The left is losing its marbles

by Dan Hodges

I’ve taken Tom Watson’s advice. I’ve poured myself a stiff drink, kicked back and raised a festive glass to Ed Miliband.

But nothing’s happened. I waited for the warm glow. A mellow wave of positive reflection to engulf me. Nothing.

Try as I might, I cannot conjure up the magic. The excitement. The anticipation. The child-like optimism. Like the boy in the Polar Express, I no longer believe.

I wish I could. I wish I could see the things that others see. Ed striding up Downing Street, waving to the cheering crowds. Len McCluskey, Charles Kennedy and Charlie Gilmour locked in a sublime embrace of unity and comradeship. New foreign secretary Chuka Umunna, chancellor David Miliband and community rehabilitation secretary Ed Balls applauding his arrival.

There is the audacity of hope. And there is the sleep of reason. We have ended the year succumbing to the latter.

The Labour party, indeed the wider Labour movement, is experiencing a combination of a mid-life crisis and a nervous breakdown. Discipline, maturity and moderation have been cast onto the bonfire of the new politics; replaced by kettling, flash mob protests and the promise of general strikes.

“Something’s happening out there”, one shadow minister said to me, hopefully. He’s right. What’s happening is that the left is losing its marbles.

Freed from the shackles (sometimes called responsibilities) of office, we are acting like children in an anarcho-syndicalist sweet shop. Shall we go on the fees protest? No, let’s hit Vodafone. Wait, what about the demo against the police? Aren’t we supposed to be targeting the Lib Dems’ offices? Or is it Top Shop? And the occupations? Hey, the cuts; what about the cuts…?

All of this could be dismissed as youthful high spirits, if it weren’t for the desperate efforts of the Labour party leadership to appropriate the zeitgeist. School children wanting to join in demos, “should be free to do so”, said Ed Miliband. No, they shouldn’t. School children should be in school, not putting themselves in between a tooled-up Met and an SWP rent-a-mob.

In fairness to the student protestors, at least they’re successfully marrying flair with organisational acumen. If only the same could be said for Labour.

A few weeks ago, it was only Ed’s opponents who were claiming that he lacked a clear vision. Now it’s his closest supporters. “It would be unnatural, it would be strange, it would be precipitate, it would be superficial if he had all his vision intact and his answers set up after three months — that would be absurd”, said Neil Kinnock on Sunday.

So sayeth the optimists. No longer any pretence of a vision or programme. Just a promise that one will appear at some point in the future. The mañana defence. If Ed’s critics are trapped in the past, his supporters have become trapped in the future.

Leader is not a title; it’s an aura. At the moment, Ed Miliband does not carry it. The lack of respect shown by his shadow cabinet colleagues has become an embarrassment. Ed Balls’ offhand dismissal of his PMQs performance. Alan Johnson’s casual rejection of his stance on issues from tax to education to party reform. “When I’m in the room with Ed Balls or David Miliband, I want to listen what they have to say. I think I’ll learn something”, one shadow minister told me last week. “But”, she added, “when I’m in a room with Ed I’m just bored. It seems pointless”.

Shadow cabinet meetings are reduced to abstract discussions about “direction”, and a series of powerpoint presentations. All speeches now have to be cleared in advance with the leader’s office. Except there is no one to read them, and shadow ministers receive no feedback. Policy development has stalled, as teams wait for some framework in which to formulate ideas.

Meanwhile, our search for a strategic narrative has degenerated into farce. First, we were told that Labour in opposition would hit the ground running. Then we were told it would be a marathon not a sprint. Then we were told: forget that, it’s a sprintathon, and started rushing after every Lib Dem in sight. Jackie Ashley described this as, “the long game and the short game, and the ‘now’ game”. I’ve got an alternative. It’s called the “making it up as you go along” game.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, we were told we had to recapture the white working class. Then it was the squeezed-middle. Then the Lib Dems. Our target demographic is now your average Millwall-supporting, Mondeo-driving, Greenpeace activist.

“But look at the polls”, cry the believers. “We are in front”. No, we’re not. Not a single poll I have seen gives us a lead more significant than the margin of error. And if anyone thinks that an election this Thursday would see Labour secure 40% of the vote they need their head examining.

But still the band plays on. “Talk to Labour ministers, and most are still so shell-shocked they can’t see the red carpet of opportunity stretching out before them”, wrote Polly Toynbee last week. “Labour looks set fair, whatever its own depressives think. Only mighty blunders of great idiocy can stop Miliband’s party winning the argument with enough voters”.

