A New Year

29th December, 2011 10:12 am

Before Christmas, I wrote about Labour’s ‘pretty bad year’. It argued that society has changed,the party had failed to respond to this and had become narrower, and the leadership has struggled to make an impact in 2011. In other words, it was fairly bleeding obvious stuff. Apparently not. A Labour insider took it upon himself to defend the party’s honour. It kind of proved my point about Labour valuing ‘loyalty’ above wisdom. But sometimes robust yet constructive criticism is the more ‘loyal’ course.

Despite my place in the vanguard of a new Militant-style entryist movement proselytising political realism and self-honesty, I’m going to stick with the analysis and plough on. I’m afraid a steady-as-she goes strategy as advocated by another commentator is in all probability inadequate to the task. The question is where should the party go next?

I propose three responses to the current predicament – re-emphasised by an ICM poll released, rather bizarrely, on Christmas day showing almost double trust Cameron/Osborne on the economy compared with Miliband/Balls. Labour needs to adopt a more humble posture; stop asking people to choose between their heads and their hearts; and fundamentally reform the party to show it is capable of embracing change.

The coalition has done some pretty darn stupid things on the economy: cutting short-term  programmes such as the Future Jobs Fund or investment programmes such as Building Schools for the Future spring to mind. The VAT increase could have been delayed while the economic winds were tested a bit further. Some things were out of their control: oil price rises and the eurozone crisis which is beginning to feed through. Without higher growth, eliminating the deficit is hard.

Labour’s response to economic turbulence and the coalition’s economic difficulties has been: ‘we are right, they are wrong’. Quite apart from the grating and triumphalist nature of this narrative it is also open to some question. The simple fact is that there is no easy way out of this crisis. Labour’s approach would probably have done more to support growth and jobs in the short-term at least. That is not the same thing as eliminating the deficit as some pretend: it would have had to borrow more to fund it and the sustainability of that is limited.

Yet, we have started pretending that there is an alternative universe where the Darling plan was implemented and nothing else changed in the last eighteen months in economic terms. We know that’s not true – Labour would also have faced the same external factors. And it is probable that Labour’s plan would have exposed UK debt financing to greater risk and may have had to adjust as a consequence. Acknowledging all this is part of the necessary humility in 2012.

Short-term and time-limited stimulus, as investment-weighted as is possible, can still be pursued as a short-term option as this will not add to the current structural deficit over time. Beyond that, Labour now has to either accept the Coalition’s overall deficit reduction plan or outline in detail where it differs from it and how that is financed. The ‘in the black Labour’ approach would look to shift as many resources to productive investment as possible while closing the deficit. Whatever the direction, this is most important strategic shift that has to occur throughout the party in 2012.

Without this more humble approach, Labour is likely to be asking people to choose between their hearts and their heads. People want a different economic approach but their head says that continuing very high levels of borrowing is too risky. They want to hear a clear voice of condemnation when people terrorise our streets and not hear it suffixed with ‘understanding’ and ‘complexity’. They can’t understand why those on out-of-work benefits – excluding the disabled and the retired – get a pay rise more than the average worker. When they turn to Labour, they want to hear a credible and clear line. Too often they experience a haze. This is not just about communication; it’s also about the party getting its heart beating in sync with the expectations of the majority. We can not afford to even skip a beat – such is the short attention span that people have for Her Majesty’s Opposition.

Which leads nicely to the third critical response: the party has to change itself to demonstrate that it is capable of meeting the needs of the time. The nepotistic guild has to be cracked open. We should reward capability and contribution over blind loyalty. Refounding Labour was a failure; it was micro and bureaucratic. We have a party that was most recently updated almost two decades ago. We now live in a world of social media, audience participation, and online democracy. The centralised machine is the poorest possible fit for these times.

The most recent leadership election should be the last with a block vote for MP/MEPs and trade unions. Instead, those two blocks should be able to nominate up to three candidates each (with a threshold). The final vote will be split 50-50 between members and trade unionists/supporters. The latter will enlist through a simple but clear declaration of support (as trade unionists currently do to vote).

This new trade unionist/supporters section will also have a local constituency affiliation. Candidates would have to fulfil clear and objective criteria to enter a parliamentary selection process (a trot filter!). The local party general committee would nominate no more than six candidates for a short-list that would then be voted on by members and trade unionist/supporters. Selections would be published six months in advance, expenditure would be strictly limited, and sitting MPs would have to refight in this closed primary process after two terms served in Parliament.

Finally, the party would use new easy-to-use web consultation software to help it in policy development. Its policy documents would be placed online in an easy to comment format for a six month consultation period. Following this period, the responses would be summarised and responded to in a reflective manner by the relevant shadow minister. Where suggestions are adopted it would be signalled. This would open the party out to experts, members, NGOs and unions etc, and campaigns. It would generate new ideas, broaden the dialogue, and re-connect the party in key areas of particular interest.

So there it is for 2012: a more humble approach; desist from forcing people to choose between their head and their hearts; and demonstrate that Labour is capable of changing for these times. The result will be a more sophisticated, more open, and more rooted party.

It will form a basis of more credible leadership and start to shift the discussion onto the real battle in the next election: Labour’s vision for an economy, society, and democracy which offers long-term opportunity for all or the Conservatives vision of a market-society which wastes human potential ruthlessly and needlessly. And it will set Ed Miliband’s leadership on an upward path. Happy new year.

Value our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

If you can support LabourList’s unique and free service then please click here.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Very well argued and strongly in agreement. I made  a similar argument with regards to the deficit at the Young Fabians’ blog http://www.youngfabians.org.uk/blog/index.php/2011/12/15/in-the-black-labour-a-roadmap-to-victory/  

    People need to be reassured that it is not a return to tax and spend but rather prudent investment for growth combined with a realistic appraisal of the scale of current public borrowing. 

