Labour activists are being sent naked on to the doorstep

6th March, 2012 2:12 pm

Ed Miliband was on the Victoria Derbyshire show today, and received a somewhat predictable roughing up. He was there to talk about his “Made in Britain” speech, but instead was hit with a wall of (quite often personal) attacks.

That’s an occupational hazard for all politicians when facing a radio phone in – especially Derbyshire’s – where the only people who are motivated to call in are those who want to tell you how rubbish you are. No-one was calling in to tell Ed how thoughtful his squeezed middle rhetoric was, or how they believed Labour’s five point plan for jobs and growth would get the economy moving again. Why would they?

I’m obviously being unfair. I can’t think of any British politician who would get a positive reception from Derbyshire’s callers. The public perception of politicians is so low I imagine a Nelson Mandela / Aung San Suu-Kyi double act would probably get a rough ride.

But Ed doesn’t do himself any favours, because the conversation in Britain’s homes, workplaces and pubs when it comes to Labour (if indeed it comes to Labour at all) has shifted decisively – to what would you do?

And the honest answer is, we haven’t got an answer.

Months ago I said that “Ed needs to come up with some flagship policies that show what he is about, and would prioritise, in government” and in fairness Miliband adviser (and Lord) Stewart Wood responded with five solid things that Ed Miliband’s agenda of responsible capitalism means. But as I said at the time none of these are quite what I meant by flagship policies.

Well my pulse is still not racing, and the lack of a big policy idea, something that the public at large an identify with Miliband as “What he’s for”, something the Labour commits to implement above, beyond and before everything else is a real problem.

What Miliband faced today was a concentrated and unpleasant version of what many of us face each weekend on the doorstep. “What are you lot for?” “You’re no different to the Tories?” “What would you do differently?”

And we can waffle on about five point plans that not even party hacks really understand, or squeezed middle theories which make sense but have no policy implications as of yet. And we can use local examples on parking, and development and housing – as we must. But that’s not going to turn around someone’s perception that Labour is out of ideas.

Labour activists are being – to misquote Nye Bevan – sent naked onto the doorstep, without the national policies or direction we need to succeed. Today Ed Miliband got a taste of what’s like.

This policy vacuum can’t last forever. It’s time to start filling it – and soon.

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  • The problem here is that different people will want to hear different things. What a disillusioned core voter wants to hear is different from a Tory-leaning waverer in Hertfordshire, or a former LibDem in one of the university towns.
    I also think that there is still some sort of longing for a messianic figure – who does not exist, and never has. there is still a tendency, as much as we may cringe at the antics of Putin, to want a ‘strongman’ who will lead us into the promised land. That’s not going to happen, and there are no easy or instant solutions, which is a difficulty for those who want them, whether they are on the right or left of the party.

    However, the phone in was largely people who were just disgruntled and whatever Ed had answered, it wouldn’t have made any difference. He asked both the negative callers what issues they were concerned about and they didn’t know or want to answer. There’s only so much that you can address people determined to be negative, particularly when the economic situation doesn’t allow rash promises which may not be kept.

    • But Labour can’t be all things to all people. Labour has to have a set of policies that will apply to everyone as the intention of a future government.

      I was out on the doorstep last year when it seemed opposition to the cuts was more pronounced than it is today but now there’s nothing that can be said to recommend Labour.

      It doesn’t have to be set out in detail, just an outline will do. But it has to be more than a ‘policy’ of increased ‘fairness’ – this just won’t cut it when it comes down the the hard-boiled stuff of doorstep encounters.

      • treborc

        The question is simple really, will the middle class be enough to vote labour back into power, are they stupid to reject the sick the disabled and those on benefits and those who are working class.

        If labour does not reclaim Scotland and to a degree Wales, will the middle class in England want a labour party.

        • That’s an important question but we can’t even begin to imagine how the English middle class might respond until there are policies for them to respond to.

          And unfortunately, as an ordinary L.P. member with a lifetime of work and business experience, there’s not much I can do to determine policy – this is all part of the humiliation of being an L.P. member.
          We just have to wait and see then accept whatever is handed down from on high.

