Friday, February 23, 2007

Why Labour aren't panicking 2

Who's afraid of Davey C?

Not the Labour party. Yes, people murmur. He's not done badly. He looks like a normal human being. They've done well on that environment thing. He has a good eye for a soundbite. Good photo-ops too. Wons some people back I shouldn't wonder.

But there's contempt in the analysis too. He's not changed their policies. He's shallow. His message doesn't play in Oglethorpe. The rest of the tory team are crap. "Sharing the procceds of growth" will still mean cuts, while the Tories are busy making spending commitments hand over fist. In the end, these chickens will come home to roost.

By the time of the General election people will have to make a big choice and "not being as bad as Iain Duncan Smith" won't cut it as a reason to vote. People will look at the conservatives and wonder- "and what would you do instead?" The answer to that, so satisfyingly blank today, will be one of the defining features of the next election. Labour think the Tories won't have a good enough answer.

Complancency? i don't think so. Labour know we're in a fight this time. We just think it's a fight we can win.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Guido misses the real story...

Guido Fawkes exposes the terrible secret cabal at the heart of the Labour party today, in a piece will have the Brownite cult in disarray.

As a former staffer, I can reveal that the truth about the Brownite "party withing a party" is worse than even Guido knows.

Guido seems to think that the Labour party is split down the middle between Brownites and Blairites, with nothing but suspicious glances, vicious counter briefing and whatever between the two.

This is absolutely true, but it is not the whole story.

It's time the truth was told, so today I can exclusively reveal that there's a Brownite secret ceremony too.

To become a fully fledged Brownite you first enter a darkened room, led by the keeper of the Holy Whelan and are blindfolded with a tablecloth from Granita. Before an image of the all-seeing eye of Gordon you swear to abjure the evil lord Lynton and all his works.

If you repeat the oath of eternal loyalty without a flaw, the secret words of power are whispered into your ears. As the cult repeat "Neo-endogenous macro-Economic Growth" again and again in an ever rising pitch, the high priest intones that you are a now a Brownite, and shall take thy orders from the king over the water, and none other.

You are then given a code name. Mine is fiscal framework. Then, eyes blinking, you are expelled into the bright light of day, sworn never to repeat the secrets you have learnt that day. You are told nothing else but to await the day when you will be needed.

At least, that's what I've heard. From my sources.

Oddly, the only people who have ever asked me if I'm a "blairite" or a "brownite" are either journalists or people not involved in the Labour party.

Of course, a few junior people (like me), fall in love with our own self importance and give the impression that we know all the secrets of the labour party, and other people fall for it. There's nothing more fun than nodding knowingly as someone asks you to confirm some piece of gossip. "Ah," you might say "Well, It would be terribly indiscreet of me to comment".

Of course, at a senior level there will be tensions, rivalries and debates, but honestly, some people shouldn't believe everything they read. The boring truth is that Labour party people come in all shapes and sizes. The vast majority of Labour people respect Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, disagree with one, theother or both on certain issues.

You'll be shocked and amazed to learn that people who are close to Gordon Brown are also friendly with people who aren't that close. You'll be horrified to learn that these people drink together, go to meetings and seminars and conferences together. You'll be disgusted to learn that they want to win the next election. Worst of all, you'll find that they agree about most things, and are on the same side. that of progressive politics and social democracy.

Funnily enough, I have this feeling that it's these latter two things that most irritate Guido and his "sources".

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Meacher memories...

Well, Michael Meacher will stand for leader of the Labour party.

I think we should welcome the entry of a man who thinks that both 9/11 and Pearl Harbour were deliberate acts of the US government to allow attacks on their on own people.

"It is not surprising that some have seen the US failure to avert the 9/11 attacks as creating an invaluable pretext for attacking Afghanistan in a war that had clearly already been well planned in advance. There is a possible precedent for this. The US national archives reveal that President Roosevelt used exactly this approach in relation to Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. Some advance warning of the attacks was received, but the information never reached the US fleet. The ensuing national outrage persuaded a reluctant US public to join the second world war."

And let's look back fondly to the days when a Labour minister could be quoted approvingly in militant for the following statement:

"We are at the end of the capitalist road... The economy has moved from one crisis to another. We have tried different remedies... we now have the lowest strike record in Europe, still no solution... we have the lowest unit costs in Europe, still no solution. It’s reckoned with even three million unemployed that there will no solution of the economic problems. It’s not the fault of the working class, it’s the fault of the system.

Talk about campaigning on the Governments record there, Michael (It was the 1974-79 government andMeacher was a trade minister).

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Five Reasons why Labour aren't panicking.. Number 1:

My posts have been getting longer and longer. So here's an attempt to break an argument down into handy bite size pieces.

Labour's polls are poor. Journalist headlines scream disaster. Yet labour MPs seem set on continuing with the same stategy they've had in place for the last five years- replace Blair with Brown and keep with New Labour. Wilful head burrowing? Perhaps, but here are the first of of five reasons why Labour people are keeping their heads about losing their seats.

Number One: It's the economy, stupid.

Why have British Governments lost power? Economic failure. 97 (Black Wednesday and recession), 79 (Winter of Discontent), 74 (Strikes, decline and the three day week), 70 (devaluation), and 1951 (loads of things) all followed economic storms.

Only in 1964 has a government gone into an election claiming that the Economy had done tolerably well and still lost, and even then, there was the unpopular 1961 wage freeze and an increase in unemployment in 1963 which led the government to go for a reflation led boom through 1964- a boom which nearly won them the election but led to a balance of payments crisis after the election.

