Posts Tagged ‘WATO’

A return to growth may answer some of Labour’s tricky questions

25/05/2013, 03:17:52 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Confirmation from the Office of National Statistics that growth was indeed 0.3% in the first three months of this year – avoiding a triple dip recession – is good news for the economy – and potentially for Labour too.

Conventional wisdom has it that a return to growth is politically damaging for the opposition. At a stroke attacks on the government’s economic ineptitude lose their purchase. The gloom lifts. The Chancellor can puff out his chest and tell us the pain was worth it, the worst is past. Let, if not quite the good times, then certainly the better times roll.

But what if the opposite is true? What if rather than restoring the government’s fortunes the economy returning to growth is actually helpful for Labour?

After all we saw exactly this pattern through the mid-1990s when a reviving economy did little to refloat John Major’s political fortunes. In fact a return to growth may help Labour deal with its three big problems on the economy.

The first two are related to spending. Labour is committed to a temporary fiscal boost to kickstart the economy and knows it has little spare cash to meet its wider social democratic priorities. It remains elliptical about what it will do on either score and polls consistently shows the party simply isn’t trusted yet to run the economy, its third big problem.

Indeed, Ed Miliband’s reluctance to spell out how that stimulus would be paid for came glaringly unstuck during his interview with Martha Kearney on Radio Four’s World at One programme a few weeks ago.

Asked repeatedly if Labour’s approach would require an increase in short-term borrowing, he employed that classic Tony Benn tactic of answering a different question, maintaining debt would be lower in the long-term with Labour’s approach.

A spin of the news cycle later, Miliband was in safer environs on the Daybreak breakfast sofa conceding that, yes, short-term borrowing would increase as a necessary means of driving growth with in turn reduces longer term debt.


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Labour’s policy on the European referendum means death on the doorstep

13/05/2013, 05:04:39 PM

by Kevin Meagher

An in/out referendum on Europe is “not in the national interest” according to shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander on Radio Four’s World at One earlier. Securing recovery and providing stability for investors is more important than political game-playing.

There will be some measure of satisfaction at the top of the party that here is an issue where Labour look serious and resolute, particularly with business audiences. Privately, they will praise Ed Miliband for his fortitude. ‘We don’t want the uncertainty’, they will tell him. ‘You are right to hold out.’

He should not be seduced by their platitudes. What he should tell business leaders is that they will need to get their hands in their pockets and pay for a show-stopping pro-European campaign ahead of any vote in 2017.

He should explain that the ball has been threaded between the legs of pro-Europeans (and I include myself here) and we are left running to catch-up. The referendum is now essential to rebuilding trust with the electorate on an issue where the governed and the governing have become dangerously unstuck.

Ed should also tell them that Labour remains positive about Europe and that the vote that can be won.

The underlying problem is that the cause of closer integration has always been an elite pursuit and there has never been any real attempt to explain and, if not popularise, then normalise our membership of the European Union. For Ed Miliband, it can be a genuine One Nation cause.

As it stands today though, Europe is a proxy for all the antagonisms the public feels towards its governing class. Like immigration, it’s something that has changed a traditional British way of life without the public ever feeling they were offered the choice, let alone gave their consent. That sort of anger doesn’t dissipate, it festers.

For Labour, the party’s refusal to accept any of this means death on the doorstep. All the Tories and UKIP need to do in next year’s European elections is frame Labour as the party that won’t give the electorate a say. It will ensure there is little scrutiny of UKIP and provide the Tories with an attack line that will resonate in all parts of the country with all groups of voters.

A rum state of affairs, then, for a self-proclaimed people’s party to find itself in.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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Labour is fighting the wrong campaign

05/05/2013, 09:16:02 AM

by Anthony Painter

Since 1993, Labour performance in county council elections on a national equivalent basis is as follows: 39%, 44%, 42%, 36%, 22% and 29%. Thursday was better than the absolutely disastrous 2009 result that came a year before its second worst defeat in the modern political era. But it was a performance significantly worse than a party expecting to be winning a majority in two years’ time should have had.

The comfortable thing to do now is focus on the Tories’ travails and UKIP’s surge. But for anyone who wants to see a Labour Government in 2015, the far more sensible thing is to focus on Labour for a while. It is very difficult to write a piece cautioning the party about its current direction when so many new councillors have just been elected and so many local campaigns were so effective. That tremendous work absolutely needs to be acknowledged. Unfortunately though, the overall picture is extremely worrying. There has been a spooky silence on this fact since Thursday and that ultimately won’t help Labour win the majority it should in 2015.

Labour’s strategy isn’t working and it needs to reassess radically the approach that it is taking. Labour has decided to adopt Obama 2008-style “hopey-change” as a strategy. The problem is that next election doesn’t have a hopey-change feel to it. People want change but it is a desire for change that is sceptical and grounded in perception of what will be effective rather than wispy visions.

The 2015 election has a “please spare us from George Osborne but don’t be silly” feel to it. If it were an American election it would be 1992 rather than 2008. It’s the economy, stupid but that doesn’t mean anything goes. It’s just as winnable for Ed Miliband’s Labour as it was for Bill Clinton’s Democrats (UKIP as the Ross Perot of the UK anyone?) and Neil Kinnock’s Labour in 1992. One won and one lost and in that tale lies the strategy that can take Miliband to Downing Street.

There is time to correct what has gone wrong over the last few weeks. Moreover, Ed Miliband has come back from set-backs before – stronger, wiser, more effective. His conference speeches in 2011 and 2012 barely merit comparison; the latter was vastly superior which got across a similar message.

Labour’s campaign came to abrupt halt in a down-the-line interview on BBC Radio 4’s World at One. It was the moment when its strategic weakness was completely exposed. Hopey-change met stark reality in what was simply a series of very straightforward questions that any opposition hopeful of winning power should be able to take in its stride.

Miliband’s problem is not one bad interview. It’s what lay behind that interview. And the biggest concern is the policy weakness.


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Good results for Labour but the UKIP surge augurs ill for Ed

03/05/2013, 09:59:45 AM

by Atul Hatwal

This morning Ed Miliband will be luxuriating in the breathing space afforded by the local election results. After a torrid couple of weeks where the Westminster narrative has palpably shifted against him, yesterday’s gains will disrupt the flow of negative stories, temporarily at least.

Not only is Labour on track to do well but UKIP – the new ball of wool for the media kitten – has performed sufficiently strongly to occupy days’ more column inches of reflection and dissection.

The Labour leader deserves his moment of respite. Winning lots of new councillors will revitalise local constituency parties up and down the country and help rebuild a Labour campaign machine that rusted and fell apart over thirteen years in power.

But Ed Miliband should be under no illusions: as good as Labour’s results are likely to be when all the results are declared, they will accentuate  the irreconcilable conflict at the heart of his political positioning and no number of smiling photo opportunities with new Labour councillors can avert Labour’s strategic dilemma.

On one side of Ed Miliband is the public. Contrary to the self-affirming assertions within Labour’s online echo chamber of activists and wannabe MPs that the centre ground of British politics is moving left, yesterday’s elections demonstrate something very different.

Whatever is said about UKIP, one thing is clear: disillusioned voters using it as a vehicle for protest are not headed left. There are plenty of left wing options for the type of nihilistic anger harnessed by UKIP but the voters didn’t pick any of them. It wasn’t the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition that surged yesterday.


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