Sunday, November 12, 2006

The problem with Jon Cruddas

Headline in the Telegraph yesterday - Labour heartland turning to BNP, warns Cruddas. Another headline putting Labour and the BNP in the same sentence, and implying that the BNP's rise is Labour's fault.

In the article they write

But yesterday Mr Cruddas admitted: “The BNP thrive in areas where people feel forgotten by the mainstream parties.

“There are signs that the fascist party is becoming a home for many disgruntled former Labour voters."


But how true is it that it's disgruntled Labour people turning to the BNP?

Here's the results from a recent by-election in Rotherham:

Rotherham MBC, Rotherham West Ward
Labour 1024 (44.3% +3.8%)
BNP 606 (26.2% + 26.2%)
Ind 538 (23.2% -15%)
Con 146 (6.3% +6.3%)
LibDem (Did not stand -21.3%)

The 44.3% that Labour got was respectable. And the 40.5% that Labour got in the previous election was respectable too - Labour voters plainly didn't switch to BNP. Instead the BNP vote came from the collapse in the support for the Independent candidate, the no-show from the Lib-Dems and the very poor showing from the Tories.

You could only spin this as "disgruntled Labour people switching to the BNP" if you believe that the Labour vote "should" be 70.5% of the vote. But this is impossible in any multi-party democracy. Maybe Mr Cruddas believes that because the ward is working class at least 70% should vote Labour. This is old-fashioned romantic nonsense about what the working class should think - in reality there will be a range of political beliefs in every single economic stratum of Britain, and there always has been.

The BNP is a problem - but it's a problem for the whole of Britain. It's about the failure of the two other opposition parties to make any mark in some parts of Britain, leaving Labour the sole mainstream party to battle the nutters (in some parts of Britain these nutters are the SNP or PC). In some of the wards that the BNP gained in Barking in May, the only parties on the ballot were Green, BNP and Labour, which is not much of a choice. We should be asking Why and pushing the other two parties to pull their weight in tackling the BNP and making sure that their candidates are on the ballot on every ward being contested. What's needed is a co-ordinated cross-party strategy against the BNP.

It's not just in "Labour" areas the BNP is massing, they are present in Tory dominated Epping Forest and in parts of Herts - but you'd never know this from the press. That's because people like Jon Cruddas are making this just about Labour - and in doing so, he is damaging the party. By constantly putting "Labour" and "BNP" in the same sentence, he gives the impression that the Labour voters are so cretinous that they fall for BNP rubbish at the drop of a hat. If you were a floating voter, would you want to join such a dumb tribe? No, you'd prefer to associate yourself with that nice clean Mr Cameron, or those nice middle class Lib Dems. But it's the 21st century, and Labour is actually more than the working class. We're the party of aspirant people who want a job and a home, and economic stability and Labour voters are not cretinous and largely resist the urge to switch to the BNP.

I respect Jon Cruddas' work on the ground in tackling the BNP - but in his speeches he is hyping the BNP, giving them the oxygen of publicity, (which they are thrilled about). At the same time he's giving the impression to floaters that Labour people are brainless nasty people who could go BNP at any time - and the Telegraph is thrilled as they can do another headline with Labour and BNP in the same sentence. If Cruddas becoming Deputy Leader means this is the impression he constantly gives out in the next election, then we're dead in the water. It's decent floating voters who will decide the next election, not the BNP.

I hope he's more careful about the speeches he gives and takes more trouble to see how they can help the BNP on the one hand and used as ammunition against Labour on the other. If he can't do this, sorry, he doesn't deserve to be deputy leader.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Any native white person who votes Labour (or Tory) is effectively voting for their own community's extinction.

A quick tour of Englands inner cities will show how 'mainstream' immigration policies have erased white communities from huge areas.

Nick said...

You are making a rather elementary mistake looking at those election results and assuming that because x went down by y% and z went up by y% then voters must have swung from x to z.

It's just as likely in this case that Labour gained some of the old Lib Dem vote but lost some voters to the BNP. Without local knowledge it's impossible to say.