    • Anonymous

      You need to get people back to work to have tax and spend and Miliband in his speech stated he’d follow most of the Tories spending, so the question is do you trust a party which basically made this mess or give the Tories a chance, difficult one

  • Sheffield member

    What Marcus Roberts doesn’t mention in the article you link to is that he was paid handsomely due to his links with Peter Hain to consult with members on the failed Refounding Labour initiative. Something of a conflict of interest.

  • Ianrobo

    Simple questions to those of you advocating this approach

    1) Do you believe the NHS should be privatised ?

    2) Do you agree priavte companies should run schools for profit ?

    3) Do you agree that fee paying schools should be converted to state schools at tax payer expense ?

    4) Do you believe benefits should be cut for disabled children ?

    5) Do you agree a third party company should assess DLA claims when they have no history of the patient ? (yes we shamefully started this)

    All of these are being done now under the cover of cuts and defecit reduction, should we agree with govt policy on these things ?

    You say we should step in with the majority but actually it is because the majority have been lied to about the current situation and how we got here that is part of the problem. We never got here because too much was spent on nurses pensions or wages. We never got here because the deficit was out of control pre 2007 (The tories were happy to agree to our spending plans then). We never got here because of bringing health and education spending up to EU average spending from 97 when it fell shamefully low under the Tories.

    No Anthony,  our failure is one to actually state we followed neo-liberalist economic thinking too much, our failure is to say the market went too far in their profit driven quest for quick money, for ponzi schemes.

    Our failure is not to suggest a national investment bank, born out of the mess of RBS and Lloyds, one funded from windfalls on things like G4 saleoff, bonus taxes from banks etc.

    Why follow Tory thinking ion this, they have been as much wrong about the situation as we were ! We need new economic thinking and not following teh same failures of the past.

    • Anonymous

      What is labour today, where does it stand, what does it stand for, we know Labour is the party of the middle class, who tend to vote with their heads not hearts, if you look at the working class people who work in Tesco Asda, and the retailers throughout the country, I would think most do not waste their time voting, they did once look what they got Blair.

    • GuyM

      You were spending too much pre 2007, whether the official Tory party line agreed with you or not.

      Labour pissed away billions of tax in the biggest boom of recent years and have ended up with not a lot to show for it.

      As I’ve suggested elsewhere, all you ahev to offer as a party and as a movement is more taxation and more state spending being chucked about. That really is all socialism has ever stood for, redistribution and money chucked about to your core vote.

      • Ianrobo

        Guy, why the hell do you post here, go to Con home eh and enjoy it with your buddies there, I will not answer you in a post debating possible labour policy.

        after all it was Tory and right wing  neo-liberalist policy that bust us outr fault was we followed the ponzi and get rich quick  schemes.

        • GuyM

          I find a lot of posters on Con Home to be nuts as well to be honest.

          You think I have some ideological love of anything Tory? I don’t.

          If Labour could promise to keep taxes and regulations down, so I had little in the way to fear from interference in my life I’d be likely to never vote again. Much as I didn’t vote against Blair in the beginning.

          And what “bust” us Ian was banks lending to people they should have never gone within a mile of giving money to. All those sub prime mortgages, the debt packaged up and resold.

          The way to avoid that of course is to tighten up lending considerably, which is happening. What that means in practice is a lot fewer of Labour’s core vote will be able to get mortgages. But that’s a price worth paying for avoiding bad debt on the same level again isn’t it?

          • Anonymous

            The way to avoid that of course is to tighten up lending
            considerably, which is happening. What that means in practice is a lot
            fewer of Labour’s core vote will be able to get mortgages. But that’s a
            price worth paying for avoiding bad debt on the same level again isn’t

            I do not mind that, so long as  you build social housing for the people who cannot afford those  mortgages.

            Otherwise those people living in the private sector decide that labour Liberal and Tory are not worth voting for, then you will have a battle

          • Anonymous

            Social housing? Tackle population growth as well otherwise you will be building forever.

            And that is NOT green…

          • Anonymous

            I cannot say what I think of the greens it would not be suitable.

          • Ianrobo

            OK Guy, we can be a more more rational now

            “The way to avoid that of course is to tighten up lending considerably, which is happening.”

            yes through neccessity it is but then you have the Tory policy of allowing 100% mortgages and cheap sell off of council housing.

            What is needed is something no party will advocate and that is a house price crash. For years our economy has been built on housing that link MUST be broken. You mention labour’s core vote but the voters that matter are in the average income bracket, like myself and I can not afford to move, not for the forseeable future because the costs are far too much.

            therefore we need a massive increase in social hopusing, private rents have to be brought down and this will help.

            we need an house price copllapse, yes many will be in negative equity but the current situation is only going to lead to further pain, this should be explained to people.

            and we must decouple the value of housing away from someone’s personal wealth and well being.

            Won;t happen because politically impossible to sell but the circle will never be broken.

          • Ianrobo

            I would add as well as Anthony claims we should do what the majority want. That sometimes the majority are wrong and you have to do what is BEST and lead not follow the public.

          • Anthony Painter

            Ian, I don’t claim we should ‘do what the majority’ wants at all. This is the big mistake that those on the left make- they assume that those in the centre are only there through political expediency. I hate to say it but I believe this stuff…

          • Anonymous

            Well yes but of course a majority may well think your wrong and keep you out of power for many years to come and that is democracy, by the majority.

          • Anonymous

            Yes Ian , you are correct about doing what is RIGHT.

            But defining what is “right” can at times be difficult. See Ed Balls and the deficit. What he is saying is that Darling’s policy was NOT “right”. The Coalition’s policy is virtually Darling’s.

            Now Darling’s policy was and is not popular….

          • Anonymous

            That is a problem who tells Miliband what is right a think tank, here is what one think tanks says….