          • Ian

             On the other hand Dave we can do what we can at a local level, we have local election campaigns and we should focus on the local issues framed around the national stage.

            For example the privatisation of policing and health we are against, we do not need alternatives to these, they are plain wrong. Any leaflet writer worth their salt, any campaigner on the doorstep can frame an argument around that.

          • treborc

            But around me people are really and I mean really disillusioned with all political parties, it’s not the rich or the bankers who are being hammered it is the bottom which are paying the price for this, and labour were going to hit the bottom as well.

            It’s going to take a lot to get the Tories out because I think those who did vote Tory will be doing it again, and I suspect those that use to vote labour will be so disappointed with what labours got to offer, they may not vote at all.

            Yes you can explain as my MP did about local issues, it’s not local issues which will make people vote, it’s social housing for the young, the sons and daughters who cannot afford housing, it’s employment, it’s welfare if your mother father son or daughter is ill.

            It’s whether labour can again regain it’s belief in all that once made it a good solid socialist party, and I do not think it can.

          • Are we against those privatisations?

            Labour introduced privatisation in the NHS. In the last week I have heard two ex-Labour ministers (one now a shadow minister) explain, on the radio, how effective privatisation has been and how proud they were to have introduced it.

            And the privatisation of policing sounds like a New Labour dream come true. I anticipate any objections from Labour’s front bench will be grounded on concerns for oversight and protection of core operational standards, not in opposition to privatisation.

      • Just wait until the child benefit and tax credits cuts hit. Then there will be a deafening scream.

        • Winston_from_the_Ministry

           Doubt it.

          You’d be amazed how many people don’t even claim it.

          • derek

            Names please? ……………ouch!

          • Winston_from_the_Ministry


          • treborc

            It still over a billion in pension credits, it’s belived that it’s near a billion in people who could have DLA.

            I do not claim housing benefits, i cannot be bothered

      •  Dave, I agree! I want the party to take a distinctively left-of-centre stance and bury New Labour for good

        • treborc

           But you cannot bury something until it’s dead and with Blair and his mates around New labour is anything but dead.

          Then you have Miliband  with his I want hard working people to be given priority over other people with council housing.

          You have Miliband over his, I knocked on a door and this person who said he was disabled could have done something.

          this Labour party may not be new It’s not labour either.

  • ChrissieOAP

    Do you know how the BBC 5 Live choose the callers they are going to put on show? I do, they are not random. You call in, a researcher talks to you about what you want to say, then they tell you we will call you back if the producer thinks you make a good point. THEY CHERRY PICK the callers they are going to have on. Stephen Nolan show does exactly the same.
    Don’t tell me Ed. deserved the grilling, it eas set up on purpose by BBC producers and editors. UNFAIR in my opinion.

  • Susan Press

    We should not need scripts to point out the Thatcher Redux of Cameron, the doubling of unemployment, the privatisation of the NHS , the Lib dems’ collusion in all of it. I have plenty to say and so should everyone else.

  • My main problem with Ed, and the whole frontbench is their failure to counter the lies and misinformation. A classic example is the claim that the deficit was caused by over spending. Ed’s response was that he was not going to apologise for more doctors and nurses, etc. This appears to be a standard response to the claim. This comes across as an acceptance that the claim is a statement of fact. Why not point out the fact that the Conservatives were promising to match Labour’s spending plans, and that the LibDems wanted even greater spending. You could point out that prior to the financial crisis the deficit was 2.7%, below the Maastricht Treaty level of 3%. Spending  under Blair/Brown averaged 40%(GDP), under Thatcher/Major it averaged 43.5%(GDP) .

    I totally agree that there is a policy vacuum, but I fear that when it is filled the leadership will be just as poor at countering the lies about it as they are at countering the lies about the Labour record.

    • KonradBaxter

      Saying “…the Conservatives were promising to match Labour’s spending plans, and that the LibDems wanted even greater spending…” is not an answer to Labour Spent Too Much. It also admits that it was true but whines ‘ Sir, Sir! look at what the other boys wanted as well sir!’