This sort of stuff should really set the alarm bells ringing. We lost the previous election because we were on a different page to the electorate. Now we are in serous danger of entering a parallel universe.

Debates about tactics, strategy and ideology are one thing. But what is happening in the party at the moment represents not a political divergence, but a divergence of reality. It is as if a collective madness is taking hold. I cannot see how anyone can seriously believe that tying Labour to a high tax, pro-student, anti-police, anti-consumer, anti-business programme is the right path for the party to pursue.

But some do. And with equal passion and clarity. They see a permanent 50p tax rate as appealing successfully to people’s sense of social justice, while I only see “Labour Tax Bombshell” posters. They see a vibrant, spontaneous movement of young voters and their parents, where I see the re-birth of a dangerous, hard left factionalism. They see a popular anti-capitalist backlash, where I see our reputation for economic credibility draining down a Regent Street gutter.

Neil thinks he’s got his party back. I can’t recognise it. Polly thinks we’re gliding to victory. I think we’re stumbling to defeat. Tom thinks our glass is half-full. I think it’s laying in pieces on the bar-room floor.

We can’t all be right. But at this stage there is no right. No wrong. There is only belief.

I wish I could retain it. Feel the optimism, and the excitement and the magic.

But I can’t. At the moment, I do not believe. Pessimism has vanquished optimism. Foreboding has banished excitement. Cold reality has cast out the magic.

I can no longer hear the bell ring. All I can do is offer up a glass to those who can.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut

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64 Responses to “The left is losing its marbles”

  1. oldpolitics says:

    You know ‘kettling’ is something the police are doing, not something the left is doing, right?

    Your obsessive pessimism has descended into statistics abuse – sure, we aren’t ahead in any polls by more than the margin of error, but we are above 40%, or in the lead, or both, in a number of different polls. Margin of Error only applies on a case by case basis – when it’s confirmed by a number of different polls, it becomes more likely to be correct, and less likely to be the error.

    A final note about Blairites’ submissive desire to be led, to be bossed, to get the line, to be told what to think – how much of Cameron’s agenda today is what he set out in the months after he became leader? We just lost. We need the entire party to think about why, and come up with new policies for the new times, in an election which is, sadly, probably over four years away. The quick-fix solutions of one man aren’t the way forward – and if you have as little confidence in Ed as you claim, it’s odd that you should be asking for them to be imposed.

  2. Forlornehope says:

    There is no honest alternative to coalition politics that does not recognise that government has to take a higher share of national expenditure. To have decent levels of services and benefits means the public sector taking close to 50% of GDP. That cannot be done either on borrowed money or by “taxing the rich”. It means that everyone on or above median income (£25000 for full time workers) has to pay significantly more tax. Unless Labour develops the balls to stand up for a well thought out policy of “Tax and Spend” it will become an irrelevance. Oh, and yes we can and should introduce a “Rooney Tax” that puts a ceiling on high incomes by taxing anything over ten times median at 95%. There are good reasons for that but it will probably reduce total revenue, not increase it.

  3. Guido Fawkes says:

    I think the Labour Party is on the course I’d prefer it to stick to, keep it up.

  4. David says:

    I think you make a good case for the left losing its marbles… in your case.

    There is a view that you seem to hold that this all should be terribly easy and indeed would be if it wasn’t for the leader. Which is nonsense. Any party coming out of 13 years in power would struggle to adapt, particularly in the face of hostile media and large egos of former senior ministers.

    We’re doing ok. Not great, there is definitely a vision thing missing (but again, a hard thing to do when straight in opposition, you either keep the one that the voters rejected, or change at risk of being accused of trashing your own record of government). But as an opposition we are making some headway – for example on school sports. And we are not giving too many future hostages to fortune.

    All of which would be a lot easier if it wasn’t for your rants.

  5. Simon Collier says:

    It doesn’t really matter whether our lead is within the margin of error or not, Dan Hodges is surely correct that you’d have to be nuts to think we’d get 40% in a general election. The opinion polls at the moment are like those that gave us leads between Thatcher’s victories – a reflection of frustration with the government, not of a desire to see a Labour PM.

