The possibility of another 5 year term of Osbornomics, with a Conservative majority is a disastrous prospect for the people of the UK. However, the only political force capable of preventing that reality, the Labour Party, is currently failing to adequately convince the electorate. This is in spite of the high levels of unemployment, the failing economy and the grossly unfair cuts, which are falling disproportionately on the poorest, the disabled, women and young people. This article offers some suggestions to Ed Miliband as to how to counter the Tory PR machine aka David Cameron.
The press consensus is that Ed Mililband is ‘the wrong brother’. The opinion polls say that a majority think that Ed Miliband is not a ‘natural leader’, whatever that means. And since Cameron’s play-acting in the EU Summit, the Opinion polls put Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck…. Or even the Tories ahead.
But this is no ‘run of the mill’ Conservative government. Mrs Thatcher may have been a ‘milk snatcher’ but this Tory-LD Coalition is the sort of government that is able to ‘justify’ halving benefits for disabled children (1) …
What more needs to be written about the welfare state-wrecking policies of George Osborne, and this government, than that one piece of information? It speaks for itself and surely, any opposition party, ought to be far ahead in the polls on this point alone?
In addition, the economic outlook is dire for the UK. Tory-LD policies are not working. Throughout the EU, it is becoming increasingly clear that austerity is ‘not fit for purpose’ in creating employment and growth. In the UK, 13 public service jobs have been lost for every private job created, and George Osborne’s Autumn Statement confirmed that increased unemployment, increases government borrowing. It does not reduce it.
“There is a 100% chance of another 2008 crash.”
Jim Rogers, legendary investor.
“These shocks are going to keep on occurring. Thinking the problems of the Eurozone are going to go away is delusional.”
Nouriel Roubini, eminent economist
‘While the headlines focus on what it all means for the UK, the markets are not ignoring the fact that Europe’s latest summit has done nothing to deal with the region’s problems. Indeed, its just demonstrated quite how out of touch with reality Europe’s leaders are.’
So no action has been taken deal with the ‘new’ global banking crisis, and we continue to be fed the lie that both the UK and EU crisis is one of government over-spending. There is currently, the greatest imaginable mismatch between the need for policies to address the draconian impact of global finance, and the ‘stuff’ which is discussed in the Westminster bubble.
Many independent financial commentators are scathing about our politicians. ‘Tyler Durden’ could equally as well have been writing about the UK by simply substituting ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ for ’Dancing with the Stars’:
…hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that “business as usual” will result in a national economic apocalypse.” Or, far more likely, 99% of the population can continue watching Dancing with the Stars, as what little wealth remains is terminally transferred to those who are paying attention right below everyone’s eyes.
The other strand, in the failure of the opposition, is the mainstream media’s reporting which (with notable exceptions) is for the most part sensational, superficial and ill-informed. For example, a Tory MP being sacked for dressing up as a Nazi, takes precedence over all other news on Radio 5. Respected journalist, Robert Fisk writes scathingly about his fellow journalists:
I have never read so much garbage, so much utter drivel, as I have about the world financial crisis.
But I will not hold my fire. It seems to me that the reporting of the collapse of capitalism has reached a new low which even the Middle East cannot surpass for sheer unadulterated obedience to the very institutions and Harvard “experts” who have helped to bring about the whole criminal disaster.
A major problem for the Opposition, and I would argue for democracy, is the lack of mainstream media interest in what they have to say. Essentially , the only guaranteed slot, for the Labour Party to be heard, is Parliamentary Question Time (PMQs).
So what are the UK population offered from the only regular opportunity to observe the two party leaders?
He’d been holding back in recent weeks, but today Bad Cam returned. Bullying. Hectoring. Rude. Shouting. The “crimson tide” flashing up his face and turning him beetroot red from the outset of this boisterous PMQs. The Labour benches cheered and jeered at Cameron’s embarrassment. That only served to turn Bad Dave into Desperate Dave.
Mark Ferguson on David Cameron’s PMQ performance 26th Oct 2011
The mainstream media commentary simplistically reduces PMQs into some sort of ‘sporting fixture’ determining whether ‘Miliband or Cameron won’; the criteria seemingly being restricted the quality of the respective jokes, or which one loses their manly ‘cool’.
If I sound angry, it is because I am. None of this is a laughing matter.
Small children, the vulnerable, the elderly, the environment, climate change, our very existence, are all threatened by the failure of politicians to regulate global capitalism, the financial oligarchs and the City of London.
If all of George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review cuts are implemented, projected spending on UK public services will be less than that in the US, by 2014/15 (2). Meanwhile the super rich and transnationals become richer, and richer, with their wealth safely tucked away in some Tax Haven.
Reuter’s Purlitzer prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston has written on (Richard Murphy’s) work for the Tax Justice Network on worldwide tax evasion. That work estimated a total loss to tax evasion of US$3.1 trillion world wide.
In addition, UK companies’ cash flow has grown 40 per cent since the depths of the financial crisis at the end of 2008 (according to analysts at Shore Capital).
Richard Murphy offers two explanations.
First, recession is good for very big business: they’ve slashed costs and wages, and floated their profits offshore.
Second, they don’t want that to change so they argue for its continuation – hence their support for Osborne’s suicidal economic policies.
So what can the Labour Party do to get heard?
There are many things but changing the behaviour of the Parliamentary Labour Party at PMQs would be a good start.
It is noticeable how Ed Miliband has been at his most effective when he has felt genuine anger. His retort to Cameron, that he would not ‘demonise the dinner ladies’ over the strikes was powerful. His anger at News International’s phone hacking of the murdered schoolgirl’s mobile juxtaposed congruently against the Cameron choice of friends and intimates… Rebecca Wade, Coulson, Jeremy Clarkson and so on.
Ed Miliband should cut out the ‘jokes’. We need serious politicians for serious times.
Ed should not join in, or try to compete, with Cameron/Osborne’s Bullingdon bullying and frivolity. Nor should he pull faces in response to Cameron’s jibes. A blank look of contempt is the only appropriate response. The same should also go for the rest of the Shadow Cabinet and the Labour backbenchers. However tempted, Ed Balls should resist the desire to demonstrate that the economy is flat-lining, with an accompanying triumphant grin. A stony, serious anger is required. The PLP must model that these times are serious, and that these political decisions are hurting people.
Liam Carr agrees:
There is no point in trying to debate Bullingdon club style with Cameron, we have to rise above it.” … Imagine how Cameron would deal with Ed Miliband answering to his unpleasant ‘jokes’:
“Do the members opposite think that 1 million young people out of work is funny?”
“The PM seems more interested in my relationship with my brother than Britain’s relationship with our biggest export market”….
Of course, it would be even more effective if Ed Miiliband were currently in the position to sign up to all of Real Labour policies… But genuinely representing the plight of ordinary people’s lives, and continually exposing the state of the economy, would be a major step forward in reframing the casual jibes, and cutting through the contortions and lies of Osborne, Cameron and the media.
Sue, Great post. Absolutely spot on. The media are very much to blame. I think that over recent years much of the population ignore politics muc of the time. many are uneducated about it. The multi channelled TVs in the satellite era means many children grown up ignorant of News and current affairs. Yet for many the TV Dancing with stars is the major excitement in their lives, which may be just above the poverty line.
Skills their parents had like cooking, knitting, carpentry and growing food are being lost due to a dependance on ready made products which are made in China or grown many miles away. We are becoming helpless.
Perhaps we should start a show of our own. “I’m a citizen- Get me out of here!”
I would add – what is the responsibility of the Lib Dems here- they could cross the floor and force an election! They could too, join with Labour, the Greens and let the greedy, wealthy rich know we have had enough!
An excellent article. Well done.
Thank you Tom Pride 🙂
Excellent article. Well done…please will the Labour front bench listen. It’s time to stop the joking and jibes at the snivelling Tories and their lap dog junior partners. Be serious; get on with it before even more damage is done by this gang of selfish, spoiled wee boys. Take a leaf from Alec Salmond’s book; jump straight back with a rebuff when faced with Tory stupidity; call it what it is Greed, Selfishness; Total lack of Empathy and Compassion.
‘Gang of selfish,spoiled wee boys’ is fantastic. Perhaps I should change the title? You are right Patricia, the LP should jump straight back with a straightforward rebuttal. How on earth have they allowed the mythology of ‘maxing out the credit card’ to slip through, or to pander to the benefit scroungers line? This government is destroying the fabric of the UK on a lie. Ed Miliband and the PLP must ‘nail it’. It is their job to understand economics and how to expose the lies, not compete with the toffs for clever-cleverness.
I was beginning to feel alone in my thoughts!
To whom can we write or harrass to attempt to make this point? I feel frustrated and isolated.
I understand your feelings. The only way forward is to ‘mobilise’ 🙂 Argue, be politically active, email MPs, write for Think Left, join Think Left facebook, comment on newspaper and blog threads, twitter … by putting forward the case, we add to the zeitgeist, the public pressure on government and opposition alike .. and you’ll find that we are not alone in our thinking 🙂
‘ For example, a Tory MP being sacked for dressing up as a Nazi, takes precedence over all other news’
Err – inaccurate I think.
Actually, I am accurate but your comment is hardly the most salient point.
If Labour started by representing the voice of the voiceless and giving power to the pleas of the powerless that would be a fantastic start. If EM was to start by making the case for those whom Cameron’s policies are really hurting and not , as noted above, make jokes or enjoy the parliamentary ‘banter’.
What about reminding the Coalition (when faced with Cameron’s usual ‘I’ll take no lessons from the party opposite on…’) that ‘I’m not sure if you’re aware but there was a democratic election within the Labour Party and I won it. Gordon Brown has gone.Get over it’ or something that shifts them from their front foot. Keep making the point about who the Coalition policies are hurting and the equally effective ‘How many jobs have you created this week Prime Minister?’ Or ‘It would appear that your Chancellor’s policies are not working, Prime Minister, why is that?’
If I can come up with some simple ideas for a different strategy why can’t the wonks and advisers?
reddeviljp. I totally agree with your points, particularly that EM probably has not got the right wonks and advisors! The problem seems to be that the legacy of New Labour persists amongst 50% of the PLP, and an overwhelming majority of the paid staffers. I suspect that EM is closer in philosophy to you and me but needs to keep the party together. I hope that posts like this one, and the comments on a Guardian article on Yvette, may be picked up and acted upon… but I must confess I was a little dismayed to hear who his new speech writer will be 😦
Perhaps Think Left should devote an open page to ‘Suggestions for EM’!
The media is of course partly a key to all of this. The usual tabloids are having a field day in their demonization of Glegg so something is a foot -the more they can damage the coalition the quicker the demise of it ( in many Tory seats they are the opposition) . There is gross distortion of so many items whether its public servants, claimants, the underclass, the economy and the deficit , the City banks, education, Labour’s legacy, immigrant workers, Europe…Its highly likely the main BBC news is not being objective in its analysis of these issues as its main experts repeat the Mail/Express agenda( Channel 4 was far more even handed on the Autumn Statement & Cameron’s antics in Europe). We all need to monitor the BBC more closely.
However so much of the above is true and the year ends rather depressingly – One bright spot I believe Labour are the bookies favourite for the next election. But by God what a lot of persuation & effort is needed to crack this hegemony.
To me the real problem is not the media. It’s because Milliband’s Labour is too timid or unwilling to embrace policies that would genuinely defend the working class. Where’s the opposition to cuts, where are the policies to tax the rich, where are the condemnations of Lansley (actually on this point Labour have promised to repeal the bill — but who trusts them). We need a Labour party with the guts to stand up to big business & the city
I think that it is both, and they work to reinforce the Blairite voices within the LP. As I suggested in my last paragraph, adopting policies that would genuinely defend the working class would be a much easier, and IMO a much more popular, position for the LP. I haven’t given up hope of a return to a more Real LP but its always been a long shot. However, world events are moving towards an end-game, and predicting the future would be a fool’s game.