Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Will Labour really be back so soon?

From what I can tell by following Labour activists on Twitter and in the blogs it would appear that quite a few of them seem to think that they will be back in power in a few short years' time.


The argument goes that the new Lib Dem/Conservative coalition cannot last. It will likely fall apart at some point in the next few years. The argument also seems to be that the Lib Dems will be tainted by office and also squeezed with Labour able to claim that a vote for us is effectively a vote for the Tories. Finally, the government itself will have to take such difficult financial decisions that it is all but inevitable that a battered public will rush willingly into the arms of Labour at the next election.

I am afraid I don't buy it.

I think Labour activists are in danger of underestimating just how damaged their own party brand already is. They may not have lost as many seats as they feared they would (partly at least through smart deployment of resources where it really counted) but their vote share dropped by 7 percentage points (or almost a fifth) compared to 2005. The only reason this looks sort of OK to them is because of how much worse it looked like it could have been in some of the polls running up to the election. It is still a terrible result.

Although the government will of course have to take tough decisions on tax and spending (which will mean tax rises and spending cuts) is it really credible that the public will just forget who was in power for the last 13 years? I know that Gordon Brown and his ministers always tried to blame the rest of the world for the financial crisis but I do not think people buy this really. Yes the rest of the world has suffered too but we were one of the last countries to emerge from recession (weakly) and there were specific things encouraged by Brown (such as the house price bubble) which made it worse for us.

I think the idea that the public in a few years time will have forgotten all about the Labour government was like during its 13 years is let's say optimistic.

Labour may also be misjudging what could happen to the Lib Dems in office. Now I should start with this point by conceding that it is quite possible that they might be right here. We are in unchartered territory with this new coalition and it could indeed transpire that following this period in office the Lib Dems suffer very badly electorally as the two party squeeze and the electoral system works against it. However I would say it is equally possible that an effect Labour are not expecting could happen. Perhaps the government is relatively successful and perceived as such. Perhaps some of the policies that are clearly Lib Dem in origin (such as the £10,000 tax threshold) are implemented during its lifetime and the public at large very much like them. Having had a taste of what a Lib Dem influenced government can do, would they really be so keen to punish them at the ballot box?

(As an aside on this point, so many political commentators seem so sure that the Lib Dems will definitely suffer from this deal. To repeat, I agree it is certainly possible and we need to try and guard against it but frankly we are through the looking glass and nobody really knows how the public will ultimately react to this unusual (in post-war historical terms) way of doing politics.)

I should just caveat all of this by pointing out that I am not predicting here that everything will be peachy for the entire lifetime of this government. I am merely saying that this default assumption that Labour will be perfectly placed after a few years in opposition to be straight back in is by no means certain.

Perhaps Labour activists should have a look at what happened to Labour the last time they lost office in 1979. There were many in the party then who, having been battered by the financial markets and having weathered the "Winter of Discontent" welcomed a period of opposition and leaving Margaret Thatcher to have to take the difficult decisions in the early 80s. Many of them assumed they would be back soon after. In the event it took 18 years of bitter opposition and 4 changes of leader before they were ready to take government again.

Labour could be making a very big mistake if they just assume the pendulum will swing straight back towards them.

30 comments:

Kalvis Jansons said...

I basically agree with you, but a new leader could make a big difference to the odds.

Labour need to admit their errors, but they might do that.

Most likely, however, they will be out of power for 10 years or more.

Lib Dan 1975 said...

It's an interesting point of view. A lot of Labour MPs are already gleefully predicting the end of the Lib Dems and are, just as the Tories were, waiting for their 'turn' in office which they believe will happen sooner rather than later.

Despite the inevitable problems with some party members I think that the idea of this coalition government is exactly what the British population voted for. I also believe they will be broadly supportive showing goodwill and also some understanding of the difficult situation the country is in. 13 years of Labour is a long enough stretch for them to have to carry the can for many of the resulting decisions that will have to made.

As far as us Lib Dems are concerned, we have to prove that coalition governments can work or the push for PR will undoubtedly fail. Whilst maintaining our principles it is essential that we work in the spirit of compromise now that we find ourselves in this position. I hope that the H of C will also become less of a bear pit as a result of this but I'm not holding my breath!

Finally, after days of stories about members leaving the party 'in droves' it is heartening to see that Mark Pack has reported that many new members are also signing up. A higher profile for the Lib Dems and experience in government must add to our credibility as a party of government and we must make the most of this opportunity despite the obvious pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead.

Anonymous said...

Mark, your caution about unpredictability is surely fair; the problem is that over two thirds (27 in all) of people I know who voted liberal democrat are seething about this coalition; even worse, half of these were active in campaigning. Most say they will campaign or vote elsewhere

Caron said...

That's what Labou do, Mark, they really think that they are right on everything and that they have a right to power.

Their arrogance is unbelievable.

I don't think for a second the firestorm they are going to send our way - just looking at what they've been like in Fife and Edinburgh since they lost control of the Council there.

They bascially trashed the place and blame us for the financial shortages as we try to clean up their mess.

Their scaremongering and their leaflets have been brutal.

We're going to get it from the SNP as well.

There's a huge challenge, but not an insurmountable one, for the party in Scotland. We have lots of good people here who are more tham capable of meeting it.

iain said...

One significant factor in Thatcher's victory in 1983 was the Falklands War. Without it she would have lost. There are few votes in sorting out the government debt even if it is essential

Anonymous said...

mark when they realise my friend your AV vote syestem is another form of first passed the post what do you think will happen then . look it up your self AV the alternitive vote syestem is not a proportional voteing syesm at all . it was rejected bye loyed george , i bet hes turning in his grave . last election under the a v syestem libs 69 seats , last weeks election under S T V a real proportional voteing syestem libs would have had 165 seats . and cleggy took a first passed the post voteing syestem instead . OH AND YOU PRESUME YOU WONT BE BLAMED FOR THE TORIE CUTS AND SLASHRS ECONOMICS , YOUR DREAMING . WE WENT TO FAR WE GOT IN BED TO FAR MATE . WELL BE HATED WITH THE TORIES BELEAVE ME . I HAVE LIVED IN NEW ZEALAND . HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE THE FORCES OF SOCLIALISIM RELEASED AS IN 1997 ONLY THIS TIME UNLEASED ON THE LIB DEMS AS WELL .NO TACTICAL VOTEING IN THE SOUTH , GONE IN SCOTLAND , WHALES , AND A RAMPEND LABOUR PARTY CUNSUMEING YOUR CENTER AND CENTER LEFT WING . BE WORRIES , BE VARY WORRIES .IVE SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE .

Mark Lightwood said...

I think many who criticise the Lib Dems, particularly those who said they voted Lib Dem, are making three mistakes:

1) They misunderstand the role of a political party, which is not simply to be “right”, but to enact policies. The only way the Lib Dems can enact their policies is by entering government. Labour MPs/grandees/ministers made an already precarious pact impossible, so the election arithmetic meant that coalition with the Conservatives was the only way the Lib Dems could enact their policies.

If people preferred Lib Dem policies, why would they prefer a situation where no Lib Dem policies were enacted?

2) A lot of people who voted Lib Dem said they wanted a hung parliament. Hung parliaments lead to coalitions – “why can’t politicians stop squabbling and work together”.

Did they stipulate beforehand that a Lib-Lab coalition was the only coalition they would be happy with? The Lib Dems themselves made it very clear they would be open to working with the Conservatives. Surely if those voters didn’t want the possibility of the Lib Dems joining the Conservatives, they should not have voted Lib Dem?

3) The Tories might be the tribal enemy of all Labour and many Lib Dem supporters. But to the principled voter, this antipathy must be based on policy differences, not tribal hatred. It makes absolutely no sense to be disaffected by the right-wing policies of the Labour government, only to join the Labour Party after it loses power to oppose the Tories bringing in many of the same policies.

The non-tribal voter recognises that it doesn’t matter who enacts good or bad policy, the policy is what matters.


It was a choice between this, and a Conservative minority government followed by a second election and a Conservative majority government. The Lib Dems are taking significant political risks in order to achieve some of their policy goals, which is exactly what you’d want any party to do in the circumstances – in contrast to Labour who are taking the easy political route and surrendering the opportunity to achieve any policy goals.

I am an ex-Green who tactically voted Labour last week precisely to bring about a hung parliament. I wanted the Lib-Lab coalition but Labour prefers to languish in opposition and avoid the responsibility of government. I applaud the maturity shown by the Lib Dem leadership and the majority of their established members, and have no doubt the latter will endorse the actions of the former this weekend.

(I second Caron's point about the arrogance of Labour. They assume they will re-inherit power at some point, resuming the pass-the-parcel they've had with the Conservaties for so long now - so what if the country gets screwed between now and then, they say, it will play in our favour and people will turn to us as their saviours next time!)

Mark Lightwood said...

Sorry for that massive post!

Mark Lightwood said...

Also, a lot of people are saying "this isn't what I voted for."

That's right - because there are millions of other people who also voted, and this was the most viable coalition that resulted from the way the country voted. So you individually might not have voted for it, but the country did.

If those people are annoyed at it, they should influence others to vote differently next time. Retail politics has gone too far!

Eononly said...

I assumed the Tories would leave it 6 months or so and engineer a falling out with the LibDems... this would before any AV deal could be sorted out and before any new Labour leader could start to repair the damage.

Given the anger that the coalition has apparently caused among LD activists, it's not unreasonable to assume that the tories would get in by a 'landslide' (by FPTP obviously.

The anti-Tory majority would then have to suffer 5 years of unreconstructed Toryism.


But then I'm a cynical old git who see's the worst in politicians of all flavours.....

Purple Mist said...

What about the idea that the Labour party might be about to implode? There has been a lot of talk about how all parties are coalitions; the divide between the coaliton of blarite free marketeers and old school union socialists in the Labour Party has been bubbling under the surface for a while now. Add to that a few defections from the left of the Lib Dems to the Labour party and the tensions may be too much to bear.

My prediction - in the long term - is that this New Politics could see something radical happen to the left in British politics. Perhaps even the creation of a new political force - the Progressive Party maybe - forged from the ruins of the New Labour movement and the alienated Lib Dem left.

Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

you guys are as bad as labour you talk about labour admiting what they did wrong hello? um the labour party has actualy won elections in the last 100 years ? the labouir party unlike the libs havent been reduced to just 6 seats in the commons like the libs , just a few years ago under thatcher yuou lot had just 14 seats , now who said what about admitting their mistakes ?.labours made plenty , but they are not arseholes like the tories excuse my french .what odds are the bookies given on lib dem defections to labour ? and how soon ? lol . sorry couldent resist , but its the truth.how long before lib mps start to defect to the opposition ? what 6 months ?.lol this will be good .mark you know whats gonna happen lol.would have been nive to get a refirendum on PR , WE GOT AV THATS FIRST PASSED THE POST . WELL THEY WONT BE HAPPY THE TROOPS WHEN THEY REALISE AV ISNT P R AT ALL .ASK SOMEONE CALLED LOYED GEORGE HELL TELL you all about av voteing.all you said wont change a thing as i said ive seen this movie in politics before , progressive partys dont make love to torie partys with out being destroyed . some one else would have filled the cap for the tories thats what happins when countrys go to pr mark . it dont work ive lived in two countrys and seen the smaller progressive party anialated in the process . so as i said ive seen this movite before . how long before lib dem mps defect mark ? 6 months one year tops two at a stretch wen the torie cuts bite . yor sdp mps will defect there is already rumblings in the parliamentry party mark .i may be wrong , ive followed politics for many many years and i dont think i am .ANY COALITION AGREEMENT SHOULD HAVE GONE BEFORE A CONFERENCE OF LIB DEM PARTY MEMBERS REALY MARK . YOU QUOTE FROM THE CAMPAIGN CLEGG SAID HE WANTED A LABOUR FREE UK , FROM THAT CAN WE DEDUCE HE NEVER INTENDED AT ALL TO GO WITH THE PROGRESSIVE MARK ? WHAT KIND OF PARTY THAT ASPIRES TO COALITION POLITICS WOULD EVEN SAY THAT TO THEIR NATURAL ALLIE TO THEIR LEFT . THERE A LOT ABOUT NICK CLEGG THAT DOSENT ADD UP .IS HE A TORIE LIKE MANY IN THE LIB DEM PARTY FEAR MARK ? .