    The point about Cameron’s agenda having changed is true but misplaced. His tactics have changed enormously, but he had a strategic objective – “detoxify the brand” – that he stuck to and still sticks to. It is unclear what Ed Miliband’s strategy is, and he needs to sort that out, then fill in the details later.

    Having said that, I may be from the right/New Labour wing of the party, but Dan Hodges gives little hope of anything changing. Fear of tax bombshell posters is not even fighting the last war, but the one before the one before the one before the one before. Maybe 50% isn’t the answer, but inequality rose despite 13 consecutive progressive budgets. What is Mr Hodges’ solution if not the 50% rate?

  6. Rafe Farquart says:

    Excellent piece, Dan. One with which I wholly agree…

    We simply must wrestle any semblance of an electable party from the clutches of the loons who wish to see us in permanent opposition. Miliminor must go – separate his head from his shoulders if needs be; provide fair warning to others who seek to sleepwalk our glorious party over the cliff of apathy.

  7. stayingthecourse says:

    I would happily do the exact opposite to whatever Tom Watson says – he has been a disruptive influence to two Labour leaders and will probably try to knife Ed M once he and chubby Balls get bored.

  8. I’ve seen evidence that polling shows that support for other people to pay for three years at University ( about 2.5 which are gap years for arts students ) has reduced thanks to the ‘protests’. So your almost certainly right. It was New Labour that saved Labour and you are condemned like Cassandra to point it out.

    So drink to forget, the rest of your comrades already have.

  9. Barry McCanna says:

    How depressing to read the tautologous utterance of that vapid windbag Kinnock, albeit in an article by a Labour supporter writing logically and objectively about the state of the Party.

    Sadly, those for whom the article is designed will dismiss it as wide of the mark, and carry on as they are.

  10. susan press says:

    To be frank Dan, If you don’t recognise the Labour Party any more I think that’s a bonus for the rest of us socialists.
    I’m with the anti capitalist backlash – and those on the sensible wing of the Party who reckon £120billion in tax avoidance needs taking on. Along with the most right-wing Govt since Thatcher.

  11. reddeviljp says:

    The election’s a few years away unless Vince stacks his hand; EM is still finding his feet and the opposition to the coalition is growing, as it should do, from below.
    Many of these protests have little or nothing to do with Labour and are providing a crash course in both politics and protest to a growing, informed and younger generation of voters. It is not the job of Labour to be battling the Met on the streets but winning the parliamentary argument and in many instances they are being successful. After all, at the next election most of the actions or promises of the coalition will be a lead weight around the neck of Cameron and Clegg, Labour need to keep exploiting this.

  12. Dan Crimes says:

    This level of corrosive whining from the right of the party was always going to happen once Ed M’s shadow cabinet appointments were seen to be guided by appeasement which whiffed a bit of weakness, and has clearly emboldened the malign like of D. Hodges. Still, he has a point that it’s difficult to be enthusiastic for a work in progress but I would put that down to members of the shadow cabinet operating in their own sappy cell and challenging the ‘aura’ of the leader. The 50% tax issue is an interesting one to criticise Ed M on, as it is something that the party should undoubtedly and unequivocally support. If you consider that to be anti-aspiration, then it’s time to have a look at that lovely coalition brochure, again.

  13. andrew says:

    We are a sound party. Gordon Brown was the fly in the ointment. If it wasn’t for GB, Tony Blair would have reformed welfare and numerous other easy targets the coalition are now getting stuck into. He’s gone, we’re still here. so why can’t we go back to the centre left? It will work this time now there is no saboteur in our midst.

  14. iain says:

    lol @ guido

  15. Tory Boy says:

    At least one of you gets it. Whether your comrades will listen or continue with their adolescent, “smash the state since we’re no longer running it” antics is another matter. But it’s so much more fun to be out shouting on the street than having to deal with responsibility and make hard decisions, isn’t it? Easy to convince yourself that the fun thing is also the right thing.

  16. Glenda J says:

    Oh shut up son. Keep yourelf busy cleaning my oscars. At least you’ll be doing something useful.
    Warning to all shadow ministers and loyal party members: boycott my son whosse nanny told me has always been an attention-seeking boy since he was in nappies

  17. Jonny says:

    You seem to be confusing a number of things. Many of the people on the protests are not Labour people, they never have been, probably never will be. Elected politicians on the whole are failing to handle this new way of showing irritation with our system. Ed needs to come up with some way of funnelling this anger into the Labour party and constructing this ‘movement’ that we have heard about constantly for months but with no action. He needs to do this in order to put some clear ground between Labour and the ConDems and also in order to mount a serious response to their programme of government, as opposed to picking and choosing bits and bobs to moan about here and there.