I think to deny that the BNP takes a significant chunk of its support from former Labour voters simply doesn't match with the experience of anyone who's campaigned in elections against the BNP in Lab-BNP wards lately.

I think the idea that to point this out (when considering how to prevent it) somehow puts people off voting Labour is extremely silly.

Anonymous said...

Might I suggest that you delete the BNP troll?

soft lefty said...

Gordon Brown and John Reid have both been mouthing off about the BNP in the papers, which I think may have given them more publicity than anything Jon Cruddas has said.

They're going to get publicity anyway, so I don't actually think that any of them are wrong to express their thoughts on it - the time it's stupid to do so is in the run up to local elections as Margaret Hodge did. That said, she was right in what she said (that the BNP are taking voters off Labour) it was just the timing that was stupid.

Right now we need an honest debate about how to defeat fascism and Cruddas, Brown and Reid have all given reasonable contributions to such a debate. I think you are wrong to criticise them for it.

traffic.One said...

i am aware of the concern that the Labour high command have about the erosion of their voter base - to BNP.
.
.
So it is not only Mr Cruddas who is concerned about this.

snowflake5 said...

I don't accept that this is a purely Labour problem. What about the BNP people in Tory heartlands?

And I refuse to believe that people who vote Lib Dem are so pure that they'd only ever switch to Labour or abstain, instead of switching to the BNP. The Lib Dems are simply a repository of protest votes. Many of the people voting LibDem arn't in favour of Lib Dem policies at all, but are simply against Labour. And when a better protest vehicle (from their point of view) comes along, they switch. People who think otherwise are in denial.

I'd like a cross-party strategy, where all the three mainstream parties agree to field candidates and campaign in every ward.

And I'd like Labour to stop assuming that it's just Labour's fault when clearly all three parties need to think hard about how to defeat this. In particular the two opposition parties are failing in their duty to provide opposition in certain parts of the country.

There's also a general electoral danger if Labour and BNP are intertwined in the public mind while the Lib Dems and Tories get off their reponsibilities scott-free.

It's no wonder women voters are deserting when if they're not hearing about "Labour" in the same sentence as "terror", they're hearing Labour in the same sentence as the BNP.

traffic.One said...

this might be worth a look.
http://www.joncruddas.org.uk/index.php

tyger said...

"Might I suggest that you delete the BNP troll?"

This just about sums up the problem we have with the BNP. We feel the need to censure them at every opportunity. Take the recent case involving Mr. Griffin. The case collapses and politicos come out and demand legislation to convict. It's weak and it feeds their victim complex, which they thrive on.

We need to defeat insular ideas with better ones, not censure and laws. The BNP's message, is built on the idea that they are the suppressed voice of downtrodden working class people (historically Labour's base), this is why they prey on fading industrial area and on the outskirts of large cities. Let's not give them the oxygen of publicity nor the justification for their complex.

tyger said...

Also, I agree Cruddas is not the man. Why not try Mr. Hain?

tyger said...

Another good article Snow. xx

crossland said...

Very good article, certainly made me wonder about how lazy some of my 'recieved wisdom' might be.

The other argument that backs up your view is that the BNP are able to motivate people to vote who otherwise dont - they gain a high impact because voter turnout is so low,particularly in locals

JM said...

Tyger, please give up. No one's interested in Peter Hain any more. I feel sorry for the man but he needs to face facts and quit while he's ahead. Benn, Johnson and - yep - Cruddas have all drained the Orange Man's support and it ain't coming back.

Benedict White said...

I appreaciate you want to keep service inflation low, but I will give you one statistic.

In 1997, there were as many BNP councilors as there were Monster rving loonie ones.

Now there are what 50 or 100?

It has happened on labours watch. it is labours fault. Your lot broke it.

Ultimately a Conservative government will have to fix it.

tyger said...

Jm,

No chance. Hain has more support in Parliament than people think.

I think, if Cruddas goes only for Deputy Leader, then no one is better suited than Hain for Deputy PM. :)

traffic.One said...

"It has happened on labours watch. it is labours fault. Your lot broke it."


no. society's ills are society's responsibilty. As Mr cameron has so aptly put it "we are all in it together".

traffic.One said...