             Lord Mandelson,
            McClymont writes: “Labour can sidestep the electoral trap being sprung by the
            Conservatives by refusing to be driven back to its core support. A patriotic
            appeal to the nation to improve growth and living standards, not a simple
            defence of the public sector and public spending, is crucial to foiling
            Conservative attempts to render Labour the party of a sectional minority.”
            Good old Mandy one can count on his view

          • GuyM

            Sending millions into negative equity isn’t something any party will contemplate for more than a few milliseconds.

            I was restrained in what housing debt I’d take on, it is easily serviceable, however many were not and their income levels are not high enough to wipe away a 50% property price fall.

            Links of property price to wealth and well being is here to stay… at least until I retire., sell up and move to the sun at least I hope.

            Social housing, all well and good, so long as you stay well away from the countryside and green belt and you don’t drop a load of oiks on top of me.

            My experience of social housing from when I was renting a decade ago was it was invariably a blight on any predominantly owner occupier area. A percentage of the population i.e. the underclass are simply scum who do not want to “integrate” with middle class home owners, so it is deeply unfair to ruin people’s lives by forcing such scum into their midst.

            But if you do manage to build so much that prices drop all you’ll do is drag even more EU nationals into the UK in search of a large welfare state to take advantage of and the housing shortage will continue except with a services shortage even worse than now.

      • derek

        While the tories are planning an 158Bn over spend? making condition easier to sack people, while unemployment rises? so what part of this coalition dismantlement do you agree with?

    • Anthony Painter

      Simple answers.

      1. No but delivery of NHS services has always been a mixed economy.
      2. No.
      3. If it is good value cf creating new schools and they meet their social obligations then I’m pragmatic on it.
      4. No.
      5. A third party- yes but the current system with Atos is clearly not working and is grossly unfair.

      • Ianrobo

        1 – It has alweays been state led and ensuring resources go to where it is needed. The new system pretends you can have the same level of funding in Tatton as in Moss side, clear nonsense

        3 – So how do you measure these ‘obligations’ then usually these fee paying schools are in already wealthy areas where the poor can not even afford to drive them there.

        5 – Why a third party ? If two doctors sign off on someone sick should we not trust them. Maybe a third party ot oversee that standards are kept but not to decide !

        • Anthony Painter

          1. I see your point though it’s patients who have needs rather than areas (though public health a separate consideration).
          3. As I say, it’s a value for money test that is necessary and I would expect the situation you describe to not be part of the deal.
          5. An independent doctor is a third party for my money.

        • GuyM

          1 You can’t rely on the NHS, in part due to what you say about standards across the country. It is the major reason I have health insurance.

          3 There are many school in wealthy areas…. wealthy often because those with wealth flock to them for the schools in order to avoid having their children forced to mix with the chavs and chavettes that frequent sink comprehensives.

          I can see no valid argument for forcing children all together, certainly not until standards of discipline and teaching improve in the worst schools in the country.

      • Anonymous

        But since Atos has been doing it for many years and to be honest most of the 2.5 million on benefits  went through the ATOS medicals what has gone wrong, it’s New labours WCA.

        But since Miliband back that, so why should I bother voting for Miliband or labour new old or newer

    • M Cannon

      The answers to the questions are:

      1) As Mr Painter says below, “no”, but there has always been an element of private enterprise in the “NHS”.  Private companies and partnerships build hospitals, supply products, are GPs etc etc and have been since the NHS sprang perfectly formed and immutable from Mr Bevan’s brain. 

      2)  Private companies already run some private schools for profit and do so very successfully.  I can see no reason why those children whose parents cannot afford the fees for these successful schools should be denied any opportunity of attending a school run by a private company.

      3) The idea that the state should nationalise private schools is so utterly daft that I cannot believe it is being seriously proposed.   I suppose if you consider that the principal purpose of schools is to ensure equality rather than education, then you might be in favour of the idea, but at present there is the small question of where the money is to come from not only to nationalise the schools but to pay for the education of their pupils.

      4) In general, no.  But it would be silly to assume that the present system is perfect and there may be a rational case for change which would result in some reduction.  So I would not rule it out in principle.

      5) I have no problems with a private company assessing DLA claims as long as they do so fairly and sensibly.

  • Anonymous

    Right what is the difference between Miliband and Cameron, after his speech about what labour spending would be, ah the same, we would not spend more, but we might spend it differently to help the young, to help the middle class squeezed, leaves a black hole for the rest of us does it not.

    Labour is now the party of the middle class, people who have always used their heads to vote and I suspect they did at the last election and now Labour have been thumped.

    Even the lower class would look hard at trusting labour, I just do not see Miliband as a bloke I could trust, he is the problem as are many of the Labour party middle class well off looking after number one. We have had enough of them perhaps a few Trots might wake you lot up a bit.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t see what Labour can or will do, beyond the “we are like the Tories only cuddlier and not quite so nasty” anthem played out by the rump of old Blairites remaining in the cabinet, and the young men and women in a hurry who will do anything to further their careers.

    The trouble is there are too many of the yesterdays men (and women) still round the shadow cabinet table – Mr & Mrs Balls….. whats the point of going through the card.

    What Labour needs are some new faces and a mass clear out of the old ones who are frankly not credible any longer.

    Ed Miliband needs to demote some old favourites, find new people with something to offer, and take no notice of the heartfelt “advice” of the likes of Mandelson, and of course, Blair’s crawler-in-chief John Rentoul who has once again repeated his “Ed Must be more like Blair” nonsense in the Independen, and who want to drag us back to 1997 and all the right wing garbage which followed.

    • Anonymous

      Agree entirely with Alan.
      Past experience  – Tories and Labour – suggest it takes a LONG time to change the old guard  – like a decade or longer..

      Would Balls go quietly?  As he clearly has Leadership ambitions…

      • Anonymous

        He may have the ambitions sadly does he have the backing, and to be honest I suspect labour knows if it now starts a leadership contest the Tories will be laughing and would win the next election.