  18. Chris Cross says:

    reddeviljp – which particular parliamentary arguments are Labour winning…?

  19. Alan Douglas says:

    Ed – that good, huh ! Keep doing it Ed, if you have Kinnock’s support you are bound to be all right.

    Alan Douglas

  20. If we in the Labour Party are ahead in the polls it’s more to do with what the coalition government is doing to the country rather than what our Party is doing or saying in response.  Labour needs to get it’s act together, fast.

    And as for Ed Miliband, I think he deserves time, but where is he? Hear-No-Leader, See-No-Leader is no way to run a party at anytime let alone during a miserable time of slash and burn, Tory-rule.

    Fed up too reading the usual old guff on twitter about “David Miliband lost the leadership, get over it”, in response to this article. Cold bucket of water over the heads of those that hold that stunning insight….wake up. 

    Spot on analysis by Dan Hodges as ever. 

  21. AB says:

    People rarely get thanked for telling the truth so this is a brave article.

    I don’t know the author and his history, but surely the truth he writes is not about whether Ed M is not far enough to the right of the Labour Party or whether he is too far to the left. It is that he doesn’t appear to be anywhere, either publicly or, more damningly, in private amongst the Shadow Cabinet.

    In the months of campaigning to be leader there was surely time to formulate some idea of how to oppose the coalition government and propose a better and more appealing alternative. Even if the detail of what that meant in policy terms was something that had to be a work in progress, it is hard to see how anyone could win leadership of their party without that core belief being communicated and understood.

    Ed M is currently on course to be Labour’s Iain Duncan Smith, but without any inkling that he could subsequently reinvent himself with a mission to implement under a real leader.

  22. Jeremy Poynton says:

    Cough. We’re still waiting for the Brown’s “vision”, the one he dumped the 1997 election on, claiming that he hadn’t had time to “articulate his vision”. Well, Gordon, we’re still waiting. And no, “Pissing away all our money, and the pissing away all the money we are yet to earn”, is NOT a vision.

    By the way, I voted Labour for over 30 years. Voted in Blair, albeit with Toynbee’s proverbial nosepeg. Iraq did for that, and Brown confirmed that Labour are terminally diseased. The rise of Ed The Vacuous does nothing to dissuade me from that opinion. Indeed, we will be out of the UK faster than a rat fleeing a sinking ship of Labour get in again.

  23. Jeremy Poynton says:

    @reddeviljp says: December 21, 2010 at 9:59 am

    “The election’s a few years away unless Vince stacks his hand; EM is still finding his feet ”

    When he does, remind him – “Socks, then shoes”. And the long trousers, not the short ones, if he is going out in public.

  24. eastender says:

    This sounds like it was written the morning after a very long christmas party, dazed and confused.

    Yes Polly’s article was nonsense, but I wasnt aware that she has any great influence over Labour party policy.

    The student protests and the protests against tax avoidance may or may not be the start of some bigger social movement but again they are not likely to be drivers of Labour party policy.

    The sniping against EdM is being orchestrated by the tories and their friends in the media, there is no backbench grumbling at the moment. Looking at every statement by a Labour MP and trying to read into to it a meaning or other in an effort to find some snippet that can be used in some sort of bizarre Kremlinology is really not helpful.

    Yes there does need to be a very thorough review of the party’s policies and procedures (a process already underway) and real lessons learnt.

    However given the scale of the defeat in May the party is in a far better position than might have been expected. 258 MPs, a far bigger total for the main opposition than for many years (and far more than we could have really expected on 29% of the vote). The Tory led government has serious challenges ahead, the liberal party is in a bad place and there seems to be a high possibility that it will not survive its current form (something suggested not just by current events but by historical experience, tory – lib coalitions seem to lead to a split liberal party). The tories have their own internal problems, Cameron is viewed with suspicion by many of his mps (not least for failing to deliver a tory government in the easiest of circumstances), he has never bonded with the backbenches in the way Thatcher or even pre Iraq Blair did, not a good omen going into what will be very choppy political waters ahead (for instance see Mary Riddel in the Telegraph this morning on the NHS).

    We have a small lead in the polls, which I accept is largely meaningless at this stage of the political cycle but it does imply that the party is still viewed positively by many voters.