"I think, if Cruddas goes only for Deputy Leader, then no one is better suited than Hain for Deputy PM."


this seems reasonable. cruddas to work on energising the grassroots. Brown.Hain feels like a formidable front.

Benedict White said...

traffic.one:
"no. society's ills are society's responsibilty. As Mr cameron has so aptly put it "we are all in it together".

Umm.. We are all in this together butagain it is Labour that broke it, and it will take a Conservative government to fix it. Thats my point. If I though Labour had a snowflake in hells chance fo fixing the problem, I would take another view.

Nick said...

I don't think that any of the Labour figures who have commented on the BNP lately have been suggesting that somehow the problem is entirely down to Labour - that would be a most peculiar interpretation of what Brown, Cruddas or anyone else actually said.

At a local level, of course opposition parties should stand in BNP target wards and from what I know Cruddas has tactically encouraged this in Dagenham, but the action that can be taken by Labour MPs to persuade other parties to do things is extremely limited.

We are not in much of a position at a national level to sort out the opposition parties' standing in local elections. We are in a position to sort out our own organisation and government policies. In their different ways, this is the point that Brown and Cruddas were making.

I find your position on this extremely odd, I have to say. Nor do I think the idea that a couple of headlines that include Labour and the BNP in the same sentence is somehow driving voting intention is really at all credible. The headlines that are the problem are those in the tabloid papers ranting on about immigration, headlines involving Labour doing something to combat the BNP are not.

traffic.One said...

"We are all in this together butagain it is Labour that broke it"

don't believe governments have the strength/power to make societies ill.

they can lead with regards to the healing process though.

snowflake5 said...

I'm sorry Nick, but if you think Labour can reduce the BNP vote by ourselves, by increasing the Labour vote (to about 70%) you've got rocks in your head.

"The headlines that are the problem are those in the tabloid papers ranting on about immigration, headlines involving Labour doing something to combat the BNP are not."

But the headlines arn't saying that Labour is doing something to combat the BNP, are they? Instead they are saying to effect "Jon Cruddas warns that Labour people are closet BNP supporters" - which is what I meant about him having to be very careful that his words arn't twisted and used against Labour.

Ever heard of negative association? Clearly not! I'm deeply dissapointed that people are in denial about this.

Elephunt said...

I've campaigned against the BNP several times in several areas.In my experience the BNP ruthlessly attempt to exploit disenchantment in what are regarded as 'traditional' Labour areas.This is only Labour's fault in as much as a local Labour Party not engaged with the community will leave itself vulnerable to a BNP aatack...incidentally, the same goes for a Lib Dem attack.A Labour Party doing it's job on the ground can usually see off such low life chancers...and the BNP.

traffic.One said...

nice to hear from someone - on the ground, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Just as Labour has abandoned me and my family I have stopped my support for them,the same has happened to most of my mates.
Our wages are being cut,rents going up and now we have to pay benefits back because nobody can understand how they work.
The BNP understands what white working class people need and will put them ahead of the millions of immigrants flooding this country,so me and my mates will be supporting them.

Nick said...

"I'm sorry Nick, but if you think Labour can reduce the BNP vote by ourselves, by increasing the Labour vote (to about 70%) you've got rocks in your head."

What on earth are you on about Snowflake5? You don't need to increase the Labour vote to 70% in order to reduce the BNP vote, you only need to persuade one person not to vote BNP! And preferably go on to persuade others!

Obviously where possible you want the other political parties to fight the BNP too, but we don't have much influence over their decisions, so why don't we look at what we can do?

You seem to think that the answer is nothing and that we shouldn't even speak about it! Might I suggest that it is not me who is in denial?

Labour can combat the BNP (we can't eliminate them completely, but no one can do that unless you banned them) by the right campaigning at a ground level and by the right policies at government level. I don't think Jon Cruddas (or Gordon Brown) was saying much more than that, despite your rather perverse interpretation.

I for one will be out this weekend campaigning on the doorsteps against the BNP and I hope others do the same.

snowflake5 said...

nick, the proper way to combat the BNP is to do hard campaigning on the ground, while keeping national publicity to a minimum to deny them the oxygen of publicity and prevent the problem speading.

