One interpretation of the Thornberry tweet is that Labour not only have no understanding of voters in general, but more significantly have an existence (and policies that flow from that mind set) rooted in a past long gone.
As an aside, ThornberryGate was dealt with swiftly and decisively by Ed Miliband. Shit happens but how you deal with it is more important.
Like Hitler in his bunker, delusional and clutching at straws, Labour try to move imaginary battalions of homogenous masses of blue collar workers into position for the final battle in 2015. For Labour ‘bunker’ substitute town houses in Islington. Friedrich Engels noted a street in Manchester where every tenant worked for the same company, doing the same job; that world has long gone, replaced by baristas, cleaners, web designers, etc. Homogenous it aint.
Political parties need a purpose other than just winning elections. New Labour bucked that rule by surfing a feel good wave built on an explosion of personal credit and a property boom; no attempt was made to deal with exploding property prices, cynical politics at its worst.
New Labour failed and that would be my view even if Blair’s vanity project, the Iraq War, never happened.
Take just two so called Labour successes, reduction in child poverty and education; both ‘successes’ at worst illusionary, at best ephemeral.
- Eradication of child poverty needs to be rooted in well paid jobs, decent housing and a good health service. This never happened; I concede there was a sharp increase in NHS performance indicators.
- Education measures failed to even start to address social mobility. Eradicating private education barely gets a mention. We have a two tier education system where a privately educated 7% cream off all the best jobs; an appalling waste of resource and talent.
Labour brought in the minimum wage, touted as another success. A ‘sticking plasters’ solution, but better than nothing (I was a late convert). But why settle for ‘better than nothing’, why not go all out for a high skilled economy and the well paid jobs that come with it.
The Rochester and Strood by-election result
My take is that the result was a good one for the Conservative Party; they gained 35% of the vote with a new candidate and will probably regain the seat in 2015.
The result for the Labour Party was bad; a seat they once held, admittedly with different boundaries, in 2005 with a decent majority.
Along with the Heywood and Middleton by-election result, the latest by-election illustrates the under the surface churn away from Labour to UKIP.
UKIP are slowly morphing into a party that threatens Labour core vote and the 2015 election results will reflect that in seats in the northern heartlands, some going to UKIP, others where the working class vote is split resulting in a Conservative gain or hold.
I believe the first phase mutation of the UKIP virus, stealing Tory Eurosceptic malcontents has now passed; the next phase will be the threat to Labour core.
UKIP are no longer exclusively fixated by the EU and immigration; they now have policies on the NHS (many policies, depending who you talk to and when).
The speech by Yvette Cooper on immigration played into UKIP hands, it was not just offensive it was also stupid; Labour is not the anti-immigration party and need to focus on jobs, housing and the NHS; these are the real concerns to voters.
The message from Yvette Cooper comes across as ‘well, you know, UKIP are right on immigration’.
If you analyse the fear voters have of immigration, break it down, you get housing, jobs and a deteriorating NHS service; Labour seem not to get this. Every time UKIP make a speech Labour need to counter with a speech extolling the benefits of the EU and immigration.
So this week may go down as the week Labour ambitions for 2015 were undone by two woman; a stupid speech that misses the point by one, and an appalling demonstration of snobbery by another.
Before anyone has a go I still believe we need more women in politics; practice makes perfect.
So where to now for Labour
Well, Labour could do worse than root its ‘reason for being’ in reality; the real world this country exists in, and the current lamentable state of the UK; policies should be informed by this new reality.
- We live in a globalised economy, a very connected world. This world is driven by the new economies especially in the Far East. Policies need to reflect that reality and should not include, to name just one, a 50% income tax rate.
- The UK is fast becoming a low wage, minimally regulated economy with an elitist and privileged management class. Accident or design, this plan offers a dire future for most, though there will be enough well paid management positions for the privately educated elite.
It does not have to be like that; Germany exists in the same globalised world and excels. Wages are not eye watering in Germany but I detect greater harmony and content; compensations are a good non elitist education system, better geographical balance (no one city dominates), and good housing and transport.
So Labour might like to look at the following policies.
- A good universal state education system with free university education. Eradicate elitism, which means elimination of the two tier system of state and private education; the fact that Oxbridge, along with the Ivy League universities across the pond always figure in the top 10 in the global league table of universities while universities in Germany seldom figure higher than low forties should tell you something; good education for the many will always trump elitist education for the few.
- A tax system that reflects the globalised world we live in; particular with regard to income tax and corporation tax; encourage talent.
- Policies that reflect a commitment to making the EU fit for purpose; accepting that the EU is a political construct not just an economic one. We need fiscal and social (benefits) harmonisation to name just two.
- Using public, or social, ownership, aggressively, as a tool for the national interest, especially in housing.
- Bring the utilities into public ownership
- Consider socialising buy to let empires
- Use inheritance tax and capital gains tax on equity gains on private property sales to create greater equality.
- Constitutional reform; a written constitution, a trimmed down Royal Family.
Oh, and change the name from <current flavour> Labour to something else.