    Defeating the tories at the next election will not be an easy task and we must not think otherwise or become complacent but neither should we indulge (for indulgence it is as much as Polly’s witterings) in this sort of doom and gloom it only helps our opponents. We must do what we can to oppose the government, win as many electoral contests as we can (the prognosis for the next 12 months is good) and be ready for the general election whenever it comes.

  25. Chris says:


    I hope Tom Baldwin has or is just about to metaphorically beat the shit out of you.

  26. Mark W says:

    I can understand why you may be pessimistic as you haven’t got exactly what you wanted but why the outright dismissal of any other viewpoint and daft characterisation of Ed Milliband’s position? It seems Blairites believe it is impossible to be anything other than true believers or in league with the SWP.

    Here’s a thought, how about mentioning that the ‘squeezed middle’ idea seems a potent one with living standards diminishing, inflation high and cuts impacting on people? In fact it may be a potent line of attack against the coalition if we experience a jobless recovery. Or perhaps engaging with a debate over why a 50% tax band on those earning over £150,000 is such a terrible thing when most voters don’t ‘aspire’ to earn that much? Why couldn’t one put the money towards raising thresholds on tax at levels a large number of voters actually do aspire to? That’s certainly not a tax bombshell.

    The point is that these are the debates people should be having. There are legitimate questions to be asked of Labour, such as how do you protect levels of public spending whilst as people on the Labour right correctly point out, not alienating voters with tax rises or losing economic credibility? Instead from Dan Hodges we get personal insults and straw men of the left to fight. The question isn’t about a lurch to the left, everyone knows that would be mad but how to address New Labour’s failures such as increasing inequality in order to win back voters. (who mostly didn’t desert to the blues, whatever Guido might think.) It seems that as everyone else tries to get on with carving out a left of centre credible alternative to the coalition those on the right of Labour are content to tilt at windmills.

  27. marky says:

    Things aren’t bad yet. Wait till 2011. With inflation, prices of most items will be up 7%. Your pay will be the same and it will still be bloody expensive to go on holiday. Your gas bill arrives, your NI has gone up and suddenly you realise how painful 2011 will be.

    There are three stages to “change”

    1. denial. This is what we are experiencing now. Noone is planning for impending doom are they.
    2. Anger. Not yet, the only people protesting are students who lets face it have time on their hands. I’m sure civil disobedience will be attractive but a completely irrational and irresponsible way to behave
    3. Acceptence. Probably many years away. I doubt the voters will have reached this stage in 4 years time

    In the Anger stage labout can be cheap, simplistic and trashy to pick up popular support. Find some easy targets and stick with them.

  28. Peter Robertson says:

    We’ve had it, picked the wrong Miliband I’m afraid. if only the party had realised that you have to pick a leader who has a fighting chance of becoming Prime Minister. Ed just isn’t up to it, he reminds me of Kinnock: he’ll never win a General Election. Actually, the party did pick the right Miliband, it was the unions who picked Ed. Does he really seem that left wing now compared to his brother?

    He managed to pull off a massive con, the Unions bought it and the rest of us Labour Party members are going to pay for it by watching these clowns run the country until the next election, which the Tories will win outright……Come back David, all is forgiven!!

  29. Simon says:

    “They see a permanent 50p tax rate as appealing successfully to people’s sense of social justice, while I only see ‘Labour Tax Bombshell’ posters.”

    Surely the potency of the ‘tax bombshell’ posters was that they set out how much *more* tax (they claimed) you would be paying under Labour. It would be hard to characterise as a ‘bombshell’ a tax which by the next GE will probably have been in place for six years and become an established part of the fiscal landscape.

  30. Tom Miller says:

    “Ed M is currently on course to be Labour’s Iain Duncan Smith, but without any inkling that he could subsequently reinvent himself with a mission to implement under a real leader.”

    Ah, good. You saw that the press’s man lost.

    You’re definitely right – we should make it up to them by constantly repeating whichever damaging meme they try to press on Labour next. THEN MAYBE THEY WILL LIKE US!!!!(?)

  31. Cllr Mike Harris says:

    Kinnock tried to bring in a 50p tax rate on incomes over £35,000 – not at £150,000.

    It’s an absolutely fatuous comparison.

  32. Richard says:

    @Jeremy Poynton
    Good, f**k off then and get on with it, the country can do without your selfish ilk.

