Labour’s latest party political broadcast is an incoherent mess

by James Goldstone

Labour’s latest party political broadcast is a double tragedy; it highlights the hardship felt by many families today while also demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of why we lost the last election.

Released on the same day that figures showed UK unemployment has hit a ten year low, the five minute video makes the case that Britain’s economy isn’t working and people are being failed by the Tories. Sound familiar?

With a slew of elections coming up in in less than 80 days, it appears that team Corbyn would like to make these races into a referendum on Cameron and Osborne’s handling of the economy. The problem is that the Tories currently hold a two to one advantage over Labour on who is more trusted to run the economy – the same ratio they enjoyed at the last general election.

It is difficult to understand Labour’s thinking on this strategy. My guess is they believe that the economic suffering of many in society has not been pressed hard enough to the electorate and, much like Corbyn’s own PMQ style, have sought to make the case using real life case studies.

The case studies in the video are highly sympathetic and they represent hundreds of thousands of others across the country who do everything right but still struggle to make ends meet. But this shouldn’t be a revelation to voters as dozens of case studies like this were featured in Labour campaigns during the general election and they failed to bring about a Labour government.

There is the issue of blame. Many voters from all backgrounds believe, rightly or wrongly, that profligate Labour spending is the root cause of much of these difficulties. If you subscribe to this view then the video becomes an advert of why you should avoid voting for Labour.

If this type of video could convince everyone that the hardship described was completely the Tories’ fault and that more should be done by the government to help them, we would have won the last election. I am sure this is the reaction of everyone involved in the production of the broadcast but evidence tells us that it is a minority view.

There are other problems with the video such as the slightly creepy, overly long slow-motion shots of the families staring at the camera which feel like they failed to capture enough footage and had to make up the running time. The lighting of the MPs is really poor and this, along with the shaky camera footage, gives it an amteur feel. Despite talking about some pretty heart-breaking situations, the MPs in the video seem wooden and scripted. Overall, the feel of the video was one of despair and desperation. On this point the broadcast has even drawn mild criticism from usually supportive quarters.

And finally the policies that Corbyn lays out don’t seem to address the needs of the case studies at the centre of the video. It is hard to see how increased house building will help single mother Marion to afford the required solicitor fees. Zero-hours contract worker Kris does deserve a real living wage but it is currently the Tories’ plan to raise the minimum wage to £9 before the next election. “Jobs for the future” is a slogan rather than a policy and tackling tax dodgers is fair and right but it is unclear how it will directly improve the lives of the case studies featured or the viewers at home.

It is safe to say that the first party political broadcast of the year from Labour has failed on several fronts. It takes on the Tories over an issue the public trust them on more than Labour. It highlights the economic suffering of families at a time when the economy is doing the best it has for a decade. It attempts to convince people using sympathetic case studies that have failed to move opinion in the past. It doesn’t suggest Labour has learnt any lessons from the great recession. It is poorly produced and the policy proposals it espouses are either vague or have been copied by the Tories.

Perhaps my expectations are too high. The intention of the video may simply have been to make the case that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party cares deeply about the needs of those least well off in society. If that is the intention, then the party is setting itself an extremely low bar. If Labour doesn’t have this going for them already, what have they got?

James Goldstone is an activist and former Labour Organiser.

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12 Responses to “Labour’s latest party political broadcast is an incoherent mess”

  1. Many voters from all backgrounds believe, rightly or wrongly, that profligate Labour spending is the root cause of much of these difficulties.

    But what if it is wrongly? Should we go along with their misconception? Or, try an explanation like:

    For Government, spending money is a just like feeding electrons into an electrical circuit at one terminal. The more you feed in at one terminal (spending) the more you get back at the other terminal (taxation). If there’s a difference between the two that is because the electrons have been stored somewhere, like in a capacitor, in the circuit. (Saved in the economy).

    So the idea that we can fix the deficit by cutting spending and raising taxes is fundamentally flawed. We can see it just doesn’t work.

  2. Mike Stallard says:

    Bleating on bout non existent “austerity” and “the bedroom Tax” is not going to cut the mustard. This government (which I do not like) is cutting back hard on bureaucracy which, to my mind, is wrecking the NHS and the Education service and the Police. 35,000 bureaucrats were got rid of along with the 19,000 police! 35,000! That I really approve of. Lean and mean…

  3. Tafia says:

    You are avoiding the elephant in the room – either deliberately or through ignorance.

    The reason the population do not trust Labour over the economy is because of 2007/2008 and the fact that Labour were in Office when it happened. Even though it wasn’t Labour’s fault and it was an international thing amongst everyone who used the Anglo-American banking model, that matters not one jot in the eyes of the voter. Labour were in Office, they get the blame. Pure and simple. (Likewise Black Wednesday in 1992 seriously damaged the Tories even though that wasn’t their fault).

    That is going to take at least another decade to work it’s way out of the electorate’s attitude AND it will also take a Tory downturn. Nothing to do with Corbyn – wouldn’t make any difference if Labour was led by Jesus Christ and the Shadow Cabinet was the 12 Apostles.

  4. Touchstone says:

    @ Mike Stallard – what happens when you cut “bureaucrats” is that qualified professional social workers, nurses, police officers etc. have to spend their time doing record-keeping, filing etc., instead of their proper jobs. Like it or not, all organisations have a certain level of admin work that has to be done by someone, or records get lost and mistakes are made. Admin people aren’t paid very much, firing them IME is almost always a false economy.