Publicity is the be-all and end-all of political parties, Without it you die. Jon Cruddas has been perversely giving the BNP plenty of coverage. Of course he's really trying to publicise his own deputy leadership attempt - but he could try to talk about something other than BNP when he gives interviews. The deputy leader has to be more than a one-issue man. Also not giving the BNP publicity is more important than Cruddas' career advancement needs.

traffic.One said...

"Publicity is the be-all and end-all of political parties, Without it you die."


wrong.

popularity is the be-all and end-all of all political parties. it takes 2 to tango.

Nick said...

The idea that if we all just ignore the BNP they'll go away is not just nonsense, it is dangerous nonsense.

Hyping them up before elections like Margaret Hodge certainly isn't a great idea, but pretending there is no problem to tackle is just as silly in the opposite direction.

The BNP derives much of its momentum from hysteria over immigration - and the Government are constantly going on about that in an attempt to appease tabloid newspapers, though it's the tabloids themselves who are largely to blame - and issues of resource allocation, such as social housing, which they present in racialised terms. They are not fuelled by a three-line quote in a broadsheet newspaper.

At any rate, changing our campaigning techniques and so on is important but it needs to go hand in hand with policies to deal with the issues that the BNP exploit, and I don't think that Government rhetoric on certain issues helps matters either. That is a considerably bigger issue than anything Jon Cruddas says one way or the other.

snowflake5 said...

nick - who is saying "ignore the BNP"? If you read my post, I said we should combat them with hard campaigning on the ground combined with starving them of publicity at the national level. Which part of "hard campaigning on the ground" says "ignore them"?

Going back to Jon Cruddas claims that BNP voters are "disgruntled former Labour people", here's the results from another council by-election from yesterday:

Barnsley MBC, Worsborough
Lab 615 (37.0; -4.7),
Ind 510 (30.7; +9.5),
BNP 310 (18.6; +18.6),
LD Donald Wood 137 (8.2; -14.2), Respect 91 (5.5; +5.5).

This is a ward that is 99.41% white, and again the BNP vote comes mainly from the collapse of the Lib Dem vote, and it looks like some Labour people switched to Respect.

Jon Cruddas' claims that it's Labour's fault are clearly off mark.

What he should be pointing out is the Lib Dem vote is weak. Lib Dems don't attract loyal voters the way Labour and the Tories do. And the failure of the other political parties to provide proper opposition in many parts of Britain is what is opening up a vacuum for the BNP.

In any ward where there is just one mainstream party in play, there is an opening for the extremists to step in. How would your "let's make this just about Labour" strategy make the BNP vote go away in places like the above ward? Try to get the Labour vote to 57%? Is this realistic? Can't you see that the "one mainstream party" strategy is not working? That proper safe democracy needs more than one strong mainstream party, and the solution lies in making the Tories and Lib Dems pull their weight?

Duncan said...

I doubt that there's a significant Lib Dem to BNP shift either (although there may be some, as there may be a small labour shift) - many more BNP voters won't have voted when there isn't a BNP candidate. And I'm sure quite a lot of them will say to Labour campaigners that they used to vote Labour. I'm not convinced there are the sorts of shifts that Margaret Hodge or John Cruddas are talking about. I'm thinking of the most serious threat very locally to me recently - the 2005 election in Keighley. When you look here and also in Burnley at council votes, you see that where the BNP have been successful it has NOT been in Labour wards.

That is not to say that I don't think that Labour have contributed to the recent upsurge in BNP votes; I think they have - particularly by pushing much of their poison into the mainstream through the hysterical scape-goating statements from Reid and the like - but I'm inclined to agree with at least part of your thesis, Snowflake.

snowflake5 said...

Hi duncan.

I think the Lib Dem vote is very weak. Half the time, they are just a repository of protest votes, not an endorsement of the Lib Dems.

I think a lot of people voted Lib Dem in the last election because they believed that they were best placed to give the govt a kicking. Now they are dis-illusioned and looking for a new home.