      Labour were in power and spent the money. What those not in power wanted is neither here nor there as they had no way to make it happen.

      • Dave Postles

        Their analysis was wrong, whether they had the ‘power’ to make it happen or not.  They were wrong.

        • KonradBaxter

          Yes. Based on what the government said  (like Iraq) they supported something that has turned out to be wrong.

          That still means than Labour has the responsibility for spending the money.  

          Blaming Labour for doing something they did is just a logical conclusion. It may well mean that Tory and LibDem were also wrong but their errors did not cost money.

          • Dave Postles

             I don’t believe that they didn’t have a mind (research officers and think tanks) of their own in those days, although I rather fear that they are mindless now.  Wrong yesterday and wrong today.

        • KonradBaxter

          Yes. Based on what the government said  (like Iraq) they supported something that has turned out to be wrong.

          That still means than Labour has the responsibility for spending the money.  

          Blaming Labour for doing something they did is just a logical conclusion. It may well mean that Tory and LibDem were also wrong but their errors did not cost money.

      •  And I’m glad we spent the money. There are tjings we shouldn’t have done – such as fail to deregulate the banks and over use of PFI – but higher public spending and job creation wasn’t one of them

        • LordElpus

           How many Public Sector pen-pushers do you need to create in order to make it look as though you’re doing something?

        • KonradBaxter

          Perhaps instead of living in denial then Labour needs to nuance the argument?

          ‘Yes we spent money. Yes we’re proiud of much of what we did spend it on. But we did waste some, squander some and we regret spending  some of it like on ABC. But we are proud of having XYZ’.

          Blanket denial of spending the money is just absurd as is denying that Labour were responsible for spending it.  

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      “A classic example is the claim that the deficit was caused by over spending”

      What was it caused by then?  The moon passing through Sagittarius?  Of course it was caused by over-spending.  If you don’t like that reality, try thinking of it as under-taxing, but that will not change either the mathematical principle or improve your chances of electoral success.

      The UK has not run a budget surplus since FY 2000/2001.  We’ve been spending more than we take in ever since.  And don’t give me the line that it’s OK because the tories would have done the same, they were just as idiotic as Labour on this critical matter.

      There is no excuse for any of the deficits run by any Government since 1965 when the existential threat of the cost of the second world war was getting back to more normal levels.  Our gross debt is now around £1 trillion, and it is the children of all of us, and children not yet born, who will pay in so very many ways for our generation’s total lack of discipline.

      I think what Iceland is doing with putting their ex-PM on trial for his role in their collapse is an excellent example for UK Chancellors and PMs – Lamont and Brown in particular.

      Look up the figures for yourself:

      • Brumanuensis

        Jason is absolutely right. It is interesting that the graph Jaime Taurosangastre Candelas links to, shows that the deficit was lower in 2006 and 2007 than in previous years, and if the Guardian’s figures are in real terms, lower than during the 90s general economic expansion.

        As for the ‘of course it was caused by over-spending’ argument, I’m sorry to be rude, but No It Bloody Wasn’t. This has been done to effing death. If you want an accessible account – one that is by no means entirely favourable to Labour – read Channel 4’s Fact Check.

        Key sentence: ‘By 2009/10 they were taking in about £112 billion less than they had expected to. And that’s why they needed to borrow so much. Yes, spending went up a bit. But really, they just had a lot less income than they had planned for’.

        On a more anecdotal basis, I will note that my trusty Begg, Fisher and Dornbusch primer saw nothing unusual about the UK’s deficit – published 2007 – and this in a fairly orthodox, neo-classical synthesis publication. 

        I could go into further extensive and tedious detail here, but I will make a number of brief points instead:

        1). The UK’s deficit does need to be reduced and it is an arguable point whether the deficit could have been smaller in the run-up to the recession. However public debt was lower than at most other phases in UK history, so it seems strange to single out that time alone as uniquely iniquitous.