        I do not see Ball’s as being the next leader,  I cannot see David Miliband either he’s to close to the Tories, it could be somebody new not yet seen sitting in the back ground waiting.

        Or it will be a battle which old labour loved so much…..

      • Ianrobo

        I voted for the most significant thing for Labour the new shad cabinet because names were promoted in that, a lot of thje 2010 intake have risen quickly. Maybe the old guard need to go but look aty how many still hand around the Tories, IDS being a prime example.

        • GuyM

          IDS though was found out as a bad political leader, whereas he is regarded as a good minister.

          His equivalent when in the military would have been a good Brigadier / L Colonel but not General material.

          Just because someone isn’t cut out for the very top does not mean you can’t use them elsewhere lower down.

          • Anonymous

            Guy you shock me. Just the other day you were telling me you didn’t want “idiots representing you politically”. Could there be a more vacuous idiot than Duncan-Smith?. He really doesn’t know what he is doing, or what he is talking about.

            One thing he was good at was maximising “expenses” though

          • GuyM

            On the contrary I think he knows exactly what he is doing and his proposed changes to the benefit system are long overdue.

          • derek

            Come on Guy, you can’t argue that? look at the unemployment figures and the requirement for JSA to seek employment or face penalties has been in place for decades.IDS is spending 3Bn more on implementing a position of change and unemployment isn’t reducing how is that a success?

          • GuyM

            I’m talking about attempts to simplify payments from the millions of types there are now and the intention to “make work pay”, something that hasn’t been top of priorities in the benefits system up until now.

            The changes themselves won’t have an immediate effect on unemployment levels, that’s down to the economy and market conditions. They will over time though hopefully have an effect, not least on outlook and expectations of work in certain areas.

          • derek

            But the change isn’t about improving pay? it’s about giving those on benefits less. Creating a more undeserving society isn’t some leap into a good place? 

          • GuyM

            Like it or not, the benefit bill can’t be maintained as things are unless you significantly increase taxation, which you will not be surprised to hear I’m against.

            Perhaps start by thinking about not supporting those on benefits having kids they can’t afford would be an additional measure.

          • derek

            And how do you propose that we stop religious people from producing children? all in all our population count is pretty consistent. 

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I think you’ll find that net immigration is a bigger contributor to UK population growth than religious people making out like bunny rabbits.

          • GuyM

            Yes the population count is consistent, just sadly too many being born to the wrong people as the French realised a while back.

          • derek

            Ifwe withdrawfromthe EuropeanUnionandendthe Europeanpassport,like yousuggest? will  we be better off? I doubt that andI doubt a reductioninbirthrate wouldhave anysignificant use toour benefit system.

          • Anonymous

            Don’t be a tease, Guy (or may I call you Colnel Blimp?)
            ” sadly too many being born to the wrong people ”
            Justwho are the “wrong” people? and who are the “£right people?

          • Anonymous

            An old Hitler idea….

          • Anonymous

            But Guy, old friend. Duncan Smith is p****g in the wind, if I may be so crude.

            He is a similar situation to Mad Frankie Field. He thinks the unthinkable, but there is no money available to implement his schemes. Osborn won’t play along with him anymore than Brown did to Field.

            We can all think the unthinkable, Guy. I might think that one day you will come round and stop regarding all teenagers as nasty little chavs and give them a first opportunity in employment. I can THINK that, but I KNOW you won’t.  Because you think they are all beneath you

            Similarily D-Smith dreams away and is ignored even by his own party.

          • GuyM

            I’d rather he think the unthinkable and perhaps start implementing the process of change than sit and do nothing thus doing the same as all occupants of his position before him.

            As to teenagers, I have no need to employ them (I ensure vacancies are graduate positions), nor any desire to waste time on them, therefore why should I (a question you have yet to answer)?

          • Anonymous

            Because, Guy, if we are not prepared to give them a start, and everybody was as bloody prejudiced as you, they would all be unemployed. They would have to claim JSA which would upset your sensibilities, and some would turn to crime, which would give you apoplexy.

            Never mind, you can’t hjelp being an old misanthrope – why not a new years resolution to stop pretending you are so superior?.

            As regards “thinking the unthinkable”, as I poin ted out Duncan-Twit will not be given the resources and money to implements his plans, so what is the point?. He is just wasting his time, and will be as effective as he was when he was the leader of his party – a record sacking, because even the faithfull could see he was rubbish.

          • GuyM

            When you think I can employ a teenager as a business consultant, BA, PM or client facing techie give me a shout.

            Until then they are of no use to me and I haven’t the time or inclination to train them either.

          • Anonymous

            The trouble is Guy you have made your views very clearf – you tar ALL teenagers with the same brush.

            Were you never a teenager? (no I suppose you were a Bobbysoxer)

            Still we all need a start in life. I was grateful for mine, and always remembered that soembody had to give me my first chance.

            A pity you don’t think back to when you were as green as grass. You wetre not always so omnipotent and cleever as you are today

          • GuyM

            Yep, I do treat the generation the same, totally useless to me.

            I don’t need any of them workwise and I haven’t any interest in training any of them either.

            If no job i am recruiting for can be filled by a teen then they are of no use and of no interest to me.

            Maybe you can take a load on as it doesn’t interest me in the slightest.

          • Anonymous

            As I told you Guy I am now retired, but I did enclourage and employ teenagers who were prepared to learn – and most did.

            People like you really annoy me. By your own admission you have no time or interaction with teenagers, yet, despite your ignorance, you are quite prepared to castigate them all as workshy and ignorant. How do you know this? Because you believe everything the CBI and your equally snobbish friends tell you.

