In the real world no one cares about your squabbles

22nd January, 2013 11:00 am

I have, or at least I think I have, Norovirus.

As a result I am sat at home whiling away the hours until my stomach starts to feel marginally more confident that I can leave the house. The upside to Norovirus, if there is one, is that it gives me the chance to read.

I have finished the newspapers already (I’ve been up since three o’clock) and now I’m moving on to the various Labour blogs that I am interested in. And what I have discovered this morning is that I seem to have stepped into an all-out war between various factions.

It seems the war was started by left wing ‘voice’ Owen Jones calling / not calling (depending on who you listen to) for the establishment of a new leftist party, and now being lambasted by some bloke called Luke Akehurst (and others) accusing Owen of being an idealist and not quite grounded in reality.

I have got news for both Owen and Luke (and anyone else stepping into the foray). Outside the pressure cooker of London CLP’s, in great swathes of the country, no one really cares.

What people care about – and as a councillor and group leader people speak to me every day – is that they are worried about their jobs, their benefit and the state of the high street.

Those same people who are worrying right now also realise that the country is in deep financial straits and acknowledge that cuts have to be made. Their worry is that cuts so far have been too far and too fast and the wrong people are being targeted.

What local people in my constituency couldn’t give a fig about is internal squabbles between the right and left of Labour.

And you see my constituency of North West Leicestershire is important. It’s not a close marginal but it was held by Labour from 1997 to 2010, when it fell to the Tories. It’s exactly the sort of seat Labour should be aspiring to win if they want a working majority come 2015.

But instead of focussing on defeating a weak government who are there for the taking, look no further than my own MP Andrew Bridgen, so many voices in Labour are determined to shoot themselves in the foot whilst naval gazing (I know my metaphors are getting decidedly mixed).

With less than two and half years until the next general election now is not the time to be arguing amongst ourselves. Now is the time to explain just how this government are hurting ordinary people.

Leon Spence is the Labour Group Leader of North West Leicestershire District Council

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  • Fair point, Leon. However, Owen Jones is a real talent, as is Luke Akehurst and we need them both onside for the successful future of the party. A Labour Party that conforms to one opinion alone will be unelectable. I heartily endorse their debate.

  • Well said! I’m a non-partisan voter, left of centre (well I am probably left of centre), and I agree with you.

  • Well, of course!

  • AlanGiles

    Sorry you are ill. If you have Novovirus drink plenty of water and take something like Collis Browne’s mixture or if you can stand the taste Pepso-Bismal. That should relieve the symptoms somwhat. For the sickness, I would advise against reading the bile of Akehurst, which induces nausea even if you feel well. 🙂

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Hi Leon and first of all I hope that you get over your Norovirus asap.

    I have stood, and am standing again for local election. I joined Labour at the age of 51, two years ago. Having not been involved in politics directly before. As a result, I see the parties as the electorate seem them.

    Labour is there to serve the electorate, and we serve as many as possible, particualry we are on the side of all of those who’s lives have been adversly affected by this wretched government and their misdirected and over zeolous cuts. As you say, these are real issues affecting real people, and for this the Labour Party should be looking outwards, facing the real world and saying something relevant, something that chimes in with the way that people are feeling.

    You are absolutely right about internal bickerings etc. Back in 2011, when I first stood in my local ward I felt very unsure and vulnerable as I was new, and unlike the other candidates in other wards could not name drop, or list a bunch of Labour committees which I had sat on. But then in a moment of Epiphany it dawned on me that the electorate who would read my leaflet (those that looked over it before dropping it into the bin that is) actually couldn’t give the proverbial monkies.

    A lot of those who have been in the party for a long time forget that outside of the party no one cares. If you are a Labour candidate then it is taken for granted that you represent Labour. Otherwise the party would not be putting you forward and paying your fees to stand.

    While your image of navel gazing while shooting yourself in the foot conjours a comical peice of imagery, and leave one wondering how you could see to aim the gun at your foot if you are looking at your stomouch etc. you make a very important point.