        2). Any nation can run a deficit and reduce its national debt. As long as the rate of annual expansion of the national debt is lower than the rate of annual economic expansion, debt as a percentage of GDP will fall. A surplus or balanced budget is not strictly required.

        2a). This is not an argument in favour of running large deficits, merely an empirical observation that non-crisis deficits are not necessarily a major social evil, as long as their purpose is to finance non-consumption smoothing expenditure – this implies that to fund much public spending, taxes would have to rise.

        3). Countries with ‘good’ fiscal records prior to the crisis, have not necessarily fared well since. Spain and Ireland both had budget surpluses on average, between 2000 and 2007. Italy’s debt/GDP ratio was improving and its size was more down to poor growth, than over-spending. The obvious exception is Greece, but the Eurozone crisis does not imply a connexion between poor fiscal discipline and debt servicing problems (

        4). If  you wish to use Reinhart & Rogoff’s take that public debt becomes toxic above 90% GDP,  you should be aware that the correlation is based on a single period in the mid-40s, when the US economy was going through rapid demilitarisation following the end of World War II. It isn’t a robust correlation, in short.

        5). The UK’s low yields are almost entirely down to the BoE’s QE programmes, not anything George Osborne has done.

        6). Austerity invaribly stunts growth. Even the IMF believe this now. Ergo, the odds of the government’s approach yielding spectacular results are, barring something remarkable, unlikely.    

        Oh and btw, we’re still paying Napoleonic War debts – look up Consol Bonds. Damn Wellington and that crippling debt we were burdened with. Selfish bastard should have just let the little Corporal walk all over Europe.

        I digress. 

        • Brumanuensis
        • Brumanuensis

          Another matter. Quoting the size of the debt in absolute terms, is not useful. These things have to be understood as a percentage of GDP, which gives us an idea of:

          a). The size of public debt relative to national economic output.

          b). The country’s ability to sustain that debt.

          c). The evolution of a country’s debt burden in light of those factors – in absolute terms, the national debt of virtually all nations has been increasing perpetually, yet the affordability has varied. 

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          That’s all of interest to economists.  In the real world, we ran a deficit from 2000/1 until today, and our gross national debt increased annually.  Year by year fluctuations were up or down, but the direction of travel was constant over the ten year period.

          Rather than addressing the Earl of Liverpool’s failings as PM in 1815 (Wellington was not PM, clearly you have little grasp of history), perhaps you should address Gordon Brown’s failings as a self-announced Keynesian in running a deficit in 7 years of growth in the last decade?  It is a little more relevant to the here and now.

          The undeniable (Government figures) are that we have been running a deficit since 2000/1.  I don’t care if you think differently, all I will conclude is that you live in a parallel reality.

          The only long term solution is a return to balanced budgets.  Labour’s plans will not deliver that in the next decade at the least, more probably the next two decades.  Worryingly, Labour’s instincts are to keep spending on things as sane as giving families 1.3 times the average national income in terms of housing benefit.  Answer this: how many basic rate taxpayers does it take to keep a family on £28,000 a year in housing benefit so they can live in London Zone 2 and not in London Zone 5?  Plus the costs of administration of this largesse?

          • John Ruddy

            I dont think he said Wellington was PM in 1815. But surely he did have something to do with how much we spent on the war with Napoleon?

            I’m afraid your blinkers when confronted with the facts shows you really are a tory, Jaime. 

          •  Jaime: if you believe in large scale benefit cuts, then you will and should vote Tory- I really do think your attachment to labour is purely a sentimental familial one. There’s really nothing in your ideological outlook which even suggests social democracy

          • treborc

             Labour was the party that brought in those cuts, with it’s get rid of DLA, new medicals with ATOS it would not have taken Brown  long to tell us the rich should not have child allowance.

            Miliband is only now starting to look at where labour can have a battle ground with the NHS but it was Labour that started the sell off within the NHS.

            Labour is really struggling to get people to take it seriously

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Thanks Mike,

            I believe in economic reality, so that the entire country can live and prosper.  I’d categorise any cuts in benefits I would support – as for example the distorted housing benefit claims of a small minority – as a scale back, not a cut, but that is probably semantics.  I don’t support stopping housing benefit entirely.