Anonymous said...

THE MOST DISCUSTING THING OFF ALL WAS IN NONE OF THE PARTYS NEGOCIATIONS DID ANY OFF YOU LIB DEMS ASK FOR THE TROOPS TO COME HOME , IN THEIR MAD DASH FOR THE TRAPPINGS OF POWER THE POOR TROOPS NEVER GOT A MENTION BYE MR CLEGG AN THE LIB DEMS .

Anonymous said...

thats mental , mark are you telling me this week end the rank and file get to ratify the coalition agreement ? hang mate the deals done the libs are inbed right now with the tories , you telling me if the rank and file party members say no clegg will pull out excuse the pun lol. its a waste of time an an insult to party members intellence .are they going to vote on a deal thats already done . thats a joke . remember your going to campaign for your new first passed the post voteing syestem alone av its a con . labour dont need to they can win under first passed the post , its the lib dems that havent got a hope and the av syestem offers the libs nore more hope than first pased the post .you libs will be on your own campaigning for av mark we dont need it weve got av we call it first passed the post .let the reality of that sink in mark av is as good as first passed the post , clegg blew it .

Glenn said...

Anon 11:58

The party is called th Liberal Democrats...

The clue is in the name. Unlike the other parties, the membership hold the power to alter party policy in a bottom-up system... not a dictatorship. I see this as a good thing and is one of the reasons I remain a member.

Good post Mark - it's early day's but I'm keen not to knock the coalition yet as they've done nothing wrong yet.

Still scary as hell though - who would have predicted that if you voted Lib Dem you'd get Nick Clegg (and the party) in Gov't!

AV might be a bit crap, but it's a step forwards in the right direction.

The stuff about the EU is a little watered down too, but I can live with that.

Rest of the agreement looks like Lib Dem gold!

I'm hopeful for the future :D

Anonymous said...

I think we may very well see Labour being squeezed out of the political scene. The focus is now on the liberal and conservative thought schools. Come the next election they will both be keen to get back in, free from their current restrictive states. This means they will work very hard on the common ground they share to show their potential in government and both will be desperate to look the more professional, antagonistic, adversarial politics is last seasons fashion. People expect more now, the bar has been raised and no amount of moralising from Labour will win voters back. They showed utter and complete contempt for the electorate by flirting with their own coalition after losing the pop. vote with their crowned leader. 13 years of spin and glib gestures are over, reality is back and we will have to sober up quickly.

Like it or loathe it (any of you Labour supporters) the scene has shifted back to the right where it has traditionally been. Lest we forget, the Labour Party are the new kids on the political block, it's not so unimaginable they will fall by the wayside come 2015.

Europe, the only major stumbling block for the coalition may very well implode - here's hoping it does. Don't touch that one with a barge pole I think. …BUT… if a referendum on AV is going to happen - how on Earth can we not be having one on EU membership?? For words of wisdom I invite you to check out Daniel Hannan's sage-like daily blog.

