Labour have had a wasted week – we can’t afford any more of them

17th June, 2014 8:16 am

We are too near the General Election to excuse the lack of focus we have exhibited over the past week. This shouldn’t need saying. In the twelve months before a General Election the absolute focus has to be on winning and to get there you have to push your party’s positive messages and its attacks on its opponents, and not allow yourself to get dragged into distracting debates. Mea culpa, because a look at my Twitter feed will show I got dragged into debating some of these issues at great length this weekend. It isn’t really people’s fault, because the issues concerned are objectively important and raise great passions. Which issues am I talking about?

  • Tony Blair’s essay about Iraq, calling for intervention to stop ISIS and justifying his actions in 2003. Undoubtedly an emotive issue and hugely important both in terms of the current crisis facing the region and the ongoing debate about the rights and wrongs of the Iraq War.
  • The infamous Sun photo. Again, hugely emotive because of the Hillsborough tragedy and particularly for the people of Merseyside, and hugely important in terms of what it says about the relationship between politicians and News International after Leveson.
  • The spill over from the “Trojan Horse” issue in Birmingham into a wider debate about state funding of faith schools. Again, hugely emotive because for some people faith schools are essential to their way of life and sustainability of their community, for others they are seen as divisive. You can’t get much more important than a debate about the ethos of the schools our children are educated in.

But important as all these issues are, they are not what will determine the outcome of the General Election.


Tony Blair is not up for election this time. Labour is led by someone who symbolically moved us on from Iraq in his leadership campaign and was not personally implicated in the decision to go to war. We are not about to commit military forces to stop ISIS. The online venting against Blair is about historical anger about a decision over a decade ago – all Blair is nowadays is an ex-statesman reduced to writing essays as he is no longer in power. We have to decide if we are going to continue to define ourselves by what we think about Tony Blair, whether positive or negative. Most voters will think we are weird, and stuck in the past, if we do. A minority of voters (primarily those who went from Labour to Lib Dem in 2005) remain deeply exercised by Iraq, but for most, even those who disagreed with the war, it is now a historical issue, long overshadowed by more recent events nearer to home like the recession.

The Sun photo undoubtedly deeply offended many people, particularly because of the crass timing clash with the Hillsborough inquests. It was an unforgivable self-inflicted error. But it will largely have passed the majority of the electorate by. If you asked the average voter what the Sun means to them they won’t say “Leveson”, “Hillsborough” or “Wapping dispute”, 5.5 million of them will say “my favourite paper which I read every day” and several million more will say “I don’t read it usually but didn’t they stick a free World Cup special through my door last week”? Given that 68% of Sun readers are in the working class C2DE demographic, where we know we are losing votes to UKIP, we need to work out how we are going to speak to Sun readers if we are not going to engage with the newspaper they read, and are going to have to explain that our fight is with the Sun not with the people who read it.

The faith schools issue is not going to be an important one in the General Election unless we take leave of our senses and decide to pick a fight with the country’s religious leaders (we may discover that the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church still possess quite a political punch) and with the 25% of parents whose children attend faith schools. Given our historic dependence on the Catholic community, and more recently the Muslim community, as heavily supportive of Labour, we might be in for a nasty surprise if we listen to voices calling for the secularisation of state education.

I think what has happened is that after an immense focus on campaigning for the 22nd May elections many Labour activists have stopped, taken a deep breath, had a few beers and a barbecue to celebrate the World Cup, and decided to do what we most enjoy when not canvassing, have a good old row with each other on Twitter.

Luckily we may get away with this as everyone else in the country is thinking about the football, not politics, for the next few weeks. But we don’t have enough weeks until the General Election to waste many like this. We have to get back to the day job of a party seeking power without delay. At the top level exposing everything the Government has done wrong, setting out the way we would improve people’s everyday lives if we won, and winning back credibility as potential managers of the economy. At the grassroots level we need to be straight back out on the doorstep talking to voters about Labour’s policies (we can’t claim there aren’t any after the glut of recent announcements) and listening to (and acting on when they are local) their concerns. As we need to identify approximately 25,000 Labour supporters in every seat we hope to win, and we only have just over 323 days to do it, we need to get our proverbial skates on.