          • Jeremy_Preece


            I think that the point here is that if the deficit is the
            issue, then why not collect the billions of unpaid corporation taxes and catch
            up with the big earners who get out of paying tax etc. Why demonise the likes
            of single mothers (usually abandoned by their ex-spouse etc.) who waste their
            pennies on buying bread and potatoes to feed their children. Seriously though,
            with child poverty rising, the crusade against the unemployed is misplaced.
            It would also be better to suspend the “make ‘em work” philosophy
            until we have the jobs there for them to take.

          • Brumanuensis

            As John Ruddy says, my reference to Wellington was a reference to his position as a prominent commander of British forces during the Peninsular campaign – a source of significant expenditure. I am a history graduate incidentally; I am perfectly aware that Wellington did not become PM until after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. I could have referred to Marshall  Beresford or the unfortunate General Moore, but that would have been less recognisable.

            I am curious as to where I confused deficit and debt. I am aware left commentators – e.g. Johann  Hari – have confused them in the past, but the point of my link to Krugman’s excellent post was to illustrate that debt and deficit trends pre-crisis have not necessarily resulted in greater market confidence post-crisis.

            It is important to distinguish between whether we could have reduced our debt further pre-crisis or run a lower deficit – there is a strong case we could have done – and arguing that fiscal trends either:

            a). Caused the crisis.


            b). Were unsustainable.

            I am very sceptical about both assertions. I do not think the UK had a particularly dangerous fiscal trend and the possession of our own currency and Central Bank is an asset not to be contemned. As a former pro-Euro Labourite, the Eurozone crisis has not been a pleasant experience certainly, but thank god we didn’t enter the Euro, or certainly be in a much worse position. However this has little to do with what George Osborne does or does not do.

            (This works the other way. Left-wingers claiming Osborne’s austerity will lower growth so much that our credit rating will be downgraded, are talking nonsense as well).

            On the deficit point, I think it bears repeating that household-esque analogies with ‘over-spending’ are not useful when considering public finances. My point about GDP growth vs the deficit, was not a wildly unorthodox pronouncement. It’s just a straight-forward empirical point that if GDP growth exceeds growth in the national debt, for a given year, the national debt as a percentage of GDP will fall and become more affordable. I wasn’t suggesting balanced budgets or surpluses are undesirable – although I think they’re not always essential. If the UK could run a balanced budget and meet public expenditure through higher taxation, I wouldn’t have a ‘principled’ objection to balancing the budget. Nor do I believe in running deficits come-what-may.

            Finally, just to reiterate, absolute debt figures are misleading because, among other things, they can’t tell us what our position is relative to other countries – if we had Greece’s absolute amount of national debt, we’d be fine. If the US had our amount of national debt, it would be roughly 10% of American GDP and therefore negligible. Context is all, basically.

            Anyway, Jaime, I’m sorry if I was too sharp. I think you often make interesting contributions to this site and it’s useful to have a dissenting voice, but I do feel bound to make my case as well, if I feel a flawed argument is being made.

        • Peter Barnard

          @ Brumanuensis,
          Great comment, on debt.
          Some points that I could add :
          (i) debt interest as a percentage of GDP was at a post-war low (at 2.1 per cent of GDP) at the end of Labour’s term. This compares with 5.0 per cent of GDP in 1983/84, 3.7 per cent of GDP in 1996/97 and a forecast 3.4 per cent of GDP in 2016/17 ;
          (ii) on current receipts and expenditures, Labour was running a surplus in 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08 (as it was between 1997/98 and 2002/03, inclusive). The deficit in those years was caused by capital expenditures ;
          (iii) Labour built up our public sector net worth from an inherited 17.7 per cent of GDP to 28.8 per cent of GDP in 2007/08.
          Unfortunately, there was a lot of deliberately manufactured hysteria regarding THE DEFICIT by people who should have known better, but ugly politics reared its head. Also unfortunately, Messrs Darling and Byrne did not add much to the quality of debate by some rather trite remarks.