-Simon

Anonymous said...

the focus is now on the libconservitive united govenment . the voters wont seoerate you from the tories mark . as i said i have seen this movie before . and av is no step in any direction its a first passed the post voteing syestem . cleggs cooked your gooses have no fears of that . labour activits arnt going to help you campaign to chance the voteing syestem from first passed the post to what mark ? thats right av or first passed the post . HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SELL AV LOL ITS A LEMON .AS I SAID LABOUR CAN WIN UNDER FIRST PASSED THE POST MARK WHY WOULD THEY JOIN THE LIB DEMS TO CHANGE THE VOTEING SYESTEM TO FIRST PASSED THE POST WITH A DIFFRENT NAME .THE THING IS YOU WILL COMPROMISE ON EVREYTHING , EVREYTHING TELL ITS UNRECOGNISABLE AS ANYTHING PROGRESSIVE TO BEGINWITH . YOU ALREADY DID WITH THE VOTE SYESTEM.THAT THOUSAND PROTESTING AT WESTMINSTER FOR PR THAT WILL GROW TO 100,000 CALLING FOR CLEGGS AND THE LIB DEMS HEADS.that little crowed was a little warning to clegg just a wee pre courser .to what is coming when he sells out on PR AND HE DID .YOU GUYS GOT STUFF ALL FROM THE TORIES MARK ADMIT IT . WHEN YOU LOOK CLOSLEY YOU GOT ALMOST NOTHING AT ALL FROM CAMRON . EXCEPT SOME HIGH LIVEING FOR A FEW MPS .ESPESHLY THE ONES LIKELY TO DEFECT ANYTIME SOON.

Anonymous said...

mark the menbership have the power to do no such thing the coalition deal is done if the rank and file said no the coalition would be in the commons the libs and the nasty party olding hands all cozey on monday. you insult the members they have no power to stop cleggs coalition sell out of proportional representation .the deal with camrons done .the rank and file had no say they got shafted , you cant ask them when you have already done the deal with camron .thats a joke.so much amunition for the left its not funny mark .

Anonymous said...

labour will turn up to the commons next sitting day look over on the govenment seats and see the nasty party and their new girlfriends the libs , and burst out laoughing .

Anonymous said...

LOOK WERE TORIE NICK HAS TAKEN THE LIBS , MATE YOUR IN BED WITH THE TORIES LOL LOL LOL .SEE ALL CLEGGS HISTORY WAS TORIE MARK .WELL YOU LOT ELECTED HIM YOU WILL FALL WHEN HE FALLS .mr clegg was a high office holder formaly in the conservitive party . ask paddy what he realy thinks of the man in private sometime .REALITY CHEECK SINCE CLEGG SAID HE WANTS A LABOUR FREE UK YOU LOST WHAT ABOUT 9 SEATS THATS THE CONS LOOSEING 50 SEATS MARK? THEY FLLED IN THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS BACK TO LABOUR BYE 2 % FROM THE LIBS BECOUSER OF WHAT CLEGG SAID AND YOU LOST SEATS . WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ELECTION ?.

Anonymous said...

IAIN VARY GOOD INSIGHT THANKS .I RECALL AT THE TIME THAT OLD TORIE FACIST THATCHER ,IF NOT FOR THE WAR I THINK SHE WOULD HAVE LOST THE 1983 ELECTION AS WELL ., PITTY AS UN TELEGENIC AS MR FOOT WAS WHAT A GREAT GREAT GREAT PRIME MINISTER I BELEAVE THAT MAN WOULD HAVE MADE . FOOTS HEART WAS WITH THE PEOPLE . AND WHAT A GREAT SPEAKER , BUT THEY ASSINATED HIM IN THE RIGHT WING MEDIA AND BRAINWASHED THE COUNTRY , SAD THE GOOD ONES OFTEN DONT GET TO BE PRIME MINISTER.I DIGRESS AND REMINISS .IF THEY HAD SHOWEN MORE FOOTAGE OF MR FOOT GIVEING THE OLD FACIST LADEY A PASTEING AS HE DID IN DEBATES , WELL YOU NEVER KNOW SAD.

Matt Wardman said...

Hey Mark.

The blog's arrived.

You're getting trolls :-).

Anonymous said...

