Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Coming British General Election

Jackie Ashley wrote an interesting article in the Guardian recently, where she examined the tactics that Labour has been using against the Conservatives.

She observes correctly that the public don't really view Cameron as an extreme Thatcherite regardless of what his actual policies are - his persona is comfortably fat and fluffy. (She didn't point out that George Osborne does look hatchet-faced, but the Tories are carefully keeping him out of sight).

She also made the point that the toff attack doesn't really work because most people recognise that they have no control over whom they are born to, indeed you don't really have much control over the first eighteen years of your life. (What you do after age eighteen is fair game; so attacks for joining Bullingdon are valid because it shows the mindset of the adult, whereas attacks for going to Eton are really attacks on a man's parents, whom as a child he couldn't control)

Further the toff attack makes some in Labour itself uneasy. Keir Hardie, our founder over a century ago made a point of inviting the middle-class and upper-middle-class Fabians to merge with his working class Independent Labour Party, the trade unions and the co-operative movement to create The Labour Party in 1900. Hardie's view was that it didn't really matter where you came from, in a true egalitarian society everyone was equal and it was your values, what you believed that counted. Thus such men as Attlee were welcomed into the Labour party in 1908.

The true class-based party at the moment is the BNP - their entire appeal is down to the perceived victimhood of a certain class and race, and they exclude all others. If you truly believe in egalitarianism and inclusiveness, as do all Labour people, then class-based politics have to be rejected, because how can you create a truly equal society if a segment of society is pitted against another based on circumstances of birth (whether class or race) that they have no control over?

I believe the toff attack hasn't really worked because Labour's heart just isn't in it. We'd be better off campaigning on something we truly believe in - such as egalitarianism and equality: if the poor have to pay tax, then so should rich folk like Michael Ashcroft and Zac Goldsmith; if the poor are slung into jail for drug-taking, so should the rich and so on. The Tory idea of one rule for elites and another for the council estates is just plain wrong as well as unfair.

However, despite the strategic mis-hits, Labour has been clawing back position in the polls since late Oct. The vast Tory leads of earlier in the year where BPIX put them 22 points ahead and Populus put them 20 points ahead have evaporated, and the gap on average is between 6 and 12 points. Why has this happened?

In my opinion it's all down to Cameron dumping his "cast-iron guarantee" on Europe. He not only annoyed eurosceptics, he made centrists and moderates very nervous indeed.

If he knew he couldn't actually deliver on the policy, why make pledges in such concrete terms? Is he a con-man, or someone who simply can't see two steps forward to the consequences of his decisions? (His trip to Georgia during the Georgia-Russia war, to promise them Britain would send troops to fight Russia suggests the latter. What sort of idiot wants to send Britain to war with Russia? What sort of idiot makes these pledges without checking who is in the wrong (the UN concluded that far from being a victim, Georgia had provoked the war)). If Cameron can't keep cast-iron guarantees to his own supporters, then will he also dump mere promises to look after the NHS? What does he actually believe in? Is he sunshine, is he austerity, is he a weather-vane who can be blown all over the place by people more powerful than him?

More and more you hear the old story about him cycling to work while having his gas-guzzler chauffeur his briefcase behind him. Labour's first attempt to define him, those chameleon ads inspired by an idea John Prescott had, turn out to be on the mark.

That princess of pop and populism, Cheryl Cole put it best. "David Cameron. Brrrrr. Slippery isn't he?" she says in her interview with Q magazine. She's voting Labour. "Better the devil you know." The vast middle of Britain who spend more time watching X-Factor than the news will agree with her. They may not follow every twist and turn of politics, but they are shrewd about grasping the big picture. Labour's big strength in this election is that we are known quantities.

I think we should fight the election on the "cast-iron guarantee" question. If he can't keep "cast-iron" guarantees, can we trust any promises and pledges he makes? Does he believe anything he says? Or is he thinking no further than the next morning's photo-shoot? This is not only no time for a novice, it's no time for a flim-flam photo-shoot guy who doesn't know his own mind either.


jams o donnell said...

Ah now a fourth term would be a far better gift to Britain than a Tory governmet. Happy Christmas Snowflake

Hughes Views said...

I think the toffs attack has had some success at energising activists - our almost-broke party will need loads of us out knocking on doors and delivering leaflets in the next few months if it's to counter the well-funded campaign that the Tories are continuing to run in the marginals...

Merry Xmas.

snowflake5 said...

Marry Christmas Jams and Hugh!

DevonChap said...

Please lead on "Cast Iron" guarentees. It only puts Labour renaging on a vote on the constitution into focus. You can't use it. UKIP can but you can't

The trust issue is a big one, but people don't trust Labour either. You are a known quanity, known and disliked.

The voters will more than ever before be making a choice between what they see as the less of two evils. That the Tory vote if firm on about 40% suggests that a significant part of the population has made up its mind and don't want the Devil they know.

Cheryl Cole is tribally Labour, she says so in the interview you quote. "We've always been Labour in our family, it just feels wrong not to be". As to whether her view of Cameron is indicative of a wider one, or will swing votes is an unknown.

If 5 more years of Gordon Brown is your selling point, I don't see anyone buying. Going negative as you suggest loks like Labour's only option.

snowflake5 said...

DevonChap - Labour hasn't reneged on anything.

We promised referendums on all sorts of things: devolution to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, London, North-east - and we delivered on all of them. We also promised a referendum on the Constitional Treaty but this treaty was declared dead by the French.

We promised no referendum on the Lisbon treaty as you are well aware. But Cameron did - and in very fierce terms "cast-iron guarantee" he said.

Still, you are obviously of the belief that his flip-flops and lies don't hurt him. So do share with us why you think the Tory lead is narrowing in this way. It's amazing is it not, with Labour in a third term in the middle of a recession, looking like we might still end up the largest party in parliament?

DevonChap said...

I didn't say that Cameron's change on Lisbon didn't hurt him. I think you'll find he accepts it did. However, the fact that on the EU referrendum Labour's defence starts with a long paragraph about how the Lisbon Treaty isn't the same as the consititution despite whatever Gisela Stuart says won't wash with most voters. Now at least both Labour and the Tories are tied in knots on the subject. Score draw.

I would point out that in the whole of 2009 out of 137 polls only 6 polls have put the Tory lead at less than 9 points, which is the magic number on uniform swing most peopel credit they need to get a majority and of those only 1 gave a result where Labour might have more seats. That looks a very unlikely 'might'. 2009 began with Tory leads averaging less than 10%, now it averages above it. Also of the 137 polls only 30 put Labour on 30% or more. And I'd also point out that the Tories won a majority in a third term in the middle of a recession so if the summit of your ambition is to come second in votes and just ahead in seats you really are screwed.

Now what lies have Cameron been saying? Please point one out. Its not like he's misleading the country into a war or anything.

Tom Freeman said...

I hadn't heard about the Cheryl thing - that's hilarious! I suspect she has the smarts to stay away from any actual campaigning but even so, it's great to know that the nation's sweetheart is with us.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

New Labour just need to fight on their record:

-Two disastrous wars (one illegal)500,000 corpses

-No more boom or bust,ruined economy

-Lisbon referendum

-2.5 million unemployed another 2.5 million on incapacity benefit

-£1.4 trillion in debt

-Benefits up from £93 billion in 97 to £193 billion in 2009 'the cost of failure'

john zims

Anonymous said...

'and the gap on average is between 6 and 12 points. Why has this happened?'

Take Scotland out and the gap on average is between 9 and 15 points.

DevonChap said...

You don't have to believe me that the polls aren't as good for Labour as you think. Peter Kellner of YouGov agrees:

Anonymous said...

We also promised a referendum on PR in our first term. We definitely reneged on that one!

snowflake5 said...

DevonChap - "what lies has Cameron said?" How about his "cast-iron guarantee" on the Lisbon referendum - a lie as it was not "cast-iron" nor a "guarantee" as he doesn't intend to honour it? Can't get a plainer lie than that. He also flips and flops on all sorts of other things - he can't guarantee married couples allowance one minute, then two hours later, he guarantees it - we're waiting for this guarantee to go the way of all others!

Anyone who believes anything he says is an idiot!

Anonymous - regarding Scotland - we are still the United Kingdon, so you can't remove Scotland from the parliamentary stats.

Anonymous2 - regarding the referendum on PR - our pledge was that we would hold a commission on PR in the first parliament, which we did, and a Labour govt would then implement a referendum on the results, no timetable given for that. We actually implemented AV in the devolved parliaments, and will be holding a nationwide referendum on AV should we win the next election, and thus the pledge will be honoured.

DevonChap said...

So when on 10 December Alistair Darling said departmental spending would be flat and on 9 January he said many would have large cuts, was he lying in December?

Liar liar pants on fire is the oldest political cries and is actually very rare. Cameron didn't lie, he had a small print get out clause when he made the pledge. Flip floping isn't lying either.

Roger S said...

It's looked to me that the Tories settled on character-asasination of Brown, and political decapitation of the Labour Party, as their best way forward, probably even before the Blair-to-Brown regime change. I would love to know how much went on between the Tories and the Telegraph over, say, the parliamentary - expenses row - certainly I saw a Telegraph editor on the television saying in fury after the Speaker debacle, something like "we've got to get rid of this lot". An interesting view of the role of newspapers in democracies. So it seems to me we've seen a sustained battery of jeer-and-sneer tactics from T&T that has been followed sheeplike by most of the press. And it seems to me that Labour were right to let this one-torpedo warship blow itself out while they prepared a substantial rather than merely tit-for-tat style of response. Great that sense is creeping back, appalling that the Dead Blair Society can't see sense, and fascinating to see whether and how the fight-back can now be conducted