It is the Tories who have a 30% strategy

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It is the Tories who have a 30% strategy by Michael Burke

First posted on Socialist Economic Bulletin 20.05.14

Ed Miliband is accused of having a ‘35% strategy’, meaning that he is banking on doing only just enough to win an overall majority at the next general election.  Polling models suggest that 35% would be enough for Labour to achieve an overall majority in Parliamentary seats.  This is because the Tory vote is increasingly concentrated, while Labour’s is far more widely spread geographically.
Since Labour’s electoral strategy has not been divulged to SEB, it is idle to speculate on it, although this has not prevented others from doing so.  Instead, it is possible to demonstrate that the Tory policy is based on an electoral strategy that is focused on an even narrower section of the electorate.  It is the Tories who have a 30% electoral strategy.

The map below (which the present author first saw published by Ian Wright MP) shows the cumulative effect in English constituencies of cuts under the Coalition government during this parliament.  The Tory Party is a fringe grouping in Scotland and is headed in that direction in Wales.  Despite repeated attempts it has also failed to resurrect Conservative Unionism in Ireland.

Chart 1. Cumulative effect on change in spending power 2010/11 to 2015/16

The areas in beige have been barely affected by government cuts (although these are averages, there will be many people living in those areas who are badly affected by austerity).  The areas in green have experienced no net cuts at all.

By contrast, areas coloured in red have seen a fall in living standards of between 15% and 20%.  Those areas coloured deepest red have seen falls of greater than 20% and take in all the large cities, including London.

The economic map almost precisely coincides with the electoral map of Britain.  The Economist and others are keen to argue that this is a North-South divide in British politics.  To that end, they are obliged to perform some logical contortions.  In order to make the main divide in British politics North versus South, The Economist excludes the Midlands from the North and excludes London from the South!

In reality, the Tory Party has been forced out of Ireland, Scotland, the cities, Wales and the North in succession.  It is retreating to its birth place and stronghold in the English shires.

The economic response of the Coalition government led by the Tories is to protect and promote those Tory heartlands, as shown in Chart 1 above.  SEB has previously shown how a minority of society, the owners of capital and the rich, are benefitting from the ‘recovery’ in which most people’s living standards continue to fall.

Perhaps the most flagrant policy in this regard is Osborne’s ‘Help to Buy Scheme’.  The entire policy of increasing demand for housing while doing nothing to increase supply inevitably leads to higher prices.  A number of commentators and economists from the Right have attacked the scheme as an absurd policy, designed solely to boost property prices rather than housing availability.  It is a ‘help to get re-elected’ scheme.  The resulting property price bubble is concentrated in London and the South-East, and even here there is growing resentment at the unaffordability of housing, not a feel-good factor.

Politically and economically, the Tories are pursuing a core vote strategy.  This may not amount to much more than 30% at the next general election, and will certainly be less than the 36.9% they received in 2010.
As a result, support for the LibDems has collapsed as this does not at all coincide with the interests of their electoral base, higher-paid workers, professional classes and small business owners.

Labour’s winning electoral strategy should be equally clear and substantially broader.  In terms of political geography it should embrace the democratic demands for greater national rights within the British state, as well as finally ending the British presence in Ireland.  It needs to have a programme of economic regeneration for the North and the big cities.  It should adopt a very large scale programme of council house building with London at its centre-piece.  Socially, it needs to be a champion of equality and democracy, tackling the huge inequalities faced by women and tackling the endemic racism of British society, which cannot be done while promising to be tough on immigration.

Above all now, it needs to reverse the policy of austerity which is lowering the living standards of the overwhelming majority and will continue to do so.  The Tory policy, of government spending cuts and inducements to the private sector to invest has not worked.  A policy of government-led investment is required, combined with other policies that will directly lift standards.  The Tory party is pursuing a narrow electoral strategy to shore up its support.  Labour can offer something better.

Support the Labour Assembly against Austerity Campaign

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Labour Assembly Against Austerity

Published by Socialist Economic Bulletin

Labour Assembly Against Austerity

Speakers


9am – 5pm, Saturday 9th November
Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX

Speakers include:

 

Ken Livingstone
Owen Jones
Francesca Martinez
Steve Turner (Unite)
Ann Pettifor

Diane Abbott MP
Katy Clark MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Frank Dobson MP
John McDonnell MP
Michael Meacher MP

Professor Keith Ewing
Tosh McDonald (ASLEF)
Peter Willsman (CLPD)
Adrian Weir (Campaign for Trade Union Freedom)
Catherine West PPC
Cat Smith PPC
Murad Qureshi AM
Heather Wakefield Unison

Shelly Asquith
Daniel Blaney
Michael Burke
Mike Hedges (Unite)
Conrad Landin
Cllr Alice Perry
Christine Shawcroft (NEC)
Cllr Kate Taylor
Marsha-Jane Thompson (Defend the Link)

Sessions:

  • The economic alternatives to austerity
  • Housing – solving the crisis
  • No to privatisation – keep health and education public
  • Opposing austerity – defending public services and the welfare state
  • Defend the link – defend trade union rights
  • No scapegoating – immigrants and claimants are not to blame
  • Fund public services not war
  • Ending austerity – Labour policies to win in 2015

£10 full price / £5 concessions
Register now

Visit LabourAssemblyAgainstAusterity.org.uk

Speakers

Labour Assembly Against Austerity –  a forum for Labour Party members to discuss alternatives to austerity and the policies Labour needs to stimulate growth, jobs and rising living standards.

The Labour Assembly Against Austerity is an initiative of Next Generation Labour in support of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity movement and is supported by Unite, UCATT, BECTU, CLPD, Labour Representation Committee, Left Futures, Chartist, Labour Briefing Co-op, Morning Star, Red Labour & Sinistra Ecologia e Liberta UK.

Are politicians really all the same? Whose side are you on?

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Are politicians really all the same? Whose side are you on?

Published previously by Liam R Carr

When you get involved in local politics one thing you hear is “It doesn’t matter who I vote for, you lot (politicians) are all the same”

Right now we can see clear differences in policy between the two parties that has not been seen since Thatcher was in power. Politicians for too long have tried occupy themuddy centre ground. New Labour stuck its flag firmly in the centre and won elections, Lib Dems have fashioned careers out of wriggling into the tiny space between the two main parties, they are still trying it now, claiming that they should be the party in a never ending coalition government because they make the Tories nicer and Labour meaner. Cameron came to power after reforming his Party, into Compassionate Conservatives; how quickly the mask slips.

When times are good the detail of economic policy is something that you can read about in the FT if you are that way inclined. During a recession however, every detail is front page news. The priorities, of both government and opposition, are laid bare.

On health the government are on the side of private healthcare providers. The health and social care act which allows private companies to get a slice of the NHS budget, is one of the few acts that Labour will repeal.

On education the government priority has shifted to academic qualifications in traditional subjects and values memorising facts over skills development. There is a choreographed split between Clegg and Gove on free schools, which not not change the implementation of a policy which Clegg could have voted down had he chosen to oppose it when it came before Parliament.

On welfare the line is less defined, with Labour and Tories alike trying to be “tough on benefits.” The divide however can been seen in the approach; with Labour guaranteeing a job people who are out of work for 2 years. Under Iain Duncan-Smith the DWP are sanctioning more job seekers than ever before. The job-centre stop payments then give the person being sanctioned directions to the local food bank. This is the poor feeding the poor; many donations come from pensioners who have memories long enough to remember a time before the welfare state.

Rising prices and falling wages are the battle lines on which the 2015 general election will be fought. Energy prices are spiralling out of control and David Cameron has persisted in stubbornly staying firmly the side of the big energy companies. A Tory will always say that market forces must to be interfered with, but when the market is rigged it will not sort itself out, only a government can fix it. The public, the Labour Party and even John Major agree that now is the time to act – something needs to be done.

All political parties from Cameron’s Conservatives to Mao’s Communists will claim to be on the side of ‘hard working people’ However decisions like selling the Royal Mail off cheap show how clear it is that the Tories are still a party of rich men, paid for by rich men, implementing policy which protects the interests of rich men. Under the Leadership of Ed Miliband the Labour Party is developing policies that really will benefit the many and not the few.http://liamrcarr.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/which-side-are-you-on.html?

Rachel Reeves is Aiming at the Wrong Target for Labour

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Aiming at the Wrong Target

By Bryan Gould, previously published here

and reproduced on Think Left with kind permission.