TROLLS , NO TROLL JUST RESL PROGRESSIVES THET BELEAVE IN LIB DEM AND PROGRESSIVE POLICYS AS A WHOLE . CLEGG SOLD OUT ON EVREYTHING MARK . YOU GUYS ARE MENT TO BE IN COALITION NOT IN LOVE WITH THE TORIES LIKE CLEGG IS . BUT THE TRUTH IS AND THEIRS MUCH EVIDENCE IN THE OPEN NOW THAT PROVED CLEGG IS A TORIE , HE BROUGHT MANY TORIES WITH HIM WHEN HE DEFECTED TO THE LIB DEMS . I YHINK YOU HAVE BEEN INFILTRATED BYE THE TORIES . I STILL BELEAVE IN PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION PITTY THE LEB DEMS DONT ANT MORE . BUT YOU SEE CLEGGS AS BAD AS LABOUR AND THE TORIES ON THAT ONE . THE LIBS LIKE THE THREE PARTY COZEY LITTLE CLUB . THATS WHY NO PR UNDER CLEGGS LIB DEMS . I CANT BELEAVE YOU GUYS HAVE EXCEPTED THE OFFER OF AV ANOTHER FOR OF FIRST PASSED THE POST , IF THATS NOT A SELL OUT I DONT KNOW WHAT IS . PLEASE DO WHAT YOUR TELLING LABOUR SUPPORTERS TO DO GO BEYOND THE TRIBAL , IF YOU DO YOU WILL SEE HOW CLEGG TRICKED YOU LIB DEMS RIGHT OUT OF pr AN ITS SO SAD .

Anonymous said...

ROY JENKINS WOULD HAVE NEVER SETTLED FOR THE AV FIRST PASSED TO POST VOTEING SYESTEM .YOU SELL OUTS , YOU WILL NEVER LIVE SELLING OUT ON PR DOWN , NEVER . ITS ALWAYS BEEN THE BIGGEST THING YOU LIB DEMS HAVE FOUGHT FOR , AN WHAT DID YOUR EX TORIE PARTY MEMBER LEADER CLEGG DO SOLD OUT AT THE FIRST CHANCE HE GOT . ROY JENKINS WOULD BE DISCUSTED ALL THAT U USED TO ACUSE LAB AN THE CON ABOUT pr now thats the lib dems , who would have beleaved it .how will you explain this to the public mark .

Anonymous said...

its a sad day now you need 55% to pass a vote of no confidence in the govenment of the day . LABOUR WILL EAT YOU ALIVE ON THIS I CAN HEAR THEM NOW THE LIB !!! DEMOCRATS ARE NO LONGER DEMOCRATS !!! 55% REGUIRED IN THE COMMONS . ps i hear labour is in some kind of coalition talks with labour , as over in nz and aus the green party has proven a vary stable coalition partner in and out of govenment for labour over there . so i guess its all workng out rather well . the greens wil maul the libs - the democrat part on the issue of PR .

Anonymous said...

this 55% you now need to pass a vote of no confidence /dissilution its the same thing becouse of what it results in .PLEASE LIB DEMS TELL US WHATS PROPORTIONAL ABOUT THIS 55 % NEEDED TO BRING DOWN THE GOVENMENT .YOU WENT WITH THE TORIES FOR THIS .THE LIBRELS CANT CALL THEM DEMOCRATS ANYMORE ARE TOAST ITS HELLO TO THE GREENS , AND REAL PR.

Anonymous said...

labour are in talks with the greens .

Anonymous said...

mr clegg killed pr when he accepted another first passed the post syestem called av vote .no one will come out and help the libs campaign for changeing the voteing syestem from first passed the post to frist passed the post av .

Anonymous said...

my fave lib of all time shirly williams , this lady is the one that should of taken the libs in to a an election . what a shame she never did . even now this ladey would have cleaned up and left cleggs 57 seats for dead . evrey partys got one that never was but should have been . labours was michael foot , the libs was shirly williams . sad realy for the country .

Mark Pack said...

Ah yes, I always find large blocks of capital letters very persuasive. Do carry on. Toodle pip.