  33. Syzygy says:


    Please stop stirring! Get over it!

  34. Peter Owen says:

    New Labour careerists:

    Too much laptop, not enough leaflet.
    Too much think-tank, not enough phone-bank.

  35. john reid says:

    Is it really that bad, well whos gonna be leader of the opposition in 2015, Burnahm, Balls or D miliband, saying that if livingstone loses the mayorality by a mile it might be a sign for Ed to go

  36. Matt says:

    In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king, and that man is plainly Dan Hodges.

    The levels of reality ignoring denial being demonstrated by many of the commentators above are just what Labour needs to spend the next 18 years out of power. Unless and until the party learns that the electorate does not want to be dragged kicking and screaming back to the bad old days of the 1970’s but rather wants a Labour party that reflects their wants, needs and concerns then irrelevant opposition will be all that it can achieve or deserve. By all means swing strongly to the left, sign up to a high tax and high spend raft of policies, allow the hard left union leaders to dominate the internal debate and then reap the paltry electoral rewards of such foolish and unpopular decisions; voter disenchantment and apathy and ultimately complete failure at the ballot box.

  37. Jane says:

    I so much agree with what you have written as I too am in despair. The lack of direction and coordination is so apparent. I am also frightened that we are going to see the same tactics employed by EM that GB also adopted. I refer to the most despicable briefing against Bob Ainsworth when he asked for a grown up debate about the failure of successive governments in dealing with drug misuse. I am really weary of listening to Shadow Ministers condemning everything as well as pretty poor performances by others. I cannot believe that some people I admired are now behaving like school children. So many seem awfully limited in their job without the briefings of civil servants that they once enjoyed. I am really in shock with events made worse by the access to information which provides me with greater knowledge.

    Some of the utterances from the leader regarding protests, deficit reduction etc are to be condemned. How can this man hope to become PM? He will drive many financial institutions from the city as well as many FTSE top companies. He would tax the “middle” to the hilt to make up for this. Does he really think that this will appeal Yes, his comments will attract some younger people and voters as reflected in the comment above. Mr Miliband needs to look at research on those who vote and the younger generation are not known to turn out at elections. People like me – the older person do vote. Until a few years ago, I would have stated loudly that I would always vote Labour regardless of the leadership and policies adopted. I even stuck with them in 1983!!! However, like many others I abandoned the party at the last election and continuing to do so will not involve such anguish in the future.

  38. Chris says:


    “They see a permanent 50p tax rate as appealing successfully to people’s sense of social justice, while I only see “Labour Tax Bombshell” posters.”

    FFS, only 1% of the workers earn over £150,000. We didn’t lose the GE because of the 50p band, the average C1/C2 skilled working class ford focus driving couple with young children were more concerned with “scroungers”.

    It would be a far more popular idea to keep the 50p rate and increase the income tax threshold or re-introduce a 10p band for all workers than giving a massive tax cut to the top 1% of earners. We should be campaigning against trickle down economics, hardly left wing its what Clinton and Obama both did/do.

    “Pessimism has vanquished optimism.”

    The only time I get pessimistic is when I read one of your rants.

  39. John West says:

    I was going to leave a response to this article but then found that Mark W had already done it for me. Exactly what I thought when reading it, Mark.

  40. Geo says:

    for once someone on the left not denying the existence/validity of everything they dont like. Honestly like this is rarely rewarded so watch your back Dan, the dark briefings will start soon enough.

  41. Chris says:


    Seriously, what planet are you on?

  42. Speedy says:

    a) Margins of error are reasons to not get too over-exited/depressed about 1 or 2 polls. It suggests that instead we should look at trend. The trend is that Labour have gradually increased their polling share since the election and are now ahead with every pollster. This is clearly a good thing.
    b) It took the Tories the best part of a decade to get ahead of Labour in the polls after 1997. Its taken us 6 months. Again, this is clearly a good thing.
    c) You can bitch and moan all you like but this isn’t a question of leadership. What we need is effective grassroots organisation. People like you don’t even know what that is. Miliband will ultimately be seen as a good leader if we kick some Tory and Lib Dem arse in May. If you have anything meaningful to say after that fine, but let’s wait till we have some concrete results.
    d) Closing up tax avoidance and taxing the rich should undeniably be done by a Labour government before even considering cuts to the public sector. When Vodaphone have paid £1bn out of £6bn, this seems obvious.
    e) No serious figure in the labour movement has suggested a general strike. UK Trade Union legislation means that a general strike would mean any participating union getting its assets seized by the state. If Bob Crow (as the typical one for right-wingers such as yourself to have a go at) isn’t advocating it, who exactly are you levelling this accusation at? Or is it just the case that you know fuck all about industrial relations and you can’t differentiate a general strike and trade unions simply co-ordinating strike action.
    f) I don’t like the SWP but to dismiss protesting as some kind of Trotskyist activity is moronic. If you think protests are being dominated by people you consider irresponsible then you need to get involved not sit back with your laptop, swirling a glass of port and scoffing.
    g) Target demographics differ in different areas which is why we need to be on the doorstep campaigning not just coming up with a centralised marketing strategy. I actually agree Miliband’s message has been somewhat confusing but you seem pretty confused yourself.

