Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 25 June 2010

Labour is increasingly resembling the Tories in the late 1990s

The polling reaction to the new government and the budget has been fairly positive (link opens PDF) with the previous government being blamed by half of all people surveyed for the difficult measures in the budget and a majority saying that they think the cuts are good for the economy.

At the same time Labour is vigorously attacking the government for what it is doing and also repeatedly accusing the Lib Dems of "betrayal". It feels slightly odd for the opposition to be so strongly railing against the measures being taken when the public appear to be largely behind them. The public do not like being told that they have made a huge mistake just a few weeks after they have voted.

I know that some will argue that they never voted for the coalition but they certainly did not vote for Labour to remain in power and again, look at the polling. The public is broadly in favour of the coalition.

Labour's approach reminds of the position the Tories were in after the 1997 election. They still stood up at the dispatch box and argued against what Labour were doing in government but they had been in for 18 years and had been clearly rejected by the electorate at the election. Nobody (outside of the Westminster bubble) was really listening to what they were saying and they were making the same mistakes as Labour are now, attacking a broadly popular government that the public were behind. It did them few favours in the following election where they made almost no headway.

I hope that whoever wins the Labour leadership finds a more moderate and humble tone. I get the sense that the public are starting to feel a bit exasperated with the way that the party that was in government for 13 years is attacking the new government who are clearing up the mess left behind by them. Some recognition by Labour that they did contribute to the problems rather than continuing to pretend that it was solely down to international factors beyond their control would help them and I think that then the public would be more willing to give them a fair hearing.

It took the Tories many years to accept their failings from the 1980s and 1990s and properly draw a line under them. It was only when Cameron became leader that they properly addressed them with the "detoxification" strategy. Now to be fair I do not think that Labour's brand now is as damaged as the Tory one was in 1997 but it is certainly damaged and they need to repair it.

Screeching from the opposition benches about "betrayal" is not the way to achieve that.


Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

But what about the approach of Simon Hughes (acting for and on behalf of ex-saintly Vince)?

dougf said...

"But what about the approach of Simon Hughes (acting for and on behalf of ex-saintly Vince)?"

I'm not sure what is meant exactly by this comment, but I'm going to operate on the assumption that it refers to Mr.Hughes' latest statements on 'defending' the vulnerable during a time of austerity. There was nothing wrong in his saying that or indeed saying that overt failure to defend the weakest in society might bring down the Coalition.

He made perfectly viable and reasonable points, which fit neatly into his prior statement on how the LibDems were 'right' to enter a Coalition with the Torys rather than remain a marginal force outside of Government. Unless he plans to go rogue and try to subvert the Coalition, I don't see too many people having a problem with what he is now saying. He and the Coalition can even play 'good cop-bad cop', if they get really nuanced about these things.

The reason that Coalitions between the Liberals and the Conservatives tend to damage the Liberals is that the Party tends towards the 'unrealistic'. The LibDems have a chance to become something better and more important. They also have the chance to self-destruct. But the CHOICE is theirs to make.
Be Serious or be Gone.

I would hope that Mr.Hughes has decided upon the 'serious' option.

asquith said...

I have advocated that, while I fucking hated New Labour in government, the country needs the opposition to recover fairly soon.

The coalition have definitely got feet of clay. I think it is their welfare "reforms" that have the potential to be worst. I don't shed any tears for the health in pregnancy grant & restricting the maternity grant (especially as the latter was means tested) but extending means-testing (which has mercifully been resisted so far- please keep this up Gideon) & wrongly treating DLA claimants as if half of them were liars won't wash.

What I really like about Abbott is that she stood up & denounced Blair & Brown on their illiberal "laws". I wouldn't vote for her but I am glad she & the few remaining liberals on the Labour beneches are active. If I am capable of being on the same side as David Davis on some issues, why not socialists too?

All I really know is Blair & Brown. They have put me off Labour in the same way that most of the the people I know in their 30s & 40s hate Thatcher to this day.

So what we really need is for them to rid themselves of the people who formed part of the last government.

Like I say I am vaguely pro-coalition but I have some concerns that presumably will mount over the years. There should always be a party advocating what Labour at their best stand for, as much as I wouldn't vote for them.

It is one of the things I found most concerning about politics in Britain that no such thing seems to exist. Writing this comment I am troubled at the thought of what will happen in 5 years & beyond, seriously. On a Friday night of all times! But I am stopping in to save my money for a do next week.

PS- Labour do have more support than the Tories did in the late 90s, that in my view is a difference of some significance.

Anonymous said...

But you are at 16% and sinking...?!

Anonymous said...

The difference is that now we are in an entirely different economic situation, and Labour are going to try and exploit that. It is a gamble, but probably a reasonable one, that the economy will enter into a much deeper and painful recession that will see thousands out of work. Labour will want to make out that the recession would not have happened had they been in power.