Deconstructing Labour’s tax credit counter-offensive

December 12, 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.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Graeme-Hancocks/1156294498 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.

  • http://twitter.com/LouieWoodall 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

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Graeme-Hancocks/1156294498 Graeme Hancocks

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

  • http://twitter.com/TimSwift 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

Latest

  • Comment Building safer and more resilient communities

    Building safer and more resilient communities

    Despite the lowest crime for decades, many perceive that crime remains too high. Despite many child safety improvements, parents remain worried.Overall alcohol consumption is down, but many feel that drinking is out of control, particularly in city centres. Traditional drug use is lower, but ‘legal highs’ provide a new challenge. In a free and open society, the state cannot protect individuals from every conceivable danger at all times, or from the consequences of unwise choices.We can, however, help people make wiser decisions. How […]

    Read more →
  • News Seats and Selections Frank Dobson confirms he’s retiring as an MP

    Frank Dobson confirms he’s retiring as an MP

    As we reported last week, Frank Dobson is stepping down as MP for Holborn and St Pancras – and he’s officially announcing his decision this evening at a meeting of local party members. Dobson, who is retiring at the age of 74  began his career in politics at Camden London Borough Council, where he was elected as a councillor in 1971 before becoming leader of the council for two years later in 1973. Six years later he entered into the […]

    Read more →
  • News Shadow Home Office Minister steps down

    Shadow Home Office Minister steps down

    Shadow Home Office Minister Helen Jones is stepping down from the front bench. The Warrington North MP “wanted to spend more time in her constituency” Labour sources said – although her letter to Miliband announcing her decision appears to lack a clear explanation (it’s only 46 words long). Jones had been in the role since October last year (since the last reshuffle) and served as “Vice-Chamberlain of the Household” under Gordon Brown. A replacement for Jones will be announced “in […]

    Read more →
  • News The government have “lost sight of the diversity agenda in the civil service” – Labour will sort it out, says Dugher

    The government have “lost sight of the diversity agenda in the civil service” – Labour will sort it out, says Dugher

    At a speech to the National Trade Union Committee, Michael Dugher Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said  Labour would set new targets for the percentage of women and black and minority ethnic employees in the Senior Civil Service. He highlight how women and black and minority ethnic people are underrepresented in senior positions and criticised the current government for losing “sight of the diversity agenda in the civil service”. He said: “Under this Government, things have either been stalling […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Weekly Survey: The NPF, Assisted Dying Bill and Miliband and Obama meet

    Weekly Survey: The NPF, Assisted Dying Bill and Miliband and Obama meet

    Labour held its final major National Policy Forum (NPF) meeting at the weekend to finalise positions on a whole swathe of of policy areas. LabourList covered it in depth – not only did we run a comprehensive liveblog all weekend and have first coverage of Ed Miliband’s speech, we also had reactions from those that were there. It was a weekend of “consensus, not conservatism” according to our Contributing Editor (and NPF delegate) Emma Burnell, while Mark Ferguson reckoned it meant a “reorientation […]

    Read more →