  43. Ali Al Baba says:

    “They see a popular anti-capitalist backlash, where I see our reputation for economic credibility draining down a Regent Street gutter.”

    Labour’s “reputation for economic credibility” has drained in my view – when did Labour last leave the economy in a better shape than we found it???

    Ultimately we have to be more realistic and understand that sustainable wealth generation – low tax, low debt – is the only way we will generate the means to deliver social justice.

    We have learnt the hard way that Governments are not unlike citizens and business – you have to pay your way. To get back into power we have to make a case that makes sense. No more gestures and short-termism – 50p in the pound is crap if all it leads to is less transactional volume in the economy, less overall sustainable spending and less tax revenue. Time to get over the old Labour petty politics of envy, embrace wealth generation and deliver sustainable value for all.

  44. Left Is Forward says:

    What on earth is your problem with a “high tax, pro-student, anti-police, anti-consumer, anti-business programme”??

    Replace “anti-consumer” with “anti-consumerism” and you’d have nailed the current Will of the Electorate, bang on.

    Moreover, not only would such a set of policies be very popular (by “anti-police” I think you mean “make the police take action against real criminals, not the people who are revealing the criminals in Parliament, Millbank, and Top Shop” – certainly a popular sentiment) but they would also target the main problems faced in Britain today. Lack of education; lack of social mobility; a consumerist society in which profit is put before people. Free education, a ban on tax-dodging, and encouraging more investment in human capital (even if it means some of the most exploitative employers leaving the country – it’d be no great loss, since we can always replace those jobs with an expanded public sector) would all help cure those ills.

    And the poster above who identified we need around 50% of British GDP to be in the state sector, in order to deliver the standard of universal public services people expect, was spot on. Modern public services are very efficient, but startlingly expensive to deliver, if you want them to have adequate quality. Even now, social services and the universities are as seriously underfunded as the NHS was in the early 1990s, and could do with a serious cash boost. Free prescriptions should clearly be expanded from Wales to England, and pensions and benefits are at a level where we treat claimants as if they should be living in poverty. It isn’t impossible that the state sector will hit 60% of GDP if these problems are to be resolved. But what’s wrong with that? There’s money available to pay for it, so long as there is the political will to tax it.

    That’s the thing that’s lacking here – the will to tax, not the will to cut. The truth is, there is almost nothing available to cut – every slash is slicing through vital services, as can be seen by the howls of protest from outraged people whose lifelines are being taken away by this illegitimate Coalition. The ConDems will never reach their deficit reduction targets because they’ll see in the polls reflect people’s insecurity and outrage, and shy away from the brutal cuts they promise to deliver. Only Labour can deliver a balanced budget!! And Labour can only do that, if they stop pussyfooting around, and go for a full-frontal assault on the tax-dodgers, spivs, banksters, high-earners, megarich, inherited millionaires, and stop worrying about “lost votes” from people who were never going to vote left-wing anyway.

  45. More sausages are needed!

  46. BenSix says:

    I’ll agree Ed Miliband is tedious and unconvincing but if you really imagine that the left would unite around Ed Balls, still less the shameless David Miliband I want some of what you’re on. The latter especially: I mean, this is a guy who’s on record as campaigning against Sri Lankan human rights abuses purely so as to appease the Tamil voting bloc. A guy who was complicit in covering up the torture of Binyam Mohamed. A guy who – tacitly or otherwise – agreed to help protect American “interests” at the Iraq inquiry. I’d rather have what’s left of Ralph.

