Labour’s 5 biggest events of 2012

December 31, 2012 3:30 pm

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By Marcus Roberts and Mark Ferguson

The conventional wisdom is that 2012 ends much as it began: government infighting, questions over Labour policy, weak economy etc. but that argument misses something important: it is these very factors which at mid-term are deepening the doom that Tories face even as they strengthen Ed Miliband’s hand for the Parliament’s second half.

With this in mind, here’s our list of the top five moments for Labour in 2012 and why we think their impact will last:

5) Jon Cruddas. If 2011 was Tom Watson’s year as Labour’s surprise Shadow Cabinet superstar, 2012 belonged to Cruddas. Cruddas took charge of the policy review amalgamating its myriad groups and subgroups into three simple themes (rebuilding the economy, rebuilding society and rebuilding politics) to provide clarity and definition to Labour’s thinking about government. And this wasn’t just an internal game: Angela Eagle’s launch of YourBritain site showed the Party was ready to begin listening to members on their policy priorities – something Cruddas and Eagle have both sworn to ensure. But the last thing to remember about the lasting significance of Cruddas’ return to frontline Labour politics is that his commitment to a big radical policy offer from Labour in the next manifesto is matched by his deep knowledge and experience of fighting tough elections. Cruddas gets the need for Labour to do politics differently which has in turn aided Labour’s own change.

4) Labour reorganises. It wasn’t easy (personnel overhauls of long established bureaucracies and power bases never are) but Ed Miliband and Iain McNicol’s overhaul of Party structures and staff is the kind of underestimated but genuinely essential change that helps win elections. Spring announcements of Labour’s intention to recruit 200 organisers and 100 new candidates by 2014 showed a level of aggression and organisation seldom found in fresh oppositions. Again though, Labour’s change wasn’t just an internal process. Just as important as the arrival of Miliband’s Chief of Staff Tim Livesey and the appointment of the Party’s Executive Directors was the embrace of activism that goes beyond leafleting. Simply put, Labour is now putting a lot more emphasis on community campaigning on local issues combined with canvassing that stresses longer conversations with voters and a lot more listening. Labour’s embrace of the ideas of Arnie Graf, it’s switch-to-save scheme and Miliband’s commitment to ”the largest voter registration drive for a generation” have shown that the Labour leader believes that being out of office doesn’t mean being out of power.

3) The LibDems and UKIP vie for 3rd party status. In polling terms, the Lib Dems now seem to operate in the 8-11% range whilst UKIP are in the 8-14% range. If these numbers are anywhere near reflective of 2015 then with Labour winning a clear majority of ex-LibDems and UKIP winning an overwhelming majority of ex-Tories, an electoral disaster could be on the cards for Cameron. Labour needs to ensure it holds onto its new Lib Dem supporters whilst trying to restrain its glee at the prospect of the Tories continuing to lurch Right in an attempt to win back UKIPers.

2) Ed’s speech. In politics, authenticity sells and this was the real Ed: Clever, risky, funny, geeky and audacious. Ed gave a speech that laid bare Cameron’s divisive politics and claimed the mantle of ‘One Nation Britain’ for Labour. With bolstered leadership ratings, a united party and even newfound respect from lobby journalists Miliband goes into 2013 knowing that he can trust his own judgement more and fear his critics less. After all, from Murdoch to banking to the decision to run for the leadership in the first place, whenever Ed has bet big, he’s won.

1) The budget. Unquestionably the game changer of 2012. It retoxified the Tories, locked up anti-coalition Lib Dems for Labour and proved that when it came to the crunch Osborne would prioritise millionaire tax cuts not just over the squeezed middle but even over the prize of one term deficit reduction. Between the granny tax hitting traditionally Tory voting pensioners, the pasty tax symbolising Cameron’s contempt for small business and latterly the welfare cuts that hurt the income of in-work “strivers”, Tory economic policy has opened up a wealth of policy and electoral opportunities for Labour between now and 2015.

Marcus Roberts is the Deputy Director of the Fabian Society. Mark Ferguson is the Editor of LabourList.

Tomorrow Mark and Marcus will be taking a look at the 5 key aims for Labour in 2013…

  • Dave Postles

    My brother is still in ICU unconscious. What will Labour do to make his life worth living? Will it rescind all the Donkey Smith ‘reforms’ and the Purnell-Freud-inspired nonsense which has terrified him and others? Will it offer succour for people like him and others from lower/unskilled-working class backgrounds who have had great difficulty in life since failing the 11+ (when he was expected to do really well)? He and people like him have no political, social or economic capital to use. Will Labour help?

    • AlanGiles

      Sorry to hear of your brother’s ill-health Dave. I hope he makes a good recovery.

      I am sick to death of all the “one nation” nonsense, because this is a promise that never has, nor ever will be honoured, regardless of party politics. It is especially ridiculous to keep reading this pointless cathphrase especially when you read that the Leader of the Labour Party has a brother who was paid £125,000 for sixteen days “work” for a football club.

      When MPs stop buying themselves expensive trinkets at our expense, stop getting a “food allowance” they don’t need, and providing their relatives with sinecures. In short when they behave like “ordinary” men and women and not as some pampered elite, perhaps THEN they can witter on about “one nation”

    • AlanGiles

      I am sure this will be bring a smile to the flabby face of Iain Bonkers-Smith:

      http://uk.news.yahoo.com/overweight-people-could-face-benefit-cuts-043203845.html#gPWQMa3

      I hope that if these big brother intrusions are taken up it will mean overweight, and obese MPs like Eric Pickles and Nicholas Soames (Frank Field’s best mate) have their “food allowance” cut as well. We are supposed to be all in this together!

  • AlanGiles

    Sorry, but Jon Cruddas reminds me of that Sherlock Holmes story about “the curious incident of the dog in the night”

    -“But the dog did nothing in the night!”

    -“THAT is the curious incident”

    The case of the non-barking Jon. All trailer, no big picture. All theory and no practice, all talk no action. If anyone thinks JC is Labour’s secret weapon, they are going naked into the Conference Chambers of Public Debate.

    • Chilbaldi

      Very much agree Alan. There are only so mny times I can listen to Cruddas using long and complicated made-up policy words.

  • David B

    You have forgot the key point of 2012. Labour’s opportunistic vote to cut the EU budget in real terms. A position taken for short term political gain to cause maximum disconfort to David Cameron but A vote which has already lead to people like Jacque Delors planning for the UK exit from the EU.

    • Chilbaldi

      This is also because a surprising number of the Labour shaow cabinet have fallen into the Tory trap/wet dream of thinking we don’t need the EU and can survive as a tax haven/trading partner of India, Nigeria etc.

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