            As you know nothing about them I would respectfully suggest you shut up talking about things you know nothing about

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            @ GuyM,

            18 months ago I spent a day at the senior school in my local town, with eight 6th formers who were considering studying medicine at university.  Not one of them had anything like a formed idea of modern medicine, they were still struggling with basic formulae, none of them realised why mental maths is important to doctors, but they all showed an interest, some showed promise, and all of them were apprehensive of the 7 years of training.

            You’ve got to give teenagers their chance to shine and to grow.  I was a teenager once, so were you.  Both of us would have been looked at by the middle-aged professionals and seen as being half-formed and with all sorts of modern ideas that they did not approve of.  For goodness sake, stop being so negative about our future.  I can confidently predict that when I am 90 and no longer capable of looking after myself that people not even born today will be running the country, consultants in hospitals, business leaders and so on.

            I watch over my children, I let them make mistakes and I show them how they can make other decisions so that they learn from their mistakes.  I talk with them and try to get them to think about how not to make mistakes again.  It is a learning process.  One day, both of them will be better than ever I am, and I am glad for it.  Give the young people a chance.  It is not always about the profit line.

          • GuyM

            I ahve no use for them Jaime, none at all.

            They can’t do the jobs I require people for and I’m not interested in taking on trainees.

            Your problem lies with people who could hire them but won’t due to their appalling attitudes

          • Anonymous

            You are a secret agent for Tory home.

        • Anonymous

          wait until the whip get hold of them, it will be the new old guard.

        • Anonymous

          You’re right about Duncan- Smith, Ian – he was a joke as party leader and he is an even bigger joke now, but nobody is laughing.

          But sadly, while Labour have people like Ed Balls at the top table, and Liam Byrne with his “there’s no money left” joke (if you can call it that), it will be a terrible reminder of the Brown years, just as, to have David Miliband back, would be a sad reeminder of the war-ridden Blair years.

    • Anthony Painter

      Very amusing that you consider writing this type of piece to career enhancing, Alan.

      • Ianrobo

        As I said to you Anthony, I think it is very good we can be open as a party and have this debate, other parties would rather shout up their factions and that stores trouble for the future.

        However I do believe we have to offer a clear alternative to the tories, one which is hardly communism but is a more regulated form of capitalism. Neo-liberalism and Laissex-faire economics as started by Thatch/Reegan in the 80’s bust us, why protect it now ?

        • Anthony Painter

          I agree. Neo-liberalism is there to be defeated and should be. But we’re in danger of letting it off the hook….and that is the singular reason why I’m writing this stuff. I want this country to be fundamentally changed yet I see the status quo reasserting itself. And this has happened before – and in my (not *that* old) lifetime. I can only make my case- that’s all I can do.

          • Ianrobo

            that is why Anthony I like Ed, because he was the first leader to mention taking on vested interests and ‘bad businesses’ thought that could have been framed differently. What we need are the policies though and I do please for paitence on that.

            Surely no one in labour can agree it is good that short term hedge funds came into Cadbury’s, forced a takeover for their own profit benefits than disappeared. The takeover led to tax evasion by moving the HQ to Zug (lets not pretend it was tax avoidance), led to 200 job losses and the loss of a prestige British business which actually was SUCCESSFUL.

            Until we find the words and policies to stop this but not be labeleld as communists then we will struggle a little.

          • Anthony Painter

            Here’s what I wrote about Cadbury’s at the time…..


            The problem Labour has is that people just don’t see it as credible with the economy. So it doesn’t get to make these bigger arguments. Sometimes the direct route is not the quickest….

  • Anonymous

    I like this piece it’s realistic and identifies real anxieties people have with the economy. I still have worries whether Ed M will appear credible to the electorate by 2015. Being from Merseyside I fully understand the importance of defeating the Tories.

  • A few quick comments:

    1. Does this approach place too much store by the need to be commenting on specific policy issues? Does it overestimate the degree to which the public are paying attention at all to these issues? Isn’t the priority now to be an effective, intelligent and constructive critic of the government rather than an alternative government-in-waiting?

    2. I understand the unhappiness with the current choice of leader – really, I do – but should this be a pretext to again fart around with the way we choose the next one? Surely MPs deserve an effective veto over who leads them as no party can last long with a leader chosen over the head of MPs?

    3. Any internal changes to the way we select people and make decisions should break new ground for the Labour Party. That new ground would be an understanding of how representative democracy should work, how it can be renewed intelligently by the application of innovative deliberative approaches. It also requires an understanding of what the downsides of doing this badly are. I’ve barely met anyone within the Labour Party who isn’t functionally illiterate on these questions (and this could be a way of creating a gravitational pull on LibDem activists – no bad thing at the moment). Doing democracy well is, in itself, a fantastic strategy for social democrats to pursue.

    4. Is Labour as important as it’s broader diaspora? Isn’t the priority to look at ways that deniable outriders can make the weather for is as effectively as they have done for the tories? Labour seems to have no understanding of why this would be a good thing and has no clue on how to foster it. It’s obsessed with leadership in an age when leadership’s stock is plummeting.

    5. Whatever arguments I’d disagree with in these last two posts of yours, the one about the ‘nepotistic guild’ is a really important and powerful one with so many consequences. I’d suggest that it has implications for my first question here – why is Labour choosing the same old ground to fight everything on? We need to be a much better force for consumer rights – extending them to ‘taxpayers rights’ as well. And we should be eyeing the small business vote and making overtures to people in non-traditional employment. Even doing without large immediate successes would pay dividends.

    • Anthony Painter

      Paul, the purpose of the policy exercise I describe is to employ innovative deliberative approaches. It’s not about building support per se; it’s about engaging interested/specialist voices in an open way. It would need expert handling to ensure that the process works in an informed way.

      On the leadership, the MPs, of course, don’t have a veto in the current system…

      I disagree re leadership- it matters – but I agree with your cry for Labour to spot new constituencies of concern and engage them – my online deliberative approach is part of this.