Let’s hope last week is the last wasted one.

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  • Local Heroescot

    In order to win the argument on the doorstep Labour have to be saying something different to the “inevitable austerity” message ! THe People have had enough no more cuts and no more austerity – it appears on the face if it the austerity has hit the poor and has had little or no impact on the wealthy! why should the poor have to suffer more of the same – it must be a different message or you will lose the election !!!!

  • Steve Stubbs

    The point about the Sun is valid. It is whether we like it or not the largest selling paper in the UK by a mile, and read by a large part of our target voters. Having another hissy fit all over the Sun is not a sure fire way of attracting votes and winning the next GE.

    The Sun apologised years ago about their Hillsborough coverage. They were wrong and admitted it. At the risk of upsetting even more folks, get over it.

    • Redshift1

      Easier to say of course when you’re not from Merseyside (and I’m not by the way – but clearly I’m more in tune with this sentiment).

      The Sun didn’t just ‘get it wrong’ they basically constructed a hate campaign against the victims based upon negative stereotypes of scousers.

      I admit this is a difficult one for Ed but I think you’re kind of trivialising the sentiment here.

    • Tokyo Nambu

      “The Sun apologised years ago about their Hillsborough coverage.”

      “All I did wrong there was tell the truth. There was a surge of Liverpool fans who had been drinking and that is what caused the disaster. The only thing different we did was put it under the headline “The Truth”. I went on The World at One the next day and apologised. I only did that because Rupert Murdoch told me to. I wasn’t sorry then and I’m not sorry now because we told the truth.” — Kelvin McKenzie, 2006.

      The subsequent “apologies” are equally insincere. Who cares what the now editor says? It’s what’s the staff then were happy to print, and the attitude they’ve taken since, and that’s utterly unrepentant.

    • Holly

      Going by what Harman has contorted into sensible English, the Sun is a lot more ‘valid’ than her.
      Her parents should be suing the places this clown was educated, or at least demanding a refund. What a waste of money.

      • JoeDM

        St Pauls Girls School – a very expensive private education needless to say.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          Same school (Boys version) as …………….er, Gideon Osborne. But of course that’s OK because he’s a Tory.

          • Holly

            Not that at all.
            It was Harman’s ridiculous position on Ed’s appearance with the Sun that just beggars belief) Her being ‘educated & all that.
            It would seem that the (Boys version) was less of a waste of money than the (Girls version).
            Or, more than likely, it could be that Harman is just a snivelling Labour hypocrite, who believes her own rubbish.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            You’re JoeDM’s spokesperson are you? Can’t he speak for himself or are you acting in concert?

          • Holly

            What is your view on what Harman said about Ed, and do YOU reckon Miliband was right to pose with the Sun…..Yet was also right in apologising for doing it?
            Is Ed Balls right to use zero hour workers?

            Stop getting so ‘hung up’ on the messenger, and try dealing with the message.
            I have no idea who JoeDM is, and if you’d stop replying to me for two seconds, I’d be able to read what he is saying.

          • geedee0520

            Osborne changed his first name to George by deed poll when he was 14. If he had been a transgender person who changed their name 25 years ago would you still refer to them as ‘Gideon’ rather than ‘Mary’ as they are now?

            Thought not

          • Duncan Hall

            No, because that would be discriminatory rather than funny.

          • Steve Stubbs

            Notice also that Anthony Wedgewood Benn changed his name to Tony Benn, at least for public purposes. Perhaps those who keep banging on about Gideon becoming George would also like to refer to that? Hang on, wasn’t he also totally against the EU? That would do him no good here then! He would be slated as a swivel-eyed UKIPPER no doubt,

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          Try abusing your Farage on the Bloggers4UKIP site and you’ll find that you can’t. Here’s their censorship policy:
          ‘Your comments may be moderated until Intense Debate decides your “reputation” is high enough to allow them through without needing approval. It won’t take long to be approved, just be patient’.

          Hitler would have been proud of them.
          However, you’re allowed to come on here and level all kinds of abuse on The Labour Party and its supporters. Explains everything.