    Outside of the party and outside of Westminster, people want to know how politcs affects them. The least effective political parties are those who squabble amoungst themselves. The Tories obliged under John Major and beyond and this did much to help make them seem irrelevant from the mid 1990’s until about 2008. No one really takes a party serously if they are just bickering.

    However much those inside the Labour Party care about the internal issues and about the diffrences of policy ideas, to those outside the party in terms of the coalition polices, Labour’s views are just slightly different shades of the same Labour colour. The electorate wants to see a party that they can understand and see how their polices will make some improvement to their lives. Bickering within the party is a huge turn off.

    Ultimately the electorate is increasling voting with its feet by not bothering to vote at all. This is because the public see politians as simply self obsessed and only concerned about their own careers etc. While that may be true of some it is not really true of most. But we do not help ourselves. A party at war with itself is destined to fail. It will turn off the voters.

    The sooner people within the party realise that it is all about the electorate, and that ultimately only the electorate decide on who gains office, then the better.

    We also do not need to try and turn Labour into the sort of militant mess that it became under Michael Foote. The public would find that unelectable. There are plenty of targets for us to turn our sights on and we should focus on fighting the Tories and their LibDems poodles.

    Above all we need to start talking about what Labour would do and what we are going to do after the next GE, and most importantly what are principles are on which these policies are based.
    To win we need Party first and egos second.

    • AlanGiles

      Jeremy I don’t think anyone is saying that Labour should be “militant” merely that it stops trying to rearrange Coalition policies (and on welfare and the NHS it should be remembered the Blairite wing of Labour STARTED the “reforms” – the Coalition merely continued them. Labour didn’t have to implement Freud, especially as by the time they so did, Freud was a Conservative peer.

      Miliband et al are so scared of offending tabloid readers and “Middle England” most of their policies are predicated on the idea that the Coalition’s policies are more or less right and they just need to be rejigged somewhat. (“Too far, too fast”…….”one nation” etc etc)

      But it is the sort of LL scribbler who takes pot shots at anyone even vaguely on the Left that annoy me:

      the “big three” – Akehurst, Richards and Marchant who seem to feel they most write one essay a week. What do they have in common.

      Marchant “EX” Labour Party Manager
      Akehurst: “EX” NEC member
      Richards: FAILED prospective candidate for Brighton PCC nomination.

      All three exes or failiures – could it be they know the days when licking Blair’s boots made them “important” are gone for ever, and these weekly hurrumphs are just the envious rantings of a group of has-beens?

      Akehurst didn’t have to write the article about Owen – he chose to do it in a way that was both patronising and vindictive.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        Hello again Alan.
        I wote a long reply about how out there in the real world no one cares about the internal bickering of the party and that being at war within ourselves is a turn off for voters and makes our representatives look self-seeking and irrelevant to the people who no longer can be bothered to vote. I stand by that and am surprised if that causes offence.
        Whatever happened under Blair was a mxiture of many good things as well as not so good. Under Blair there was a real reduction in child poverty, a huge cut in third world debt, and many less unemployed. Crime went down (and now is up), hospital waiting lists went down (and are now up), etc etc. Since this coalition came to power we have had a succession of toxic policies from trying to sell off the forests to cutting higher rates of tax while squeezing public pay, tax credits for ordinary people and so on.
        So regarding benefits etc. I think that it is perfectly reasonable to expect unemployed to work if they are offered proper real jobs, and totally unreasonable to blame unemployed for being unemployed when they have had their jobs and life-style taken from them by government cuts and are compteing at a rate where there are loads of people chasing one job.
        The idea that a soldier looses limbs in combat fighting for his country and can then be out of the army and on the dole with his benefits withdrawn because he fails a totally divisive so called test designed simply to punish the weakest members of our society and so on is not just the same thing as the coalition.
        For those suffering under this government, there is a world of difference between New Labour and this awful jack-boot government.

        It is not the same Alan. It is liek saying that the stricter nursery school teacher is a precursor to King Herod.

        • Timmo111

          So under labour atos was nice and kind and for the benefit of disabled people but under the coalition they are evil ?

      • ColinAdkins

        I am no fan of Maoism but marching Richards to the countryside so he can do a real job has some appeal and is in line my support for public health.