      • I should, of course, excluded your good self on the ‘functionally illiterate’ front 😉

        My comments on ‘leadership’ are a bit weak insofar as there’s not a quick fix to this one. But the quality of local representation within Labour is very poor and the kind of deliberative reforms that you’re suggesting need to make participation in Labour policymaking something that is attractive to do again (?). It seems to be more about chorusing than capturing insight at the moment.

  • While I agree with the premise of the article there is a small point in it that is bugging me (sorry to be pedantic). While it is entirely right to say the public are being forced to choose between Darling and Osborne plans (and they are choosing Osborne) it is not because of a heart vs head dilemma. Very few people (if any) vote with their heads. How many people read party manifestos, adding up all the good policies for them, all the bad ones, and cast their vote accordingly. No, the answer to why they are choosing Osborne is they are following their hearts. People want to feel secure. The Osborne narrative about economy is easier to follow and accept and his rhetoric reassures them that something will be done. Labour by contrast just sound complacent. The Autumn statement was THE opportunity to assume the deficit reduction mantle from the government and we passed at it.

    Also, I agree with your 3rd point about organisation. I do think that a lot is being done to reform the party though, including federalisation of the party in creating the post of Scottish Labour leader. However the reforms thus far are not what you would call brave. I always hear from a lot of people that OMOV and internal party democracy is not what ordinary people are crying out for. While this is true, it misses the point. Switching to OMOV would be big and bold. It would make people sit up and take notice (something they are are not doing at the moment). My biggest criticism of the party at the moment is that everything we are doing safe. People like bravery in their leaders, that is why the Tories have astutely began the narrative that Ed is a weak leader.

    Courage is the most important quality a politician must have, and we need to see more of it from the Labour Party in 2012.

    P.S Somewhat unrelated but links in to the notion of what the way forward for 2012. The big election in 2012 is not the London Mayoral, it is in fact the Glasgow City Council elections. Lose Glasgow and the union is well on it’s way to dying.

    • Anthony Painter

      Yes, Matthew I see your point. Heart and head are metaphors of course so feel free to substitute alternative frames.

      You are right about the purpose of party reform.

  • Mr Painter, you still ignore Labours real problem, that New Labour was based on a Lie. You convinced many voters they could have high spending & low taxes. It was a con & while The whole Party took part The Blairites have to take the most responsibility.
    I dont know if theres any point apologizing to the voters but you should at least admit the truth to yourselves.

    PS you do need to sort out a couple of internal problems as well, your massive debts & falling membership.

  • Peter Barnard

    @ Ian R,
    You are absolutely correct on housing costs, Ian, although not perhaps a “crash”, but some more gentle correction, ie static house prices while incomes rise. That’s a mere detail, however.
    The fact that the money that’s spent on a mortgage can’t be spent on consumption (and consumption = employment, even with our present level of imports)  needs hammering home.

    Given that the present level of house prices is greatly disadvantageous for the under-40s trying to nuy their first home, I would have thought that economically sensible housing proposals would resonate with that demographic sector – and let the Nimbys and all the other vested interests go hang.

    • Peter Barnard

      Sorry about this comment appearing at the top – still haven’t got to grips with this new layout, especially when someone’s name pops up in a box when I respond to a comment.

    • Ianrobo

      indeed, the vested interests want 100% private rented as they can screw the state and indivduals involved. We should be using windfall money as first concern to build quality new social rented stock. IF you do this then the costs of building gets driven down due to economies of scale and rents can be brought down.

      Other countries manage to understand that owning your own house is not the be all of life and do fine , thank you.

    • Anonymous

      and let the Nimbys and all the other vested interests go hang.

      Easy to say..

      You want another 5 Northern Rocks? A house price crash is the way to get one…

    • GuyM

      Sorry, not in the slightest bit interested in countryside / green belt being built upon to any great extent, it would be a disaster.

      Nor am I interested in having social housing being dropped into home ownership areas.

      Revitalise inner city areas and use brown field sites all you like though.

  • derek

    @Anthony, why should labour change? it seems to me that your script is being written with invisible ink. Change to what, remember when we changed to new labour, all we did was to alienate our core vote and we had the very uncomfortable position, where the tories would attack labour policy as being to the right, that caused us a lot of votes.Last week in the Scottish parliament Ruth Davidson attacked the SNP on employment figures, this kind of stuff resonates with the electorate. Anthony, the party on the left is now the party on the right, Jeez! that’s get on our knees and pray that we don’t get fooled again.

    • Pourmia

      You are assuming that Anthony was not happier when the party was Tory lite, why do you think he spends his time constantly criticising the party under Eds leadership.  Lets hope it remains that way as this is the first time in a long while that I am not apologising for being a Labour member – way to go Ed. The more Ed is criticised by this bunch the more I know he is doing a great job.

  • Daniel Speight

    Despite my place in the vanguard of a new Militant-style entryist movement…

    Candidates would have to fulfil clear and objective criteria to enter a parliamentary selection process (a trot filter!).

    Yes but come to think of it I can’t think of any Trotskyists causing problems inside the party for many years. It also doesn’t seem to me that they were the ones who lost us the last election or fiddled their expenses. In fact they seem to have stayed away for quite a while now. On the other hand you are quite right that we have seemed to have suffered entryism from the opposite direction and maybe we need another filter, a Blairite filter, to remove the far right.

    Apart from that empowering the CLPs seems a fine idea although I would like to see a constituency reselection panel before every election, not just after two terms.

    • Anonymous

      Spot on Daniel, Who caused all the problems for Blair (apart from Blair himself)?

      Mandy, David Blunkett, Tessa Jowell, Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon,  Alan Milburn…. etc etc etc

      – each one of them “modernisers”, right-wing and Blairite. And greedy. But then Blair and greed go together like fish and chips or peaches and cream.