    Agree that the broadcast is rubbish – even the background “music” seems to have fallen through a timewarp from the 80’s. People just don’t want to hear other peoples’ hard-luck stories.

  5. Mike Homfray says:

    If people really don’t care about these things, then of course they won’t vote Labour – they will vote Tory, like selfish, uncaring bastards everywhere.

    Do I want to be like that? Either we win on our terms or we let the Tories do what the electorate appear happy for them to do, but to carry out their policies just to give jobs to careerist politicians – no thanks

    Hope? Optimism? On Planet Tory maybe. I don’t feel a glimmer of either

  6. James Martin says:

    Mike Stallard, I’m guessing with daft comments like that you are probably not being serious. But I would be interested to hear how you think cuts help education in England under the Tories? Are families in poor areas better off now most of the Sure Start centres have shut down as a result of cuts? Are teenagers better off after losing things like EMA grants has been followed by savage cuts to sixth form and FE colleges and where there are now less courses, less teachers and less links with industry via apprenticeships? Or perhaps it was the ending of the bureaucratic tyranny of hot school dinners with minimum nutritional content that academies have been allowed to opt out of that you celebrate? Or the lean, mean approach of the Harris academy chain which uses the taxpayers money given to it for children’s education to pay it’s CEO £400,000 a year? Perhaps even it is the huge disaster of teacher training under the Tories that has led to thousands of children having to be taught by unqualified teachers and teaching assistants day in, day out? Come on Mike, is it all this and more that really makes you happy?

  7. TrT says:

    Between 1997 and 2007 the Labour Government spent £4,000,000,000,000 more than the Conservative Government that preceded it, that is, in 1997, the Tories spent x, in ten years, Labour spent 10x plus four trillion.

    The argument isnt that Labours spending caused the crisis, its that Labours failure to save any money left the UK with no money to deal with the crisis.
    Brown claimed to have negated the need to save anything for a rainy day, he had abolished boom and bust,

    He was demonstrably wrong

    Red Ed and the First Corbynista dont even have that.

    And thats why Zimbabwe, Argentina and Venezuala are the best places in the world to live, eveeryone is a billionaire, its just a a shame that theres no bread on the shelves….

  8. James says:

    @petermartin2001 and @Tafia

    If Labor wanted to use the Party Political Broadcast to education the public on the 2007/8 financial crash and what role Labour did or didn’t play in it then, of course, I wouldn’t have written this article.

    But instead I have seen close Corbyn supporters join the Tories and attack Labour’s handling of the economy. Before Gordon Brown’s ill-fated intervention into the leadership race in August last year, Corbyn backer Clive Lewis said that people should not listen to Brown as he had zero credibility thanks to role in economic crash.

    I agree that Labour has been unfairly blamed for its role in the downturn but the truth is it has. And we either challenge this or accept it. We cannot side step the issue and plough ahead with our own point of view, safe in the knowledge we are right, but doing nothing to take anyone with us.

    Either we change opinions or we work with the opinions already there and find other ways to appeal to the electorate.

  9. @James,

    Unfortunately if we do tell it like it should be told there may not be a lot of votes in that either! So is honesty the best policy?

    If we look at the problem from a different angle we can notice that the UK always has a largish current account deficit with the ROW. So that must mean that someone in the UK has to finance that deficit by borrowing.

    So far, the political discourse hasn’t got beyond those who argue that it should be govt who largely does the borrowing (the deficits don’t matter much POV) or those who are trying to minimise Govt borrowing by pushing the borrowing onto the private sector. That’s most politicians including George Osborne. They’ve been reasonably successful in that but it has created a huge asset bubble in housing and to some extent the stock market. When all that comes crashing down, as it will, then whoever is in govt is going to end up being voted out.

    So the best bet politically is to say nothing much at all and wait for that to happen. If we want to be more honest we can explain that we need to have a policy on the exchange rate which ensures that imports and exports balance and so there no need for any net borrowing by the UK as a whole.

  10. John P Reid says:

    Mike Himfray,brilliant let’s call people who want to run out of spending other people’s money, caring and are not bastards, because that’s a really unselfish thing

    Alternatively, we could tell people who voted labour in the past,are currently not thinking of voting labour uncaring bastards, that way we,lol get them to change their minds and vote labour!


    By the way ,well said TRT

  11. @ John P Reid,

    Just on a point of information: It’s all other people’s money!

    You can try creating your own, if you like, by writing out your own IOUs but I think you’ll find that its not that universally acceptable.

    The way to look the problem is to consider that w’re all better off, when we have a growing economy, when everyone, who is willing and able to, is working full time in a reasonably well paid job. We’ve had that type of economy before and we can have it again.

  12. @TRT,

    “The argument isnt that Labours spending caused the crisis, its that Labours failure to save any money left the UK with no money to deal with the crisis.”

    Money, ie Pounds are just an IOU of government. It doesn’t make any more sense for Govts to save up their own IOUs for a rainy day than it does for you and I to save our own IOUs. Its like the post office saving its own stamps or a casino saving up its own chips. It makes sense for everyone else to save stamps and casino chips though!

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