Posts Tagged ‘In the black Labour’

Labour used to know how to win elections. We need to re-learn. Fast.

09/05/2015, 04:01:27 PM

by Ian Moss

We, who came into the Labour party in the late 80s and early 90s thought we had built an invincible election fighting machine – after laying the foundations to get Labour back in contention and become an electoral force again the New Labour project embraced the changes in society and was the only party that looked in touch with modern Britain.

In reality, when we look back in 2020 the last 41 years of our endeavours will have seen only 13 years of Labour government. Labour is back into its natural state – as a party of opposition. The only virtue to make of letting the Miliband leaderships run its course to the election is to say that the left had another go, and again it failed. We have tried this plan enough in my lifetime now and it needs to stop.

Cameron has now got the opportunity to be PM for as many years as leader as Blair was, although I suspect he will happily retire after 2 or 3 years. Think about that. Blair, the all-conquering, was PM for 10 years. Cameron could do the same, happily, given this election result.

But he won’t find it easy. The majority is thin and his party will only stay becalmed for a while before its inevitable tensions start showing – over Europe and social liberalism – and he’s not a man noted for knuckling down to the hard business of government or has the soft skills of wooing back benchers. His style of party management means he could be in for a rough ride.

Labour has the power in opposition given this result, to make life difficult for the government, but only if it joins forces with exactly the political groupings that the public were frightened it would. If Labour spends the next 5 years voting down measures in alliance with the Greens and SNP it should prepare itself for a long time in opposition.

The Labour party should not see the way out of this result as building a coalition of Green voters, left wing Liberal Democrats and various fringe campaign groups. The only connection to the non-metropolitan world they have is as they drive through it on camping holidays. Labour does not need to appeal to the drivers of motor-homes; it needs to appeal to the car mechanics that fix them.

The Labour party core vote is urban and liberal. It also needs to be suburban and blue collar. People who run small businesses, work in trades and, yes, drive white vans. Empathy with their issues was notably absent from the team around Miliband which was full of the types of people who spent their Saturdays in Fabian Conferences. Real people don’t spend their weekends in seminars. Labour need to appeal to aspirational and entrepreneurial voters.


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If we are all Labour Uncutters now, let’s do this properly

15/12/2014, 10:25:32 AM

by Jonathan Todd

We are all in the black Labourites now, Labour Uncutters and proud. It was In the Black Labour published by Policy Network in 2011 that reminded us that fiscal prudence and social justice are complementary. It was Labour Uncut at conference in 2013 who provided detail in our book on how this might be done, how £34bn of additional savings in 2015/16 could be reallocated to Labour priorities.

Both publications were contentious. They – at least In the Black Labour – are now orthodoxy. Higher debt interest payments, Ed Miliband noted in his speech last week, as In the Black Labour did previously, squeeze out money for public services and for investment in the long-term potential of our country. Following the Miliband speech, Phil Collins observed in the Times that the difference between an old Brownite and an old Blairite is about three years. The dates of Miliband’s speech and In the Black Labour prove him right to the week.

The headline used by Collins’ paper to report the speech – I’ll cut deficit but won’t reveal how, says Miliband – showed, however, that Miliband is yet to go as far as Labour Uncut has gone. In isolating additional cuts we’d support, Labour Uncut created resources to apply to different priorities. In the spirit of Mad Men’s Don Draper, we didn’t like what was being said about Labour (that the party can’t be trusted with public money), so we changed the conversation (by fronting up to enough cuts to create fiscal room for a set of policy priorities distinctly Labour and different from those of the Tory-led government).

Miliband didn’t do the full Draper. Maybe he got as far as a Pete Campbell, another Mad Men character. Moving in the right direction but lacking Draper’s uncompromising edge. Yet Miliband doesn’t need to that audacious to remake himself in Draper form. Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, reckons he has a £50bn target to shoot at. That’s the fiscal room between Conservative plans and Labour’s commitment to balance current spending by 2020.

£50bn is ample to signpost a Labour future. But voters won’t reward what you promise if they conclude you won’t deliver it. The £50bn can play the role played by house building and childcare within the Labour Uncut book; the altered priorities made affordable by identifying sufficient cuts. The political gain that attaches to this £50bn, however, is conditional on demonstrating how we’d balance current spending by 2020.


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When does a social democratic party stop being social democratic?

06/12/2011, 08:22:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

“There is nothing right-wing about fiscal conservatism”, begins “In the black Labour: why fiscal conservatism and social justice go hand-in-hand“. The policy network’s much talked about pamphlet argues that to rebuild its reputation for economic competence, Labour has to learn to love big brother in the shape of embracing fiscal rectitude.

It is a hard-headed but reductive prognosis for a centre-left party. It seems a bit like having a car without any petrol. You can point it in the direction you want to travel in, but you have no means of ever getting there. So what, ultimately, is the point of the car?

That is, in essence, the dilemma this argument, elegantly and persuasively made by the authors (including our own Anthony Painter), presents Labour with. When does a party – a democratic socialist one (in the words of “new” clause four) – stop being the very thing it professes to be? How elastic are our principles, our thinking, and, most importantly, the trust of the people who vote for us if we embark on a self-denying ordinance on public spending? (more…)

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Sunday review: The autumn financial statement and “In the black Labour” by Graeme Cooke, Adam Lent, Anthony Painter and Hopi Sen

04/12/2011, 02:20:54 PM

by Anthony Painter

There’s no hiding place. The autumn financial statement outlined in full the dire economic situation that this country will face for much of this decade. Squeezed living standards, high borrowing, cuts in public services and the shrinking of the welfare state, ongoing uncertainty, and high unemployment will define the 2010s: the austerity decade. What’s worse is that all of the risks are on the downside.

George Osborne has made the situation worse – unnecessarily so. Cutting short term programmes and investments such as the future jobs fund and building schools for the future which don’t add to the structural deficit was myopic. Once his model of economic recovery – driven by exports and private sector investment – was faltering early this year he should have intervened. He didn’t and that has made things worse. We are all paying a price as a consequence.

The choreographed dance so far this parliament has been for the Tory-Lib Dem government to blame the last Labour government for all our economic ills. And for Labour to blame the government austerity. The reality is far more complex. The government bears some, but by no means all, of the blame: a strong stance on fiscal consolidation has reduced the risk of government debt in the eyes of investors; world oil prices and food prices that have increased by 30% in a year have also been a drag on growth; eurozone crisis is starting to be a drag on confidence and demand; but an early and inflexible fiscal consolidation, especially the VAT increase, has made matters worse.


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