      In the expenses saga about the only left wing miscreant was Harry Cohen for the rest….Blears, Purnell………..

    • Anonymous

      Nothing wrong with what was it being a called a broad church, we removed the Trots we removed the militants and we ended up with a smaller church of New labour, now labour talks about this being a broad church of mainly new labour and liberals before long it will be hard to find a dam socialist.

  • GuyM

    In response to the question below as to who “are the right people” to have children:

    Those who are able to pay for their upkeep themselves without resort to huge funding from the state i.e. those in work who can provide the right example.

    Not those who live on benefits or for whom work is at best a distant cousin never seen in the last few years.

    There is no moral reason why those in work and paying for their own children should have to subsidise the workless to have as many children as they want with little consequence.

    The French chose to incentivise their middle classes to have children, I’d prefer to disincentivise families no benefits from having further children i.e. slightly increase child benefits for the first and maybe second child, but remove them completely for further children

    • derek

      I didn’t know you were a big fan of the French, that goes against Cameron’s thoughts but are you also saying we should have the same benefit structure as the French?

      • GuyM

        Not in the slightest, I am saying the French recognised the same problem i.e. that the “right” people were not the ones having the children, I didn’t say I agreed with the solution they came up with.

  • Labour Loyalist

    Labour needs to lose its timidity.

    I wish the leaders of our party would just spell out clearly what needs to happen and have the guts to promise to do it. It shouldn’t be difficult. This crisis is a crisis of capitalism, not socialism. But Miliband can’t seem to bring himself to actually say this out loud for fear of offending the Tory press.

    I also wish our leaders had the guts to admit that the last Labour government carried on with too many failed Tory policies which should have been reversed – like PFI, bus deregulation, bank deregulation, tuition fees, pandering to the Daily Mail, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely,  excellent article articulates all the issues we confront including “the shrinking cake ”  problem (i.e. there is no easy way out of this crisis and we must invest productively for future growth  ) ; we can no longer just transfer money via tax credits to those families on lower middle/ above median  incomes  or even transfer payments  to larger families who are “under-reporting”  their income to avoid full income tax and then who then claim tax credits as if its a right. Tax abuse at all levels is a big issue and is openly discussed by many voters.

    We do indeed need to have an image which is realistic for the next 5 years; the voters do not accept,  for example,  that Labour’s past soft approach to welfare payments is now feasible.

    The Autumn statement proves they are correct as its implications are now only slowly sinking in. Of course we have to consider ” redistributing the pieces of the cake”  to make our society more socially just but we must acknowledge that for the UK that cake will go on shrinking for some time yet.

    • Anonymous

      cake it’s benefit not bloody cake, I can live without cake I cannot live without benefits, god help us all

      • Anonymous

        Respectfully by “cake”  I really  mean how we allocate our economic resources  in the UK – the new challenge is 1) its shrinking (so less for welfare benefits etc.,)  2) a lot of it must be spent on productive investment which will promte UK growth 3) we need be hard on tax/benefit scams to make sure we are fair to all. This is I believe what our voters want and they perceive as serious.

        • derek

          Leslie48, but it wasn’t the benefit claimers that caused this recession and our resources are being stretched because unemployment is rising, please don’t try and force the round peg into the square hole? the private sector didn’t take up the slack from the public sector and the fore told double dip really began 12 months ago.

          • Anonymous

             Derek Agreed,  what I am saying in the spirit of Anthony’s article is we recognise the new realism and this must include hard choices between public costs on “productive investment ” which helps our economy expand and costs on welfare most particularly tax credits which seemingly is/will be reduced for those on reasonable incomes etc.,

            Maybe there is no alternative and I think the voters know this. I know so easily we can go into Daily Mail type propaganda ( where working class abuse of benefits is reported endlessly). But we have to go with the voters on this – they know people who take such benefits by reporting a lower income etc., The challenge for Labour is to articulate social policies which are fair to the deserving poor such as the disabled but recognise Tax/Benefit abuse also. The voters  are realistic we must trust them they want a fair society too and despise the bankers like we do. .

          • derek

            Leslie48, Society has been driven by the greed culture for over 30 years and what we have is a protectionism culture where those with the most want to build a garrison around their wealth while they put the boot into the most vulnerable and that’s not acceptable to me. Labour must make the case and face the challenge to create that elusive employment, only by having more jobs can we reduce the unemployment costs, labour must become the party that has the bottle to deal with the social housing problem, so it’s full employment and a home for those who need one, a society built on the bases of co-ordinated help rather than individual desires, Leslie we simply can’t have first class schooling, homes and jobs without a credible taxation system, the idea of a low tax economy is deadwood drifting off into nowhere land. I no longer see the dream but demand the process, join me and the labour party to help Britain help all it’s citizens.

          • GuyM

            What you call greed is what I call working for ones own benefit rather than being fleeced by the taxman.

            With the greatest respect to you and yours Derek, whilst I am happy to contribute to universal state services that you may use (NHS, Education, Libraries etc.) I am not happy to be taxed in order to redistribute income from me to you or anyone else.

            I want to keep my wealth, not least as I do not trust the NHS, state pensions, old age care that the state provides so I wish to pay for my own additional support, which means I do want to “buld a garrison around my wealth”.

          • “the deserving poor” – this is a rotten and vindictive concept.

            How many of the 14,701 Hull job seekers chasing 930 local jobs are of the undeserving poor?

          • Anonymous

            My apologies – the term deserving poor can be misinterpreted. I am trying to articulate an issue which voters talk about a lot – the misuse  or overuse of tax credits to those under-repoting their incomes such as self-employed such as taxi-drivers, & tradesmen etc.,

            But the point stands Labour has to re-look at our welfare bill just like the Coalition. And of course we must deal with corporate tax abuse, tax evasion & tax avoidance as were missing billions from the state. Of course we must improve our infra-stucture, our technology base, our training , skills etc., and the other one – the shocking failure rates in urban secondary schools up north as reported by the weekend FT. Come on Labour MPs how can we allow the lowest success rates in the northern towns – we need to demand higher expectations & evolve national approaches to weak working class success.