    • Michael Murray

      If Ed Miliband had not supported the Sun’s World Cup campaign he would have been accused of being unpatriotic. Clegg and Cameron were photographed holding a free copy and Farage appears on the front page of the free copy along with a host of other celebs. Yet it’s Ed Miliband that is villified by our North Korean style, so called “Free” media. He’s the only one who is expected to apologise. At the Local elections Labour gained 324 Labour Councillors. In addition, three Labour Mayors were elected out of a possible five. The BBC’s own website said that if Labour gained between 300 and 500 councillors it would have done very well. Yet despite the fact that the Coalition between them lost 546 council seats (Tories down 236 – Lib Dems down 310) the narrative from the Tory Right Wing Media including the BBC was that Labour did disastrously at the Local Elections. This is what we are up against, Luke. Between now and the next General Election the right wing media will be doing everything to pull our strings and set us against each other. That’s why you are right to warn that we should not rise to the bait. The last time I looked on the UK Polling Report website there was a projected Labour majority at the next G.E. of 30. That’s what’s terrifying our opponents and why we should retain our solidarity. Those who are longing for us to return to government and repeal the Bedroom tax, freeze energy prices, repeal the Tory privatization of the NHS and do much, much more to rid this country of the Thatcherites expect no less of us.

  • Tokyo Nambu

    “At the grassroots level we need to be straight back out on the doorstep talking to voters about Labour’s policies”

    Look at the front page of the Labour Party’s website.

    No policies.

    No links to policies.

    No collected set of policies.

    Just a load of fluff about personalities.

    To campaign, you need policies. Labour don’t have policies, unless you’re willing to pick through the back-collection of press releases and try to figure out which constitute commitments and which are now inoperative. Miliband’s had 4 years to write a set of policies, but doesn’t appear capable of doing it.

    • Holly

      They are hoping the voters are still as thick as ever, and won’t know how to read any other political party’s name except theirs….
      Far fetched????
      If I had not have just snaffled half a slab of cake, (cream filled Madeira) I’d despair…
      But I have, so I won’t.

    • Monkey_Bach

      I hear the policy roll out resulting from Cruddas’ interminable review is set to begin next month. Whether this will turn out to be a good thing or not is moot.


      • treborc1

        Look lets not kid our selves the working class are not going to get sod all from the Tories, the issue is of course like always will they get anything from a middle class labour party.

        bank reform
        a modern growth agenda
        reform of the energy market
        welfare reform
        immigration reform
        crime, policing and justice
        adult social care
        constitutional reform
        a new devolution settlement
        reviving local government
        the balance between liberty and security

        Now then can you think of the policies.

  • Holly

    Harman’s two faced response to Ed’s Sun pose, ‘Ed was right to pose with the Sun’, and ‘right to apologise for it afterwards’.

    Ed Balls two faced response to zero hours agreements…..
    Ed Balls has used 4 employees on zero hours agreements in the last year. Ed Balls is the biggest user of employees on this type of agreement.
    62 LABOUR MP’s used zero hours contracts in 2013.

    One rule for Labour and another for everyone else?
    The REAL Labour members/supporters need to fight back, tooth and nail, and ‘deep clean’ the DIRTY Labour party of today.
    These two are not short of a bob or too, but are so dishonourable in their actions and behaviour, they are a disgrace.

    I will now sit back and wait for the ‘spinning’ incoming that, the Tories are this, that & the other, while their own MP’s are doing what they seem to dislike if a Tory is doing it, but are okay if it’s one of their own.

    Remember though, that this IS a site to discuss and debate Labour issues, of which Balls and Harman are part of….I’m simply discussing how these two feel fit to behave.
    Hypocrisy of the highest order going on here.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      62 LABOUR MP’s used zero hours contracts in 2013…………………………

      This is not correct. Labour MPs employ 62 people on zero hours contracts. Your pals employ more people on these kinds of contracts. Zero hour contracts are completely wrong.

      PS When are you leaving the site and going back to a more natural home, like say The Daily Express blog, or Bloggers4UKIP or Conservative Home ?

      • Holly

        Ed Balls is not ‘my pal’, and he is the biggest user of this kind of agreement.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          No I was referring to Tory MPs who employ 77 people on zero hour contracts. Is he the ‘biggest’ user of zero hours contract staff? Evidence?