  47. Yeah feel your despondency. I’ve been feeling that for months. The problem is that here, on the outside of the Labour bubble, there is no evidence that Labour is doing anything at all. Oh, but just a correction:

    “we are acting like children in an anarcho-syndicalist sweet shop. Shall we go on the fees protest? No, let’s hit Vodafone. Wait, what about the demo against the police? Aren’t we supposed to be targeting the Lib Dems’ offices? Or is it Top Shop? And the occupations? Hey, the cuts; what about the cuts…?”

    No. Do not claim these are yours. They are not. None of these are Labour actions. In fact other than the marches, none of them were organised in the traditional sense (not to insult @ukuncut since your action uses new, not traditional, organising).

    So when we see our NHS torn apart without a single law passed to sanctify the tearing, we look to Labour to do some opposing. What do we see? Nowt. In fact, I have seen more opposition from Tory Health Select Committee members than I have from Ed Miliband (is he still alive? I haven’t seen him on the telly since last Wednesday).

    I don’t think the “Left” has lost its marbles. The Left is as it ever was. In fact, it is getting invigorated and resourceful. But Labour is moribund. Moribund Miliband.

    Do something, please. And start by pledging that the NHS should be kept public.

  48. @Peter Robertson says:
    December 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    “We’ve had it, picked the wrong Miliband I’m afraid.”

    Well I didn’t.

    “Actually, the party did pick the right Miliband, it was the unions who picked Ed. Does he really seem that left wing now compared to his brother?”

    Actually, this is a silly argument and is, shall I say, “Tory-led”? The union votes were one-member one vote and like it or not the majority voted for Ed. I wish they hadn’t but it is the way that democracy works. I suspect that you think that affiliates are not “proper” voters like party members or MPs. Well, think yourself lucky that they counted just a third in the college rather than each union vote pitted against your party member vote.

    “He managed to pull off a massive con, the Unions bought it and the rest of us Labour Party members are going to pay for it”

    Nah. What would you have said if there was a majority of MPs in favour of EdM? Their third have a far higher value per vote than party members.

    by watching these clowns run the country until the next election, which the Tories will win outright……Come back David, all is forgiven!!

  49. mary says:

    Dan, are you secretly a troll for the Conservatives?

    Anyway, to identify the current rise in direct action as something purely to do with ‘the left’ is seeking to impose ideological restraints on something that is much more grassroots and wide ranging than such a label suggests. Get with the zeitgeist and move on.

    As for Ed. Great. No problem. He is already carving out his own territory on public perceptions of honesty and being in touch. Only time and circumstance will give him gravitas. He is not, unlike David would have been, having to constantly defend himself against accusations dating from the Blair era. He has refused to be panicked into wild declarations and policy decisions on the hoof despite pressure from all sides. He made a great choice in Alan Johnson…. etc etc.

    I for one will toast a christmas that sees the Lib Dems reduced to a rump in the polls, down two senior members with Law out for now and Cable damaged, serious rumblings on the backbenches of the Conservative side, Osborne not delivering on his figures and Labour at its highest level in the polls since 2007.

    Roll on the new year!

  50. KeithNieland says:

    To win the next election we have get millions who voted Tory last May to vote Labour. The key question is how are we going to present ourselves to achieve that? Not I would suggest by trying only to hoover up some Lib Dem supporters.

    We have to see ourselves as others see us and develop a vision and policy agenda that reflects people’s aspirations. We have to ask our non-political friends what they want from government and start from there.

    I suspect the answer would look something like a fair tax, social justice, firm on crime, pro law and order, a rewarder of hard work, pro consumer, a partner with the business sector, focus of welfare on the most needy, pro NHS and state education Labour Party.

    We need to remind ourselves why Kinnock lost and Blair won (3 times). We have to support aspiration and not appear to be punishing people through the tax system or by being light on law and order.

    With regard to Ed I would like to know what he stands for. I would like to hear a speech that inspired me. I would like to hear a vision and set of principles and feel yes my non-political friends could sign up to that. We need to avoid the trap of thinking the Government’s low approval rating is our high approval rating.

    Ed has not got time. You only get one chance to make a first impression and that opprtuniity is running out fast for Ed. I fear that compared to many shadow Cabinet members he appears a lightweight. He lacks the all important touch of the sound bite – I don’t like it either but the all important media does.

    I want Ed to succeed but he needs to start delivering soon. Some shadow cabinet members have enhanced their reputation over recent months and Ed needs to catch up quick.

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