          • Anonymous

            God help us if your on labour side.

      • Cake… ? That’s the Marie Antoinette solution. Let’s hope New Labour’s goggled-eyed attachment to all the fripperies of ‘high places’ doesn’t cause them to launch themselves up that creek.

        And to think, just when we’re in need of the Staff of Life…

        • Anonymous

          The creek  and the paddle has been stolen sadly.

    • Daniel Speight

      And yet Leslie the numbers don’t lie. We can see Britain’s GINI Coefficient, the gap between the richest and poorest, has been rising fairly consistently from the 1980s onwards.

      If we accept that more equal societies make more stable societies then the problem obviously isn’t with those on benefits getting too much. Yes someone has been getting a bit too much of the cake, but the numbers point towards Mandelson’s filthy rich friends.

      It seems equality is a word still written out of New Labour’s ‘how-to’ book.

      • GuyM

        But does “more equal” equate to “more fair”?

        The UK in 1980 was pre IT and web, it was a UK of large tracts of manual labour still.

        There was no global labour market, not even free movement of people in the EU.

        This is a knowledge economy now and if you haven’t a marketable skill then you are not going to command a salary close to those who do have such a skill, espcially in a globalised market for talent.

        The sooner some of you on the left realise this the better.

        • Daniel Speight

          It’s a shame you don’t have a bit more intellectual curiosity Guy instead of spouting the first thing that sprouts in your mind. Mind expansion didn’t the hippies call it? You may need a bit of that. I would suggest you read a bit about the Gini coefficient on income distribution and what is being measured then make a comment.

          Just out of interest, with the important work you do doesn’t posting comments at such early hours interfere with your work? I know why I’m up, but surprised you are and the amount of time you can devote to being on a Labour blog.

          Oh, and to answer your question, yes to a limited extent the more equal does correspond to more fair, although fairness is of course subjective. What’s more interesting is that countries with a lower Gini coefficient tend to be more stable societies with more inclusive populations. (Not sure if I’m using ‘inclusive’ correctly there, but I hope it carries the meaning I’m trying to give.)

          For reference and more information if you want it Guy try The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. It may help in that mind expansion I suspect you need.

          • GuyM

            It’s Christmas Daniel, no work for me (Iwork from home 2 days a week anyway on average) and as I was distracted by 3 rather good bits of software my wife bought me (Skyrim, SWTOR and LOTR War in the North…. for those of you in the know) I was up very late. All work and no play makes a very dull Guy.

            I’m well aware of what the Gini measure is, not least as the left are forever parading it about. I’m also well aware of it’s limitations, just like the inane “poverty” rankings where the poorest person could be earning £1 million and still be classed as in poverty.

            Anyway you tacitly agreed with my opening line by stating “fairness is of course subjective”. Personally I don’t regard it as fair to be taxed ever more heavily to lift up others whose value economically is negligable. Taxation to provide universal state services and a safety net for all is fine by me, taxation simply for the aim of redistribution is very unacceptable.

            Inclusive populations can go hang as far as I’m concerned, whichever “meaning” you ascribe to it.

          • Daniel Speight

            Ah, Christmas Guy, my apologies. I do tend to forget about Christmas in Britain and the long holidays. Yes I can see you play video games until the early hours of morning. Season’s greetings and best wishes for the New Year.

            Now having made my apologies, don’t you feel you are taking this ‘greed is good’ nonsense a little too far. If you really are pulling back to the smallest family unit you can fall back on it’s going to make it difficult to fight that class war you declared a few days back isn’t it?

          • GuyM

            Those PC games are my escape from a reality that I don’t much appreciate. I’m generally not a fan of humanity.

            I definitely am pulling back to my family unit. If you’d read what I have said elsewhere you’d see the only reason I vote Tory (when I do and I often don’t) is for lower taxes and more importantly having less state interference in my life.

            As to the working classes, they can do whatever they want, so long as they don’t mix with me or my family in any meaningful way.

            You call it greed, whereas I call it working for me and not you. I don’t trust state run union dominated services and never will. I don’t trust the NHS, the state comprehensive, the state pension, the state old age care….. so I want to keep my income to privately cover myself in those areas. Maybe I’ll fail, but it won’t be for want of trying.

            Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year to you to.

  • Anonymous

    Until Labour has credible leaders with a clear message it will not be listened to.
    Neither Ed is a credible leader.
    The rest is pretty well irrelevant, I’m afraid.

  • Anonymous

    To the usual suspects still trying to prop-up Ed’s utterly failed leadership, I simply ask the following:

    Right now, Cameron is dismantling our NHS.  He’s not doing it in four years’ time.  He’s doing it now.  There are no second chances on this one.

    Can you honestly tell me you are happy with Ed’s response?  When we spoke of “getting our party back”, is this what we meant?  An awkward individual, who has not put up a shred of real defence of our NHS.  By now we should have a national campaign, galvanising every town and city in this land against the privatisation of our health system.

    Instead we have an empty-suit, who offers no leadership, no policy and no backbone.

    • derek

      ovaljason, there’s no doubt that where Ed gets it wrong we voice our reasons against and your suggestion of a national fight against the privatisation of the NHS is what we need to do, oval, please try and read between the lines sometimes? @Mark Ferguson has indeed exposed the traits of the British press and media and we are making progress there, so the message is clear, that with unity we can progress.

  • Anonymous

    “Paid handsomely”? One day I think we may discover how incorrect that statement is. I’d be surprised if anyone made any money at all from RL, but that’s just my suspicion.


LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends