Labour Party, and on the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done

    What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done

    Labour is in opposition and I hate it. This week I’ve been in Manchester where the Conservative Party had their annual Conference. It would be easy to feel impotent watching the government crow over how they are “making work pay” while cutting tax credits that clobber the working poor. According to the trade union Unison, the Tory policy will see a teaching assistant with one child earning £16,300 per year lose £1,845.20 per year. Or announce “affordable starter homes” that […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It’s not enough to put equality into your speech, you need to put it in your legislation too

    It’s not enough to put equality into your speech, you need to put it in your legislation too

    Equality formed a prominent part of Cameron’s speech yesterday. I waited with bated breath for the end of his section on equality, expecting an announcement of some sort – something bold to help make tangible, real progress on tackling discrimination and achieving equality. As the applause died down, Cameron swiftly moved on to the next subject. This really does sum up the Conservative party on equality – all sound bites and no action. Equality is not just a buzzword with […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Jeremy Corbyn campaigners set up new Momentum group

    Jeremy Corbyn campaigners set up new Momentum group

    Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign have organised to set up a new “grassroots network”, called Momentum. The group plans to organise events, rallies and policy consultations, hoping to tap into the large numbers energised by Corbyn’s leadership bid, and begin campaigning on local issues and within Labour. They plan on Momentum nationally acting as an umbrella organisation for local groups across the country, encouraging people to join Labour and help build a party with the “policies and collective will” […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Has Jeremy Corbyn really snubbed the Queen?

    Has Jeremy Corbyn really snubbed the Queen?

    Today’s Telegraph front page runs with the story that Jeremy Corbyn has “snubbed” the Queen today by refusing to meet her. Corbyn could today have joined the Privy Council, which would mean him being given the title Right Honourable, but has had to miss the opportunity, citing “prior engagements”. The story has been widely picked up by other media outlets, and used as further proof that the Labour leader is unpatriotic. This follows Corbyn standing in silence for the national anthem […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends