The other reasons why Labour lost in 2015

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For the most part, Margaret Beckett has managed to avoid the firing line for her 35 page report as to why Labour lost the 2015 GE.  Essentially, the report (which can be read here) does not fit easily into the Labour Right’s or the media’s frame of reference… vague or bland was the best they could come up with.  The press tried to whip up some excitement about ‘the suppression of a secret report’ about focus group findings but the task of blaming Jeremy Corbyn for Labour’s defeat in 2015 eventually proved too convoluted.  However, Jamie Reed MP did his best in a valiant effort for Progress:

Any Labour leader who refuses to listen to the country and who prizes the views of Labour members above Labour voters and former Labour voters will likely find that although they may secure the Labour crown, they will lose the Labour kingdom.’

In other words, the lesson from 2015 is that ‘the LP has the wrong membership’.. which reminds me of an old joke about the wrong electorate (but repetition of the word ‘Labour’ 6x in one sentence must be worth a mention).

 

Coming from the Left, I thought that the Beckett report was fair enough but that there were plenty of things left unsaid, that might have been usefully included.

But first, let’s be absolutely clear, the Tories won a majority because the Liberal Democrats imploded (-15.2%).  

Given that in most LD held seats, the Conservatives were in second place, it was unsurprisingly that they took LD constituencies.  Conservatives replaced 27 LD MPs, and now represent virtually the whole of Devon and Cornwall, coast to coast.  Those constituencies alone provided the Tory majority.

The unasked question is ‘Why were Labour in third place (gaining only a few thousand votes) in constituencies which have high levels of poverty, high unemployment, high self-employment, high housing costs, inadequate transport/infrastructure and a historical lack of investment?’

That blame cannot be laid on the 2015 campaign.  The fact is that New Labour governments never focused on addressing the problems of rural Britain… and there certainly are big problems in rural areas, all across the UK.  Although, to be fair, Huw Irranca-Davies MP did try his best to highlight them at the Labour Party Conference 2014.

So Scotland … what a tragedy for a few great Labour MPs, like Katy Clark and others, but the truth is that many, if not most, Scottish Labour-held seats were profoundly neglected by their Blairite MPs.  Their constituents really were ‘taken for granted’.  As Ben Margulies puts it, ‘the SNP won by defeating the “rotten structures of Scottish Labour”

Again, this cannot fairly be laid at Ed Miliband’s feet.

Ian Williams in Tribune describes the birth of New Labour:

‘Clinton set the model for New Labour – ostentatiously disavowing calumniated “special interest groups”, while pandering to the right…..  Unlike Clinton, the Blair administration did a lot of good work – but party bosses did not want anyone boasting about it, in case it alienated the financiers whom they hoped would replace the unions as bankrollers for the party.

In both cases, the plan was to hollow out the popular base of the parties, denying members effective input on policy or candidates, to reduce it to a PO box for corporate donations. As we saw in the Labour Party, it became a self-perpetuating career escalator for machine politicians that eventually ruthlessly weeded out any signs of dissent and any ties with the unions apart from topping up the collection box.

And nowhere was this model more surely adopted than by Scottish New Labour MPs.

Yes, the tipping point in Scotland was the referendum … and it was Ed Miliband’s fault for supporting the idea …. But who in their right minds thought it was a good idea for Labour to join forces with the Tories in the No campaign!!?

The idea is surely repugnant to any left-winger but yet again the transatlantacist right of the LP were seduced by US fantasy politics which promotes ‘bipartisanship’ as a high ideal to which they should aspire. Perhaps, if they had actually been in touch with their membership, they might have realised sooner that it wasn’t an aspiration shared by their fellow Scots who saw it as further evidence of ‘Red Tories’… and the dissipating Labour vote (ignored from 2007 onward) finally rotted away.

Anyway, the collapse of the LD vote and the loss of 40 Scottish MPs might have been mitigated, had Labour not made another fatal mistake.

What on earth possessed them to oppose the EU Referendum?

Was this ‘Hell yeah’ politics, toughing it out, holding the line?  Even pro-EU voters were invited to feel patronized.  Talk about handing a majority to the Tories.

ComRes opinion polling (post-election) found that 17% of Conservative and LD voters, and 33% of Ukip voters would have considered voting Labour, if Labour had been in support of a referendum on the EU.  In terms of MPs, that alone would have deprived the Tories of their majority.  ComRes estimated that Labour would have gained 8 seats leaving the Conservatives with 323, 3 short of a majority.

The amazing thing is that in spite of losing 40 Scottish MPs, and 27 LD seats going straight to the Tories, Labour still increased its vote in England and Wales by 1.5m in 2015 whereas the Tories only gained 500k.  But unfortunately, Labour largely built up its vote in unwinnable and safe seats, and although, there were 22 gains, the loss of 48 meant that Labour ended up with only 232 MPs.

In fact, the British Election Study team found that

‘Miliband was seen as having a more successful campaign than Cameron, perhaps against low expectations. This rating of who ‘performed best in the campaign’ switched in Cameron’s favour shortly before the election’

 

It also seems that the Ed Miliband team made the false assumption that the Tories would lose votes to Ukip, and disillusioned LDs would switch to Labour.  In the event, Labour probably only gained about 8% of the 2010 LD vote, former LDs being more than prepared to vote Conservative.  (Amazingly a lot of LD votes must have gone to Ukip – only half of Ukip’s 3.8m votes seem to have been taken from former Con or Lab voters )

The final cutting irony was that the collapse of the LD vote meant that the Tories gained a further 7 MPs because Labour supporters (and others) withdrew their tactical votes for the LD MP.  For example in Lewes constituency which was considered to be a safe LD seat, Norman Baker MP lost 7925 votes which split fourways between Ukip, Labour, Greens and Conservatives.  The new Tory MP was elected with only 805 votes above the 2010 losing result.

In the final analysis, Mark Doel of Sheffield sums it up…it was the UK electoral system that won it for the Tories. Not since universal suffrage has any party with less than 37% of the popular vote gained an absolute majority in the UK parliament. In fact, the swing to Labour (1.5%) was almost twice that to the Conservatives (0.8%) ….

Talk of David Cameron “sweeping to victory” adds wind to the sails of a government that acts as though it has a massive mandate when, by any account, a 12-seat majority is tiny, especially as it is built on the fluke distribution of an historically small proportion of votes. We must stop allowing the Tories to present this result as “a convincing victory”.

Charles Cronin of London adds:

‘…Lynton Crosby’s seeming effortless success in promoting the Tory party’s domination of the media could only have succeeded with the editorial support of the media. The BBC, as it must, covered and followed the press agenda. Don’t give too much praise to the creator of the message: it was the messengers that swung it.’

 

However, I cannot finish without pin-pointing the role of the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, in Ed Miliband’s failure to win the 2015 GE.  This is of overwhelming significance for the electability of Jeremy Corbyn in 2020.

Professor Eunice Goes‘ assessment of the 2015 campaign was that:

Ed Miliband was a flawed leader but the responsibility for the Labour’s colossal defeat on May 7 does not rest solely on his shoulders. Party divisions, plots, constant media attacks paralysed the party, in particular its policy development process. When the electoral manifesto was finally approved last spring the proposals that came out were confusing, unconvincing and uninspiring as Miliband tried to cater to all factions and ended up pleasing none….

And writing before his election as leader, her contention was that Jeremy Corbyn will not be allowed to lead the LP:

‘.. he will be de facto prevented from leading the Labour Party. The weekly duels in the House Commons with the Prime Minister David Cameron will be the least of Corbyn’s worries. He will be torn apart by his parliamentary party and the media. He will not be able to develop a single policy proposal, as he will be spending most of his time and energy explaining and justifying every single word he uttered during his long parliamentary career about Europe, Trident, coal mines, people’s quantitative easing or Israeli oranges. In other words, his leadership will collapse under pressure from opposition and resistance from all fronts.

But when this will happen the right of the party will have few reasons to rejoice as there is no greater electoral turn-off than to see – as we’ve witnessed in the past weeks – the spectacle of Labour apparatchiks treating the party’s membership and their democratic choices with such contempt.’

 

The experience of the last 4 months bears ample witness to Eunice Goes’ prediction… and yet, there is still room for hope.  I am not alone in feeling reassured that the Corbyn/ McDonnell team is much more experienced and streetwise, than Ed Miliband’s.  In addition, the membership have been exposed to the Labour Establishment’s contempt for democracy.

Let’s hope that the ‘We had to destroy the village in order to save it’ mentality from the Labour Right eventually fades away, even if it is only out of self-interest.

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/295975145 /Learning-the-Lessons-from-Defeat-Taskforce-Report

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2016/01/23/all-my-sons/

http://www.huwirranca-davies.org.uk/what-can-labour-do-to-win-the-rural-vote/

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/53094-2/

http://www.tribunemagazine.org/2016/01/letter-from-america-ian-williams-3/

http://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-impact/learning-the-right-lessons-from-labours-2015-defeat/#.VqzyKuk27oA

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/24/lynton-crosbys-role-in-the-tory-election-victory

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/even-if-he-wins-jeremy-corbyn-will-never-be-able-to-lead-the-labour-party/

https://think-left.org/2015/08/30/what-the-labour-establishment-didnt-really-want-us-to-know/

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.

The single most devastating reason NOT to vote Tory or Lib Dem at the next election

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First posted by Tom Pride on 23.06.14

(not satire – it’s the Tories and the Lib Dems!)

The NHS has been severely damaged by the coalition government over the last 4 years.

But don’t just take my word for that.

Dr Mark Porter, the head of the BMA, thinks so too. That’s not just some lefty anti-government think-tank – that’s the British Medical Association, which represents 153,000 doctors, GPs and other medical specialists and staff across the country.

Dr Porter gave a devastating speech today to the BMA Annual Representatives Meeting in which he astonishingly said the coalition government must “face up to the damage that they have done” to the NHS.

In his dramatic speech, Dr Porter specifically listed the ways that the NHS has been damaged over the last 4 years by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats:

  • The coalition government have imposed policies that “force us to do the absolute opposite of what our patients need”.
  • The coalition government have made cuts to frontline services in the NHS that “eat away at the fabric of care and destroy innovation”.
  • The coalition government have “imposed in England a new NHS without evidence, without mandate and without support”.
  • The coalition government have spent “at least £1.6 billion” implementing their top-down reforms to the NHS which continue to “consume the energies of thousands of NHS staff who never even wanted it, just to stop it unravelling”.
  • Since the coalition government passed their NHS reforms, there has been “a bumper year for the multinationals”- especially for their “armies of lawyers and accountants who find the curative so lucrative”.
  • The coalition government – through their “misguided legislation” – have been “doing the exact opposite” of “working to make it better for patients”.
  • NHS commissioning managers “are being driven to distraction by the madness of the market”.
  • The coalition government’s agenda on the NHS is “to override any investment, suppress any incentive, erode any service, in the single interest of bleeding every penny it can out of the system”.
  • The coalition government have spent billions on “fragmenting care by forcing the NHS to open up to private bidders” and on “droves of management consultants with their pointless flipcharts”.
  • The coalition government have wasted money on “untested policies, not hard-working public servants”.
  • There has been a chronic lack of investment in “emergency medicine, in general practice, in public health, in mental health, across the NHS”.
  • The coalition government’s “blanket refusal to invest” is “economic illiteracy”.
  • There have been “four years of waste and cuts and missed opportunities”.

And finally this gem:

  • The only single cause for celebration about the coalition government’s reforms of the NHS is “that most of it doesn’t apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

So there you have it – straight from the horse’s mouth.

The Tories and the Lib Dems have done their best to destroy the NHS in England over the last 4 years.

So if you know anyone who still needs a reason not to vote for either of the coalition parties at the next election?

Tell them to take their pick from any of the above.

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You can see the full transcript of Dr Porter’s speech here:

BMA Chair of Council Dr Mark Porter’s Speech

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

The two surprising NHS surveys the government hopes you don’t see

Daily Telegraph uses death of baby and outright lies to smear NHS

Meet the Telegraph journalist on a one woman campaign to smear the NHS

Thinktank proposing monthly fee for NHS is funded by private healthcare companies

UK today: 40% of cancer patients can’t afford to heat their home properly

UKIP deputy leader calls for end of NHS

Shirley Williams’ bare-faced lies to her Lib Dem colleagues on the NHS

Meet the NHS patient representative who seems to have a problem with women

Dear Lib Dems

Posted on May 27, 2014 by julijuxtaposed 
Dear Lib Dems,
 I know you’re heavily distracted right now but you and your leader seem confused about what has gone wrong.
You got excited. You thought, like most of the people back in 2010, that this was an economic emergency and that you had a public service duty to negotiate a coalition in the ‘National Interest’. Perhaps it is that you were naive; perhaps it was the long, oh so long awaited chance to be in power that made you blind during those early, heady days.
 You have acted, ultimately, as the front men, the shills, the appeasers and apologists for your senior partners. You’ve voted with them time after time, irrespective of whether it was in the citizens’ interests or even ethical and sensible. You have contributed to the increasingly desperate vulnerability of every single group bar the ‘I’m alright, Jacks’. [And don’t you dare think to yourself: “but we’ve lifted (blah number) over of the tax threshold” or that 24/7 childcare and free school meals or whatever your particular defence is today, are wondrous salves and believe yourselves righteous.]
You have upheld and then perpetuated a crony status quo. You’ve relentlessly tinkered with and demolished so much, so callously and with real ignorance. You’ve continued to subsidise profiteers with taxpayer money rather than facilitate a liveable income for the majority of the workforce. You built misery instead of houses. Courted the establishment rather than served the Commons. Turned Social Security into a capricious game of fare-well-if-we-say-you-can roulette. You’ve done nothing meaningful to address the real problems of increasing serfdom, asset stripping, the corporate tax fiasco, accountability of once public but now private service/utility provision. In fact, you align yourself with a senior partner who has the intention to do the opposite. You’ve avoided everything the sane and ‘common’ person on the street would have you fix and chosen, instead, to support and vote through the kinds of cruel, divisive, patriarchal false economies that so typify Tory mentality.
A year or so into your partnership, here on the ground, those who did not previously understand economics and finance were travelling a steep learning curve. We came to realise that, although this was indeed an emergency, you were being utterly disingenuous and wilfully obfuscating about a varied and complex set of causes and, therefore, about any appropriate solutions.
You thought that because you kept on message that we would not deviate either. You assumed we were all swallowing the mainstream stenographic tripe. We weren’t. We were educating ourselves elsewhere.
A truer picture began to emerge: Labour hadn’t just ‘created the mess’ – not on its own. It had taken time. Thatcher’s Tories arguably started it; Blair’s Labour ran with it and now, with your willing assistance, Cameron’s Tories were and still are, running amok. We learned that Labour’s general culpability was really no more than any other Western government’s. We learned that none of you actually understands how to, let alone cares about constructing and facilitating an economy that works for the citizens.
So, while you were busy feeling chuffed, we were learning new words and concepts and getting our heads around a new acronym every day. We were learning about limitless leverage, derivatives, LIBOR and other price fixing, bubbles, Ponzis, High Frequency Trading, Credit Default Swaps, paper gold, depraved banksters and traders, Investor State Dispute Settlements, vested interests, politics as a wealth-creating career and investment vehicle, fiat currency Wars.. It was and continues to be an astoundingly long list.
We learned that what private collateral there is is so insufficient as to be emasculated and that you are so ignorant and irresponsible that you will sell any public asset you can think of – be it in physical existence such as Royal Mail or packaged as a financial service such as student loan books. We discovered that The City was a hub for everything from the pretty shady to the downright fraudulent. And, under your ‘helpful’ governance, still is.
 We learned that ‘neoliberalism’ was shorthand for ‘capitalism, right-wing, corporate’. We saw that Neoliberals love power and money much more than people. We realised neoliberalism is what’s undermining people and the planet and that it is the obstacle to our sustained well-being. The well-being of billions. We looked around; made the connections. It made us imagine a slope towards fascism as a very possible 21st Century consequence.
We began to understand the whole obscenity. You didn’t. Or you just chose to ignore it. It has to be one or the other because we, out here, we’ve managed to at least grasp the rudiments in spite of the concerted attempts of powerful mainstream politicos to hinder our understanding.
 Back in 2010, when you sat down to negotiate, you (must have) realised how unpalatable the reality of a junior partnership in a Tory coalition would be if you were to maintain your reputation – which, as you’ll remember, was not bad at all. You could have shown integrity and told the Conservatives to form a minority government and that you’d support them where you could. You should have. But, even if I give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you were truly earnest and noble in your intent, once ‘in’ you would have had even better opportunities to learn at least the same things as were we down here. One would think you’d have had an epiphany by the end of that first year. And what did you do? You carried on as though the Tory narrative was almost faultless. For four years.
 Every time you were called out on it you patronised us as though we were too stupid to know what was good for us. And, not content with that, you now justify your behaviour on the back of ‘recovery’. You seem to think you are, or soon will be, vindicated. Here, on the ground, those of us who have been busy trying to live under your ‘helpful’ governance; those of us doing all that learning: we know this is a recovery for those who need it least; a recovery built on bubbles, corruption, cronyism and the serfdom of the masses. The real shit has not even hit the global fan and there you are, trying to sweep our own dirt under a shifting carpet. It’s a fiat recovery, based on fiat ideology, carried out by fiat authority.
Liberal Democrat doesn’t really shout ‘integrity’ now, does it? ‘National Interest’? Yeah, if ‘national’ means ‘Westminster’ and ‘interest’ means ‘self’.
And now you think you’ve done so badly in the EP Elections because of your debate with Farage. Ok, that really wasn’t very impressive… your better arguments were not just lost amongst the crude populism of Farage but you demonstrated that you really do not understand that those people who take issue with the Union, do so for rather different and more sophisticated reasons than the xenophobic, corporate, anti-intellectual platform that is UKip. You were the only party with the integrity – AND platform – to defend the concept of Europe and you wrecked it by wasting time repeating rhetorical catchphrases and endorsing a retarded sycophancy for the technocratic status quo. You seem to think that anyone who sees Europe as having or being a problem, views it through the Tory/UKip lens. You really have to stop listening to hysterical mouthpieces. And we don’t all want to leave Europe just because we don’t agree with you, either. It’s the technocracy, the receding democracy, the neoliberal bullying, the corporatisation, the commodification of our lives that we hate, not the Social Chapter, nor ‘red tape’ that acts for Common Interest, nor our fellow Europeans. You need to understand that for a great many of us, the problems we see in Europe are the same problems we have with our own, successive UK governments; the same problem we see in nigh-on every country on the planet, in fact.
Seriously – that TV Farage-Clegg trip: that was just a recent straw out of a bale’s worth. But why would you see the connection between these points when you can’t seem to even see them individually? Some of your party are even tabloid-riven enough to suppose that getting rid of your leader is the solution. Nick Clegg might be the authorised face of your toxicity but, my gods, if you think we don’t know all your higher profile names or your collective voting record, you probably should all just give up – right now. It’s a global economy supported by a neoliberal attitude and our country is in trouble because our own politicians, economists, and media are of the same means by which much of this infernal crash came about. You have failed because you cannot appreciate either the details or the whole picture and you have failed to recognise that the electorate increasingly does.
There is much satisfied vitriol in the country at your fall from grace. On the surface it’s deliciously tempting and quite understandable. You brought this circus to town. But it’s also a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for your once rational, honourable party and a serious blow to an already dwindling faith in our democracy.
Regards, Juli