        • charles.ward

           “2). Any nation can run a deficit and reduce its national debt. As long
          as the rate of annual expansion of the national debt is lower than the
          rate of annual economic expansion, debt as a percentage of GDP will
          fall. A surplus or balanced budget is not strictly required.”

          But the last government didn’t do this (except when following Conservative spending plans in the first term).  Debt increased as a proportion of GDP every year since 2001.  To quote the fact check article you link to “It [the government] was clearly spending more than it could afford.”

          If the government did not overspend then why aren’t Labour arguing for a fiscal expansion like the good Keynesians they claim to be.  Why is their policy tax increases and cuts (albeit to a lesser extent than the coalition)?  If the deficit needs to be reduced in hard economic times then it was too high in the good times.

          But lets judge Gordan Brown’s time as Chancellor and Prime Minister by his own standards, particularly his Sustainable Investment Rule that debt as a proportion of GDP should remain under 40% throughout the whole economic cycle.   The IFS predicts that debt will rise to the high 70s and not fall back below 40% of GDP for 20 years or more.  As the kids would say, “Epic Fail”.

          • Brumanuensis

            In answer to your ‘why’ point, politics essentially. There is no overwhelming economic case against further fiscal expansion. Arguably the impact might be less than during 2008-2009, but the reason for not advocating it is down to the Conservatives winning the political argument – thus far.

            I don’t think arbitary percentages are the best way to go in judging a ‘good’ ratio of Debt/GDP. Why is 40% better than 50%? Obviously beyond a certain point it becomes disadvantageous to substantially increase the National Debt, but as yet no one believes the UK has passed this threshold. 40% was always a political, not an economic target.  

            Incidentally, on debt affordability:      


            The simple question that should have been asked during the General Election was: ‘Is there any conceivable possibility the UK will fail to honour its debts’?

            The answer then was ‘No’. The answer now is ‘No’. The answer has always been ‘No’. So why ask the question?      

          • charles.ward

             “In answer to your ‘why’ point, politics essentially. There is no
            overwhelming economic case against further fiscal expansion. Arguably
            the impact might be less than during 2008-2009, but the reason for not
            advocating it is down to the Conservatives winning the political
            argument – thus far.”

            It’s not that the Conservatives won the argument, none of the major political parties were arguing that the deficit should be increased.

            My main point is that you can claim to be a Keynesian, you can claim that the deficit was not too high before the crash and you can argue that the deficit needs to be reduced, but you can’t do all three at the same time (which is what Labour are doing).

            “The simple question that should have been asked during the General
            Election was: ‘Is there any conceivable possibility the UK will fail to
            honour its debts’?

            The answer then was ‘No’. The answer now is ‘No’. The answer has always been ‘No’. So why ask the question?”

            The only reason the probability of the UK defaulting is so low (it’s never zero) is because all the major parties understand that the deficit needs to be reduced (they just disagree about the speed of the reduction).  If Labour adopted the Greek approach to debt and were elected then that probability of default would rapidly increase.

    • Slakah

      The “Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck! Liam.” note killed any form of rational debate which could have taken place, it’s right that this issue should be avoided.

      I would also say that the LibDems/Tories are probably the ones best placed to kill the “we’ve inherited a massive debt” movement, because it quickly became a crux for them. Their default response for pretty much any issue arising during their tenure has been “labour irresponsible, they spent in the good times, and now it’s snowing because of it”. I think you’ll find the people are becoming slowly weary of that argument, and eventually will wither and croak in the corner.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      I really could not agree with you more.

      What was really sad about Ed this morning was that he wanted to talk about “the real issues”, as if to say that the fact that much of electorate cannot see him as a realistic future prime minister is not a real issue.

      Here in the South, if you knock on doors you are told that no matter how awful Cameron is, and no matter what Cameron does; the economic problems were all Labour’s fault. It is as if Gordon Brown caused the Fanny and Freddy issues in the USA. I see it is a total lack of Ed’s leadership that he has failed to nail this Tory lie, and worse seems to allow it to gather momentum by hoping that it will go away by itself. Or worse, by appologising all the time.