          • Holly

            Of course you were referring to the Tories, that’s what ‘good’ little Labour bods do when they want to distract from unpalatable facts.
            I knew you would, and even mentioned it in my comment.

            The Tories have not gone on a phoney war against them unlike your new shiny leader did….Same with the Sun…Phoney wars.
            It is like you saying you like/back the Conservatives when there’s a camera stuck in your face, yet make comments that are true to your real beliefs on here…in ‘private’ so to speak.

            Would you lower yourself, just in case someone somewhere likes what you say to a camera, yet do the polar opposite in reality?
            Do you REALLY want another phoney in government?
            What if Miliband can not stick to his own policies(which seems to be the case with some of his colleagues), and ends up being nothing like what YOU think he will be, and is more like I know him to be, because of HIS lack of memory over what HE took a stand on.
            You see, after four years, all Miliband & Co have shown is that they stand for nothing.

          • MikeHomfray

            Moderators – stop the Tory trolling

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            The site is rubbish Mike. Democratic Socialists of all persuasions should be allowed to have a debate without being troubled by Holly’s sh*te.

          • Holly

            You mean people who agree with you are not entitled to their say about Labour on a Labour site?
            In a previous comment you bitterly complained at other sites that did that.
            It is not as though I am making stuff up, because if I was loads of others on here would tell me so.
            I have every right to hold to account the politicians who plan to govern me as well.
            Or do you think I should just sit back and let them do the POLAR opposite of what they reckon they are against?
            That would be plain stupid, or lazy, or both.
            Crying to Mike says more about you and your attitude to others, than it does about LabourList allowing free speech debates.
            The obstacles you have in trying to defend these Labour bods are,
            1. Their historical record while in office.
            2. Their planning to use the same failed policies they used while in office.
            3. Their continued hypocrisy.
            4. Their lack of coherent policies.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            You make stuff up all the time. Here’s what you wrote earlier:

            Ed Balls is the biggest user of employees on this type of agreement.

            62 LABOUR MP’s used zero hours contracts in 2013.

            The reference to ‘biggest’ in respect of Balls is made up and the claim that 62 Labour MPs used zero hours contracts is also made up.


          • Steve Stubbs

            And there was me thinking you were in favour of free speech Bill. However, the solution is obvious. If ‘this site is rubbish’ as you claim, why are YOU still here? I am sure that Conservative Home (on which I have only ever blogged twice in recent memory) could do with a couple of SWP Trolls to add a touch of class to their vulgar assembly.

          • Holly

            Ah, but am I ‘trolling’ you, or is it you ‘trolling’ me?
            What is a ‘troll’?

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            What’s Left Foot Forward like?- I’m thinking of migrating.

          • Doug Smith

            I’ll chip in, as long as you’re buying a one-way ticket.

          • treborc1

            See you then a few from here have been on that site since it started.

          • Holly

            See ya.

      • Whats the difference? ou are just plaing with words m8

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      Of course the Bloggers4UKIP site is a site where people like me would never be able to say what a load of sh*ts they are because it’s a site that only allows sycophantic praise of the leadership. Here’s the censorship line they adopt lifted straight from the site:
      ‘Your comments may be moderated until Intense Debate decides your “reputation” is high enough to allow them through without needing approval. It won’t take long to be approved, just be patient’.
      It’s the kind of censorship that Hitler would have approved of. Yet you come on this site and just abuse The Labour Party and those of us who support it. You abuse our acceptance of all views and opinions. What was that about hypocrisy?

      • Holly

        I am glad you stick to your true colours when calling others, and then complain bitterly that you are unable to name call.
        I mainly come on here to hold HM Government’s official opposition party to account for what they say, while they themselves are doing the POLAR opposite.

        If you take time to trawl through previous comments I have made about Cameron, you will find that I do not rate him one little bit.

