Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Fisking Mike Ion on LabourList regarding voting against Labour

Mike Ion posted a rather extraordinary piece on LabourList yesterday entitled: "For many middle class bloggers and journalists, voting against Labour is a luxury they can indulge". It seems that he feels voting for Labour is some sort of duty to the poor and we are being selfish if we are not poor and yet refuse to fall in line. Oh, the sophistry!

I should probably declare an interest before I start. I am a middle class blogger and I intend to indulge the luxury of voting against Labour.

Right, fisk time:

Reading various blogs, websites and newspapers over the summer one cannot help but be struck by the number of so called left-leaning commentators who have been at pains to point out that the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson aren’t too bad and that if we do end up with a Tory government in a couple of years time it wouldn’t be such a disaster after all. Too many of the left's 'intelligentsia' appear to place punishing Brown and Labour for their collective ‘failings’ above the reality of the very real improvements to the lives and life chances of whole communities that were abandoned by the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s.

The corrolary of this is that we should all just shut up about Labour's failings (which by putting in quotes Mike implies are not really failings at all) and vote for Labour out of some sort of duty. Failure to do so will precipitate a disaster. Why am I reminded of Michael Hesltine's desperate attempts to get people to vote Tory in 1997 by claiming that we were "sleepwalking into a nightmare"?

For many middle class bloggers and journalists, voting Tory or even Lib Dem is a luxury that they can easily indulge. Why? Because they are the very people who can afford to not have a Labour government in office - but the poor cannot.

Your lot have had 13 years to introduce a fairer electoral system but you decided not to because in good years it favours you with undeserved majorities. How dare you say that voting Lib Dem is a luxury poor people cannot afford because it might "LET IN TEH NASTY TORIES!!11". It is disgusting that Labour members like you are being so anti-democratic as to try to use their own gerrymandered electoral system against the third party in this way.

So what is the answer then Mike? Should we abandon elections and make Mr Brown a permanent resident of No 10? Do you think perhaps that the reason Labour are so far behind in the polls and likely to be ejected from office because, I don't know, many people (including many of the poor) are utterly sick of their posturing, hypocrisy and bullying (amongst many other things)?

Labour has a good record in terms of fighting poverty over the past decade: 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty since 1997, the poorest fifth of families will be £4,000 a year better off by 2010 and the winter fuel allowance, pensioner credit and increases to the state pension have taken over 2 million pensioners out of poverty.

There is no denying that Labour have done some good in this area but Labour's definition of poverty is debatable and in a lot of cases, families have just been moved slightly to the other side of an invisible line which has been declared "poverty". The winter fuel allowance is not means tested and goes to the wealthy as well as the poor. The state pension is still very, very poor and Brown changed the rules on private pensions as one of his first acts as Chancellor which has made future pensioners who have saved for their retirement worse off.

The 10p tax fiasco was not a deliberate attempt by Labour to penalise the low paid, neither was it a calculated, cavalier act designed to appease middle England. It was, quite simply, a mistake – nothing more and nothing less.

Bzzzt! I call "Bulls**t" on yo ass. It was not a mistake. Brown very carefully designed this to try and wrong-foot the Tories as part of his swan-song budget in 2007 and so that he could claim he was "reducing" income tax from 22p to 20p. He was, it's just that he paid for it by extended the 20p band and abolishing the 10p band, it's just that this bit was temporarily obscured. It was so he could sit down with a flourish and leave Cameron gaping like a guppy fish. It worked for about 10 minutes until we looked behind the figures and saw that he was penalising some of the poorest in society to pay for a tax cut for better off people. There is no way he did not know what he was doing, he knew exactly, he just completely miscalculated and thought he could get away with it. He was wrong but he pig-headedly refused to do anything about it with the arrogance his is famed for until his back-benchers threatened to bring down the entire budget the next year. Even then the "compensation" measures that were brought in did not target the poor, they targeted everybody. He still has not properly resolved this and there are still very poor people who are worse off than they would have been as a result. This disgraceful episode is one of the reasons he is so unpopular.

The ‘talk left but act right’ tendency that is so prevalent in much of Britain’s media appears to have decided that Labour does not deserve another term. They are apparently untroubled by the fact that so many of the changes made since 1997 could end up being rolled back by a Cameron-led, right wing Tory government that could easily dismantle most, if not all, of the things that have been achieved.

It's not the media that have decided that Labour do not deserve another term! It's the public. We are not stupid. We can see through the posturing, politicking and blatant dishonesty. Your government is in its death throes. It is illiberal, hectoring, duplicitous and drowning in spin.

If Labour does fail in winning a fourth term and is therefore unable to introduce further reform of public services then the Tories will find it almost impossible to resist the ideological temptation to demolish the very ethos on which they are built - with more charging, less investment, good services for the well-off middle classes and second-class services for the poor.