      I have in previous days been involved in writing comments here about Ed’s leadership and there has been quite a lot of reaction, but if I as a party member cannot tell you what Ed is about then I really can’t see that the ordinary electorate is going to give the proverbial monkeys.

  • Samuel_Rushworth

    Some solid policies coming out from Labour HQ:

    1. Five point plan for jobs and growth
    2. Repeal the NHS bill
    3. Reduce tuition fees
    4. Tackle energy and rail companies to get fairer deal for customers.
    5. Support move to single credit but oppose certain aspects of welfare cuts.

    Oh and- have Made in Britain labels.

  • GuyM

    Naked political activists of any party on a doorstep is a rather nasty vision to put in anyone’s mind just before dinner….

    • treborc

      Does not one have a Maid to speak to the Public who knock on ones door.

  • George Barratt

    Is the present vacuum in Labour Party policy intentional, giving time for Ed  to change into tights and cloak and emerge from the telephone box as Super-Ed, to lead the UK to Scandanavian-style equality and social justice?

    Even if not, the current policy drift allows voters to consider just how difficult it is for them and their children to get jobs and housing. It also allows space for more radical ideas on how to solve our present social and economic problems. The present wave of campaigns against the cuts gives useful pointers to the future. The energy that drives these campaigns comes from outside the Labour Party. Hopefully,  pressures from below will push Ed to stay in tune with the majority.

    But what has happened to our brave local councillors faced with making “tough decisions” on the municipal budget? Too many years grappling with the problems of wheelie bins and dog faeces have taken their toll, and they now sit sightlessly in the council chambers with cobwebs anchoring their bodies to the benches and green mould spreading over their cheap suits. It would be merciful to take them out and bury them, and to allow a younger generation to take over. Roll on the next municipal elections!

    George Barratt,
    Barking and Dagenham.

  • Johndclare
  • AlanGiles

    Not entirely Ed Miliband’s fault, but on yesterdays “World At One” (Radio 4 – available on listen again feature for another 6 days), he was interviewed about his speech on loyalty to British products. This was prefaced by archive material of Harold Wilson in 1968 endorsing  the “I’m backing Britain” campaign – there was even a song issued on record at the time. Not a very good song, admittedly, and not a very good singer, but there it was – it still exists as a reminder of  a time and place.

    Now I know I am a Harold Wilson fan, so you might want to factor in that, but Harold spoke with a passion and enthusiasm – he inspired people (many worked an extra half an hour a day for nothing), and he sounded as if he believed in what he was saying. In fact I am sure he did.

    Then came Ed: he sounded cautious – almost apologetic – and at the end of a fairly lengthy interview with Martha Kearney, all that seemed to emerge about his idea was that products should carry a label saying “Made In Britain” on it!

    Now that is thinking small in a big way – I can’t imagine any songwriter sitting down to write lyrics for that campaign TBH. Not only that,  manufacturing in Britain has been so decimated by Ed’s predecessors, it might be more honest to put “assembled in Britain” on the label, because at best that is what we now do.

    Will Ed follow this up?. I doubt it, today is PMQs and I doubt that yesterday’s radio interview will even get a mention.

    Ed need’s some major ideas and he needs to reshuffle the shadow cabinet, he should be ruthless in pruning some of the dead wood.

    • treborc

      No good pruning dead wood, if what you then bring in is infected with new labour wood rot

    • LordElpus

      Thoroughly agree with pruning the dead wood, there’s enough of it. His problem is finding folk who don’t just fill their boots but provide the ideas and impetus. Good luck.