        Between the ‘do as we say, not as we do’, Labour cabinet ministers, and Cameron’s lack of political will on major issues, (unless backed into a corner, and at risk of losing votes of course) my choices at the next election gets smaller & smaller.
        UKIP do not have a cat in hells chance in 2015, so would be a wasted vote. So I may as well stay at home.
        I belong to no political party, so can criticise all of them, back none of them, and pull them up when they ‘irk’ me. It is simply that Labour bods seem to do more ‘irking’ than others.
        What is wrong with them in their thinking process?
        Oh and in case I forgot to mention, yet another Labour MP, who has no idea of what she was on about, opened some fair or other, also irking some voters.
        Making out Labour politicians are the be all & end all, is silly.
        NONE of today’s politicians are.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          ‘I belong to no political party, so can criticise all of them’……

          No you can’t -try criticising Farage on Bloggers4UKIP or slagging off Cleggy on Fib Dem Voice and let me know how you get on.

          • Holly

            Neither of these two are in ANY position to govern the country, so what would be the point?
            Labour are trying to make businesses stop doing what they are doing themselves. Yet as ‘bright’ as you think you are, you do not wish to admit that is…erm unfavourable behaviour.

            When Cameron fails to do something that is vital, I say so, which, in turn does NOT automatically mean I will vote Labour, UKIP, or Lib Dem. It means that in order to stop duff politicians from continuing to be duff, someone, somewhere has to tell them.

            When anyone criticises Labour politicians on here, they are either accused of being a Tory/UKIP troll, or that they MUST support the Tories/UKIP then, when they probably don’t.
            I DO NOT! and it is all down to the leaders, who would go on to be Prime Minister.

          • UsefullIdiots

            Holly, the first sentence of your last paragraph sums up nicely the debate stifling agenda of more than a few around here. I wonder what they fear?

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            When was the last time you commented on Conservative.Home?

          • Holly

            Quite a while ago now. Since what’s-his-name left.
            Banned it would appear.
            To this day I do not know why, but it’s is either because I spoke my mind on what I thought of Cameron once too often, or I don’t support UKIP.

      • MonkeyBot5000

        “Your comments may be moderated until Intense Debate decides your “reputation” is high enough…”

        I don’t know how they calculate reputation, but I’ve just upvoted all of Holly’s posts to see if that helps.

        Fight the power!


  • kb32904

    Is it beyond anyone’s capabilities to put the text below the rosette into suitable paragraphs ?

  • MonkeyBot5000

    Stop thinking of them as “Sun readers”. That’s what caused the problem with the photo. Somebody thought it would get him votes with the Sun-reader demographic, but it was basically just doing a free promo for the Sun out of fear of their power.

    I wasn’t offended because my Liverpool-supporting grandad was at Hillsborough, I felt patronised because it looked like the caption should be, “Hey poors, I support the football too!”

    The Suns circulation amongst C2DE adults is less than 4 million. There are over 22 million C2DE adults in the UK. For 18 million of us, he posted a photo of himself with some junkmail.

    • Dan

      Exactly. Even leaving aside the ethical issues, did his team really think the average person would think “ooh, he reads the Sun and he supports England, just like me! That’s all I need to know to vote for him!” People are really not that stupid or shallow when it comes to politics, despite what some people at the top of the Labour Party seem to think.

      If it was a case of Ed writing an editorial for the Sun, taking a Labour message to an audience who otherwise wouldn’t hear it, then maybe, MAYBE, that would’ve been a bit more understandable. A gratuitous plug for the paper was always going to look like a shameless, desperate, cynical attempt to grab votes.

  • novascotianboy

    The Sun error was, and remains, important. it’s important not just because of the offence it may have caused some people. Ed – and the other politicians who gurned for Rupert – play into the myth that ‘The Sun can Win It’. It can’t. I don’t have a problem with Ed Milliband occasionally writing in ‘The Sun’ – as Luke says, it has a huge readership – but in posing, uncomfortably, with ‘The Sun’ Ed and others are not making any substantive contribution a political debate. What they are doing is endorsing ‘The Sun’ – because you have to read The Sun if you’re an England supporter, apparently – you have to read ‘The Sun’ to show you’re ‘just like us’ – and an ‘ordinary guy’.
    What the photos demonstrate is just how much control ol’ Rupert and his rag still exert over our politicians – as, post Leveson, they’re still all lining up to get their pictures taken to help him flog his newspaper. Seeing a picture like this makes me think ‘nothing has changed’ and makes me less likely to want to vote Labour.
    This error is also important as it’s yet another goof from Milliband and his team – and he really can’t afford any more goofs. That, in the lead up to the election where voters continue to see their pay lag behind inflation, another housing bubble building, public services being run down, and real anger about a tax system which helps the super wealthy with tax breaks – or helps them to avoid tax altogether, Labour should be much more than a measly few points ahead of the Tories. That we’re not is an indictment of the quality of advice that Ed is getting – or the quality of advice that he’s willing to listen to. Either way, it’s needs sorting pronto.

    • Steve Stubbs

      “What the photos demonstrate is just how much control ol’ Rupert and his
      rag still exert over our politicians – as, post Leveson, they’re still
      all lining up to get their pictures taken to help him flog his

      So consider for a moment why that should be? Ah yes, people in their millions buy or read the Sun. More than read all the labour supporting papers put together. They seem to do it through choice, I have not observed any of the PC brigade forcing them to do so.

      Disclaimer – I do not take or read the Sun or any other daily as a matter of routine. I do see it while waiting for my takeaway order in the local Chinese, who always seem to have three or four copies, mostly at least a week out of date, lying there. But glancing through them does make me wonder why people pay good money for what is essentially a comic.

      • novascotianboy

        I take your point, Steve, but I still think the photo is misjudged. Millions of people buy Oxo cubes too – should Milliband get a photo of himself holding an Oxo cube plastered all over Oxo cube boxes? I don’t know why I’ve decided to pick on Oxo – but perhaps you get my drift. Obviously Milliband et al. are trying to curry favour with Rupert by gurning for him with his newspaper – my questions is – if they are willing to do something so demeaning (as I do think it’s demeaning) – what else are they willing to do for News International to get good press? I also do think that, despite the circulation of The Sun (which I find both inexplicable and depressing) it’s influence is very overestimated. I’d be curious to know what percentage of Sun readers vote – and would suggest that those who are likely to vote probably form their opinions based on a wider range of media and influences – not just The Sun. I could be wrong – but I do wonder.

  • Dan

    I’m sorry, but this mantra of “stop complaining and get campaigning” is getting very tiring. I fundamentally disagree with most of Labour’s current policies (5 years more of austerity, clamping down on “scroungers”, public service reforms), and I am not promoting policies that I fundamentally disagree with. It’s really as simple as that. If the leadership wants the party to be “united”, then they’d better start actually taking the grassroots’ opinions into account, rather than just dictating policy based on what the Westminster bubble and media want.

    • Sidney Ruff-Diamond

      Hear, hear!

    • Steve Stubbs

      “then they’d better start actually taking the grassroots’ opinions into
      account, rather than just dictating policy based on what the Westminster
      bubble and media want.”

      About half of Labour’s candidates selected to fight in marginal seats at the next election have links to Westminster as former special advisers, party workers, researchers, lobbyists or MPs, research by the Guardian reveals.

      The initial findings of a new project to map the backgrounds of candidates for 2015 suggests Labour and Liberal Democrats are choosing more from the political classes than the Conservatives, whose contenders are overwhelmingly male and drawn from business and finance.

      Hmmmm.. Seems they are not listening then.

    • MonkeyBot5000

      “I am not promoting policies that I fundamentally disagree with. It’s really as simple as that.”

      But… but, you can’t just stop providing your labour to an organisation just because you don’t like what they are giving you in return….. oh, right… er…..

  • AT42

    …where we know we are losing votes to UKIP, we need to work out how we are going to speak to Sun readers if we are not going to engage with the newspaper they read, and are going to have to explain that our fight is with the Sun not with the people who read it.

    And we do that by allowing the leader of the party to be photographed holding the paper? That’s an endorsement of the paper as any ad man knows…

    As a member of the Labour party I am more than a little weary of being told to get out on the doorstep with policies I have played no part on developing and that give no real hope to the British people who are suffering in ever increasing numbers from the policies of this coalition government.

    In 1997 like many I had hope. The hope was unfounded…

    …we’ll not be fooled again…


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