They're evil I tells yer. EEEEVILLLL!

Labour used to be the party that gave comfort to the afflicted whilst afflicting the collective conscience of the comfortable. It needs to regain its sense of identity and purpose and above all it needs to remind people that under the Tories it is unlikely that things would get better but they could get a whole lot worse.

A bit of sense at the end here. Labour did used to be that party but they are totally compromised now. They have had over a decade in power and yet the gap between rich and poor has never been wider. How can that possibly be when their raison d'etre is to help the poor?

Labour do themselves no favours by squealing about opposition bogeymen. If they are thrown out of office in 9 months time it will be because we have had enough of them. It will not be down to well meaning misguided middle-class media types.

It will be down to the fact that Labour has failed to make the case for re-election. Full stop.


Costello said...

"Michael Hesltine's desperate attempts to get people to vote Tory in 1997 by claiming that we were "sleepwalking into a nightmare""

To be fair to Tarzan he was absolutely right ;).

Anonymous said...

...but for the wrong reasons, one suspects.

Anonymous said...


Your fisking is very good - if a little harsh! I really do feel that there are many who really do believe that Cameron is a liberal, one nation Tory who will not be as bad as some fear and are therfore talking up the prospect of a Tory victory. I also agree that we (Labour) cannot simply campaign on what we are not - we do need to state clearly what we are for.


Mark Thompson said...

Hi Mike. To be honest, the harshness is largely directed at (some) cabinet ministers including Gordon Brown. They are ones who are compromised and have hollowed out your party. I appreciate that many of the members of your party are unhappy with how things have gone as well.

However I do think your post was misguided and if you are going to try and win support back, trying to scare people with opposition bogeymen really is not the way to do it.


An excellent post and one I enjoyed reading. Typical LD though, you had to spoil it by being nice to the Labour guy at the end...


asquith said...

Following bruschetta orthodoxies, are we? :)

I have some innate tendency to slag off governments more than oppositions- must be that about not kicking a man when he's down- but I expect I'll be doing more than enough bitching about the new boss. (I've suspect Michael Gove will emerge as an especially hate-worthy figure).

I live in a ridiculously safe Labour seat. I will almost certainly be voting for you, & most likely you'll be third, unless you manage to beat the Tories & come second. It is a "luxury" really- I agree with your party on a lot of things, but not on others, yet I won't get an MP elected so I could really vote for just any old tit & it would make no difference under FPTP.

Marginal seats, I'd probably vote Conservative over Labour but given that Cameron seems likely to win, we will be needing a strong LD showing to counteract the neocon & social con tendencies.

Andy said...

Your lot have had 13 years to introduce a fairer electoral system but you decided not to because in good years it favours you with undeserved majorities. How dare you say that voting Lib Dem is a luxury poor people cannot afford because it might "LET IN TEH NASTY TORIES!!11"

Indeed. This argument is the one aspect of the whole question of PR that makes me really physically angry, not just intellectually angry. Anybody who puts forward the "don't vote Lib Dem, you're letting in the Tories and thereby betraying the poor" argument frankly loses my respect and my attention immediately.

Mike: Your government has had more than a decade in which to allow me to vote as I wish to without "betraying the poor". In putting forward this argument, therefore, what you deserve is not a fisking, but a three word response: F*ck. Right. Off.

Charles said...

I know it is a little O/T, but given Andy's comment I couldn't resist it...

There was a very good column in the FT yesterday, about the German elections. Based on the poor performance that of the SDP in Saarland and the other state (sorry, long day), they shouldn't be forming the next government. The voters have spoken.

And yet, thanks to the party mix, the Greens hold the balance of power in Saarland between the CDU/FDP and the SPD, while no one likes the Communists, so in the other state it's likely to end up as a CDU/SPD coalition.

Just how is that democratic? The voters reject the governing party and they still end up in government... Karl Popper's 'Day of Judgement' argument for FPTP suddenly seems very compelling

Bill Quango MP said...

Good piece.

I remember the reverse in '97 when even I wanted John Major gone and thought that a term of Blair would be no bad thing, which, to be fair , it wasn't. It was the second and especially the third terms that were the most damaging.

Mrs T said her legacy was destroying socialism, which was true in the that she made Labour get rid of its lunatic fringe. Its Militants, anarchists, CND, communists and uncompromising trade unions.
Tony Blair has also forced the Tories to lose the voices of its anti Europe, anti gay, anti immigration, everyone must stand on their own two feet unaided, Landed gentry interests first, privatise everything regardless of merit ... factions.

The question now is what will a decade in opposition force New Labour to become?