Labour will be “tougher than the Tories” when it comes to forcing long-term beneficiaries back into the labour market; so Labour’s new shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, was reported as saying last week.  The comment, which was presumably made deliberately to secure the headline, seems to be a mistake on a number of levels.

The report suggested that the comment was a response to polling that showed that voters were twice as confident of the Tories’ effectiveness in dealing with the issue as they were of Labour, and was presumably an attempt to nullify the supposed advantage that the Tories enjoyed.

But my own political experience, and particularly experience of campaigning, suggests that the initiative was based on a false premise.  Most voters, unlike those who are politically active and committed, do not have coherent political positions that are consistent across all issues.  They are perfectly capable of adopting attitudes that contradict each other from one issue to the next.

What determines the way they vote is not necessarily what they think on a given issue but which issues are uppermost in their minds on polling day.  History shows that, with their allies in the right-wing media, the Tories are expert at tweaking the issues that give them an advantage at the crucial time.

So, immigration, supposed benefit “scroungers”, trade unions bent on strike action, all attract headlines as part of a deliberate attempt to raise the salience of issues that suggest that our deep-seated problems are caused by failing to rein in the nefarious activities of ordinary people and are in no way the responsibility of the powerful people who run our economy and take most of its benefits.

It is an important part of this well-proven strategy that Labour should be lured into contesting such issues so that public attention is focused on them.  I recall that, in the run-up to the 1992 general election, the Tory press provided the “oxygen of publicity” to fears that a new Labour government would raise income taxes.

The Labour response was to launch, at the beginning of the election campaign, a plan to raise National Insurance contributions.  The idea was to use John Smith’s Scottish prudence to show that this was a sensible initiative that should not be regarded as an increase in taxes.

Not surprisingly, this proved difficult to sell to the electorate.  Labour’s tax plans became the dominant and continuing theme of the election campaign, with the result that John Major’s government was re-elected.

The lesson to be drawn is that election campaigning is largely about controlling the agenda.  A successful opposition campaign should be about exposing the government’s failures and focusing on those elements in its own policy that are likely to strike a chord with most voters.

Time spent on trying to negate vulnerability on issues peddled by the Tories, in other words, is likely to be wasted at best and counter-productive at worst.  And that is never more true than on the issue on which Rachel Reeves thought it wise to make her own demarche.

Her comment spells bad news for Labour.  It focuses attention on an issue which can only benefit the Tories.  No one will believe that on this issue the Labour opposition will be as ruthless as the Tories (and heaven help us if they did!) The most the voters should hear from Labour on the issue of benefit fraud is that, as in every part of public spending, dishonesty will be punished and value for money will be insisted upon.

But what it does do is to validate the Tory insistence that benefit fraud and supposed “scrounging” is an issue that deserves to be at the top of the government agenda.  The more Labour proclaims its “toughness’, the more voters will believe that this is an issue that deservedly requires priority government attention – and the more likely they are to think that Labour is simply posturing and that only the Tories are to be trusted to take real action.

Worse, it diverts attention from what Labour should really be saying about the fact that so many people are victims of unemployment and are therefore forced to depend on a generally miserable level of benefits in order to keep house and home together.

The most effective means of reducing the number of beneficiaries would be, in other words, not punishing the unemployed further, but restoring something approaching full employment; and the most important obstacle to that is a damagingly under-performing economy, the direct consequence of failed government economic policies and of their insistence on austerity as a response to recession (now disowned by the IMF, no less) in particular.

Nor is it the case that this is an accidental by-product of Tory policy.  It is an essential part of the Tory strategy that the burden of getting our economy moving again is to be borne by working people.  According to this doctrine, it is their responsibility to price themselves back into work by accepting lower wages, and accepting fewer rights and protections at work – “zero hours” contracts are a good example.

The pressure on beneficiaries is all of a piece with this approach to our economic problems.  In the absence of new jobs, forcing the unemployed back into the labour market can only mean that those with jobs will be compelled to withstand that competition by accepting lower wages if they wish to stay in work.  The result?  Downward pressure on wages as a whole.

Is this the strategy that Rachel Reeves intends to endorse?  Wouldn’t she do better to focus on unemployment and its causes, and persuading her colleagues to develop a strategy for dealing with it?

Bryan Gould,

14 October 2013