    • This is half the problem though – the decimation of the public and marketisation. The small view of what government can do, even if you think it needs to be expanded

  • markfergusonuk

    1. No-one knows what it means, and can’t explain it simply on the doorstep.
    2. That’s not a policy – it’s opposition to a bad Tory policy.
    3. Ditto
    4. Nothing concrete here yet, but good intentions.
    5. Again, not sure this is policy…

    •  Unfortunately soundbites aren’t going to be available for complex changes. Little cards with pledges on it don’t really work when the solutions aren’t simple

  • treborc

     Where will the jobs come from, not the public sector again, and as for believing the hype about making job just does not work any more

    Repeal the NHS bill less then a year ago labour was not sure whether to accept it and follow it, but after labours  sell off it just looks like political games and gamesmanship

    Reduce Tuition fees, bull, how about ending them  reducing it not  going to help because in the future they will rise.

    Tackle energy, we have heard it before thirteen years of labour saying leave it to the market, it does not work any more.

    Welfare, you bloody started it.

    Have made in Britain label, and what happens if half of the items in say a computer is made in china, would you have  well OK bits and bobs are made in the UK.
    we do not make much in the UK which does not have part made from all over the world, so it would be a lie saying made in the Uk

    would you have car which are made here by French companies marked down as made in Britain, that is a no brainer for a start.

    How about a labour party.

    My thoughts go out today to the six dead soldiers, in Afghanistan.

  • treborc

    The BBC pick people from the comments you make on the BBC forum, I have been asked to go on  many times through this, twice with Peter Hain when discussing the closure of the Remploy factories.

    I was then asked to do an ITV program from guess what remarks I made on the ITV site, I suspect C4 does the same thing, yes a researcher will phone up ask you which party you support and basically what would you like to say.

    but like it or not labour has a problem it’s not seen as representing the people at the bottom and a lot of the people I heard sounded not to educated.

  • AlanGiles

    “Even if not, the current policy drift allows voters to consider just how difficult it is for them and their children to get jobs and housing.”

    I couldn’t agree more, George. I believe the most important issues facing the ordinary person in the next several years will be (lack of) employment and (lack of) social housing. These are two areas where Ed Miliband needs to speak out, and not sound so apologetic as he did yesterday. 
    I was only thinking the other day how I would loathe being a teenager today: because there are no real job opportunities, they will be forced to stay at school till they are 18, then possibly working for a high street retailer for nothing for a time.

    I am all for opportunities for higher and further education for those who want it, but when you look at the average 17 year old today they are certainly not children, and by forcing them to stay at school, I suspect, will result in a lot of them rebelling, they won’t want to learn much and this will lead to truancy and possibly anti-social behaviour. I can just imagine how I would have felt if I had still been a schoolboy as an 18 year old man. The reason this policy is endorsed by the previous and present governments is, I am sure, more to do with reducing youth unemployment than it is giving the pupils a better education.

    We need to give people hope, and at the moment there is  a general feeling of hopelesness and, I think, an annoyance that politicians on all sides seem to be almost complacent about those problems.

    On the topic of local government, it is a great tragedy that very honest and sincere people are regarded as a threat to the old guard, who regard their own positions as some sort of right, and do all they can to stifle fresh minds and ideas.

  • Tony Burleton

    “at all” ( et al )!

    Tony Burleton

  • Tony Burleton

    “at all”? (et al)

  • If I went on the Victoria Derbyshire show as a Democratic Socialist I would expect to be abused. This is why I think LL is a really important arena for Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists to engage in a frank exchange of opinions and perspectives free from such abuse. It is therefore depressing to see that significant Social Democrats like Rob Marchant who put forward plausible, if controversial, perspectives here on LL are greeted with a tirade of abuse from the likes of Treborc and Alan Giles.
     In respect of the political programme that we must develop in the coming years it is my view that history shows that the Labour Party has rarely lost elections because it is not left-wing enough. In fact the opposite seems to be the case. Our heaviest defeat since 1918 was in 1983 when we had the most left-wing manifesto ever. This is a hard but inevitable lesson that we somehow have to take on board. We live in a full-blown and red raw capitalist society and most people including ourselves are compelled to adopt a capitalist logic in our lives and affairs. Political and social reform  therefore moves at a snail’s pace. It is time to get real. 

  • Pingback: Missing in action: two big ideas for Labour…. «()


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