Compared to that, Labour's economic record has been stunning. ten years of economic growth, low interest rates, low inflation and high employment. Labour's next Prime Minister is the Chancellor that delivered all that. Surely, Labour people calculate, a general election will focus minds on what really matters- their jobs, their mortgages and their lifestyle. Who will they trust with that economy- the leader 0f the first British government since the war to never suffer a recession, or a shiny faced PR man?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Cameron and the politics of the semi-intelligensia

A few days ago I wrote that David Cameron's problem was not that he had smoked cannabis as a teenager but his privileged upbringing, and that this priviege and comfort led to a fundamental weakness at the core of the "new Conservative" project: an obsession with the wrong issues and the wrong people.

The new Tory analysis seems to be this: At the end of the Major years it became socially unacceptable in "nice" circles to admit to being a Conservative. A combination of grasping materialism, economic incompetence, political maladroitness, unfasionable and unpleasant socially conservative morality and a seeming monomania on Europe all combined to contaminate the Tory brand. A swathe of prosperous, degree-educated, home-owning, share-owning people deserted the Conservatives and never returned. The purpose of New Conservatism is to bring those people back.

So let's look at what Cameron's focus has been on, and what it reveals about what he believes are the main concerns of the people.

First, Cameron has avaided any significant statements on the big issues. The Economy, Healthcare, Education policy have all been consigned a a box marked "We agree with the Government where it's doing the right thing but reserve the right to criticise it". This leads to a degree of creative ambiguity.

The new Tories know that they should be for fiscal stability, but at the same time they should be for freeing the taxpayer from the burden of Tax. So they support doing both at the same time.

On Housing the New Tories are for more liberal planning laws while being against more housing. They are for spending more money on social housing and at the same time in favour of opening private social housing to right to buy.

On The NHS, they know they should support the NHS, but they want to critique it's ineffiency. So they say the NHS is broken _and_ they say they won't change anything.
So Cameron attacks the government for wasting money and demands that hospitals stay open, then he says he won't carry out any more reforms and that local surgical decisions must be respected. He decries targets, then says he'll impose his own.

This is the famed _and_ theory of conservatism. So why is it so irrational?

These incoherent policies are not evidence of stupidity, but rather represent a party trying to work its way toward a new definition of acceptable conservatism in order to appeal to what they see as a crucial group of voters. The incoherence is an acceptable price to pay for gettign their support.

I believe the Conservatives have decided they need the support of people who pay lip service to caring about the big political issues, but _actually_ care about other issues.

They need the support of people who _say_ they care about tax and the NHS and Schools, but since they have a decent income, kids at good schools and either good healthcare or private medical insurance, _actually_ care about their own tax burden, the quality of their food, the sexualistion of their children, the price of petrol, the cost of paying for their child's deposit.

So the Tories pay lip service to policy development on the traditional policy agenda, but the real emphasis in policy and political strategy lies elsewhere.

Let's take a few examples of the policies that David Cameron has staked a firm position on, where he want's the political agenda to be.

He's staked a firm position on unhealthy food for children. He's made sure eveyone knows he's against chocolate oranges,

He's made it clear he is for windmills, cycling, "the environment" and against global warming.

He's set out a strong position on slow food, organic farming and against air miles.

He's worried by big business but not if they show good social responsibility.

He's made it clear against revealing clothing for children and in favour of tax relief for married couples. He's made it clear he's in favour of civil unions, for the family unit and supportive of parental authority.

He's made it clear he's no Neo-Conservative. He's used the word liberal approvingly.

All these positions say something interesting about David Cameron, but say nothing meaningful in terms of political action. They fulfil one crucial function, which is to put David Cameron firmly on the right side of the sort of issues that are discussed at dinner parties up and down the nation. They address the concerns of educated, professional homeowners.

I call this group the semi-intelligensia. You know the type. Univesity educated. Working in a professional job. Weekends that feature a quality newspaper. Home owners. Possible hoping to inherit half of their parent's house, which will help them pay off their enormous mortgage. Two holidays a year. They have broadband and they don't use it to watch porn.

It's no suprise therefore that this strategy has got a good press - after all the UK media is made up almsot exclusively by members of this group. They earn good money, have a reasonable lifestyle and tend to be even more well off because they are disproportionately dual income households. Those in the media who have not warmed to cameron tend to be those who don't come from this background, and therein lies the problem.

The trouble is that this narrow audience is precisely the wrong target audience for the Conservatives. The people who are secure, well fed, well-educated, content with their economic status and therefore primarily concerned with lifestyle issues as their primary political focus are far fewer than you might think, coming from a background of univerwsity educated, professional comfort (you are reading blogs, I feel confident in my bet).

To put it another wayy there simply aren't that many "people like us". There are far more people who are striving for economic security, concerned about schooling, worried about the NHS, and desperate to materially improve their lives. These people are not happy, or content and they are not interested in lifestyle politics. The conservatives simply aren't talking to these people in the way Wilson or Thatcher or
Major or Blair did.

It is perhaps fitting that the Conservative party has been fooled by ten years of Labour prosperity and comfort into believing that everyone is prosperous, educated and comfortable. They aren't, and a political stragy based on a fundamentally incorrect assumption like that, will sooner or later hit a very large bump.

(this post is a work in progress- it may well be edited for sense, argument and flow)

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Hello Beeb people...

I've just checked my sitemeter numbers and intrigued to see that almost a quarter of my reads come from BBC addresses.

So, BBC types, please say hello, and do let me know how you found this site, whether you like it and what's crap about it.

(More substantial post to follow later, by the way.)

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