    • ‘Party first and egos second’ – I wholeheartedly agree with you’

  • Owen Jones wrote a perfectly reasonable article about how people opposed to the government should unite. Akehurst got offended. Simple as that.

  • That people are worried about things in the real world doesn’t mean that political people should stop debating how to deal with those things. Whether any of us like it or not, that means using ideas and words. If we don’t interrogate and debate the ideas and words we use, they become stale and lose meaning, especially when society changes. As it happens I don’t agree with Owen Jones or Luke Akehurst on the bigger picture, but if they have something to say, then I think they should feel free to say it. We haven’t reached the End of History, and these debates still matter as much as they ever did.

  • ColinAdkins

    Yes another dig at London. When I hear Owen speak he sounds distinctly northern to me. Sorry I do not know Akehurst from Adam. The fact that Owen and Luke may have moved to London has nothing to do with us Londoners and to claim that there is some type of regional characteristic which makes us dwell on irrelevant issues is an insult to us Londoners who have worked tirelessly and over many years for Labour Governments.

  • PaulHalsall

    We have the internet now. And this is a specific Labour blog. It seems concerns about obsessions with Londoners are over done in this article (I live in Bury, Greater Manchester btw); and people have a right to their discussions.

  • I agree – most people probably don’t give a damn about it and they do give a damn about jobs, benefits, the NHS and so on. People aren’t going to be that interested in the debate between Luke and Owen; however, the results of that debate do actually affect our ability to improve jobs, benefits, the NHS and so on. Much as I like the Independent, its circulation figures aren’t all that and, much as I like Labour List, its readership figures aren’t all that. This discussion isn’t being had in private, exactly, but it’s hardly being shoved in people’s faces.

    I would add that I broadly agree with Luke on this one and I think it’s important that we don’t go down the road of – shall we say – pickling things into a rigid dogma or code.

  • Dave Postles

    I came out to Ashby de la Z to demonstrate outside the NatWest Bank there, as part of RBS, some considerable time ago. It was supposed to be organized by some UKUncut people there. I was the only person who turned out. I had 100 leaflets which I had composed and printed. After an hour or so, I gave up and returned to Loughborough to distribute the leaflets outside the NatWest Bank there. Apathy.

  • John Reid

    people outside London might not care ,but it was the loony left in london that lost us the 87 and 92 elections, All luke did was point out the socialsit utopia idea where the public want a far left party , preswented by Owen os twaddle,

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Atos are a private company who do whatever they are hired to do. Therefore if the government of the day said to make the tests fairer or to let more people pass, or even if they said to fail everyone, then they would simply follow the orders.
    No I don’t like them either, but at the end of the day they follow orders and pick up their big fat cheque. Change the government and the orders and they would be keen to follow the new instructions and so keep their contracts.
    Do I think that a future Labour administration should be dealing with Atos, given what has happened now? No: They are now bad news.

    • Timmo111

      Why did labour get atos involved in the first place? I have been disabled since 1992 and had always been assessed by my GP who knew about my disability and problems that I might have had. For some reason not so long ago labour got atos involved to do all the testing, why ? The economy was booming, millionaires were only paying a top rate of tax of 40p. The only reason I can think of is that too many people were being classed as to ill to work for labours liking so they made a choice to involve atos and to move the goal posts to make passing the test much harder, also don’t forget that not so long ago Ed was saying that he could tell if a wheelchair user was fit for work or not just by looking at them.

  • John Reid

    Isn’t tom Watson trying to get back the RMT a union which financed another socialist party ,a few year ago and as such was expelled from funding labour, I’m all for not having Lord Sainsbury fund us (although he can still fund progress ,which support us) as long as the rmt aren’t allowed to fund labour too, I realise that individual m.P.s can be funded by the RMT ,outside of them funding the party,

  • AlanGiles

    Reading this guff about the “loony left” it is hard to believe that John P Reid is a big name in Havering LABOUR party. No wonder all the current Havering MPs and all but 3 of it’s councillors are Conservatives! Sad but true.


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