Why aren’t Labour doing better?

I blogged yesterday about Labour complaints of media bias. While it seems clear that Britain’s media is pretty conservative in nature and in favour of neo-liberal capitalism, I don’t really buy that as the reason why Labour are struggling to get their message across. After all, the modern Labour Party is pretty conservative and full of neo-liberals itself. It seems to many of us that there’s little to distinguish between Labour and the Tories. Could this be a more plausible reason for their closeness in the polls?

UKIP’s success has come on the back of hammering two simple messages – i) the UK should get out of the EU, largely because ii) membership means open borders to 500m people. To bolster the effect of their message, they have appealed to people’s innate fear of the unknown and the different to fuel concern about the number of new arrivals who are ‘not like you’ or are ‘after your job’. This tactic is as old as the hills, but should be relatively easy to counteract.

While there will always be racists who will vote for far-right parties, most people are not racist, but many do have concerns that are quite easy to link to immigration (if you had an incentive to do so). So what are these?

  • Rising rents
  • Lack of social housing
  • High long-term unemployment
  • Long waits at A&E of for a GP’s appointment
  • Lack of school places

If you are struggling to get a council house but hear stories of a Roma family jumping the queue, or a young person unable to find work and being labelled a scrounger while the person who serves you in the pub has a ‘foreign’ accent, if you don’t get your first choice of school or can’t get an appointment with your GP for a week, it is quite easy for politicians to take those frustrations and blame it on ‘uncontrolled immigration’. A lot of people swallow this and vote for the party promising to do something about it. Whether any of these issues are actually due to immigration or not doesn’t matter at the moment because no party other than UKIP is offering any solutions. UKIP are right that there is an open-door policy to EU citizens regardless of quality, and no one else seems to want to argue directly why they think this is a good thing. This is nevertheless the position of Labour, Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

So back to Labour then, what should they do? They are in favour of free movement of labour within the EU, so it seems to me they need to address the issues that people are currently blaming on immigration. Ed Miliband has actually tried to raise each of the five issues on my list above, and has grabbed a bit of attention each time. The problem has been, his proposed ‘solutions’ are so inconsequential, people sort of shrug on hearing them. So what? is the refrain. Miliband has proposed very timid proposals on job creation, energy prices and private sector rents, and has been likened to Mugabe, Stalin and Hugo Chavez by the Tory party and certain people in the media. If this is the reaction to very modest proposals, why not go the whole hog and actually come up with something that will really stir things up?

How about proposing something like:

1. Building 100,000 social houses a year for the next 5 years

2. Guarantee work for all who need a job, working in the third or public sectors (limited to those who’ve been in the UK for at least 5 years)

3. Large programme of school building

4. Moratorium on all tenders for provision of NHS services

5. Renationalise something – polls consistently show majorities in favour of nationalised water, energy, postal services and rail.

We should also not forget that while UKIP did well, 66% of people didn’t bother to vote! Why not? A large number obviously don’t see any value in voting. If we had a well-funded opposition party (and money is important) selling a genuine alternative, maybe more people would turn out on polling day. If it’s a choice between the blue Tories, the red Tories, the yellow Tories, or the Purple Tories, why would anyone bother? It seems pretty clear that socialism isn’t coming back. The name alone strikes fear into many, but ISTM there would be support for anyone proposing to ‘tame’ capitalism, keeping the good bits, but intervening strongly to eliminate the bad.

 

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7 thoughts on “Why aren’t Labour doing better?

  1. In times of economic problems immigration is always seen as a contributing factor to unemployment. not only in the UK but across the world.
    Labour are no longer the Labour Party and have not been for some time. Their actions during the Blair years and their silence in the last 4 years is testament to that.
    Anything Labour suggests that will benefit the people of this country is immediately labelled “socialist” and a thing to fear. Labour have pandered to this view by expelling all the “militant left” and implementing policies more Tory than the Tories themselves, PFI, Workfare and WCA to name a few. By agreeing to be even more “tough on welfare” than the Tories they rid themselves of any semblance of a party for the people. They then decide to go even further and seek to distance themselves from the very people who finance them and who they are elected to represent, the unions and their members.

    After deciding to be as Tory as the Tories, Labour have shot themselves in the foot and have no way back. No matter what they say between now and next year will make not the slightest difference, they had 13 years to work for the betterment of all but chose to follow the Tory route, they have then had 4 years to provide a credible opposition but have opposed nothing that affects those most in need.

    Blaming people’s ignorance, apathy or inherent racism solves nothing and merely shifts the blame once again from those responsible. the Labour leadership.
    Without a radical overhaul of the Labour party we are stuck with a bunch of wannabe Tories ashamed of the working past of the Labour Party and even more committed to the “austerity” preached by Conservatives and UKIP and aiming for the backing of those responsible for the Country’s ills, banks and big business.

    The awful truth is that in the next election we will more than likely end up with a Con / UKIP coalition due to Labour’s inability to listen to and represent those for whom the Labour Party was formed.

  2. I always find it funny when “the immigrants” are said to be taking all the school places. Where I used to live there a small rural school with a seriously declining number of pupils. It was down to a number you could count on one hand and still have spare fingers and despite the patience of the local authority who had been hoping things would pick up the writing was on the wall and the remaining kids faced a 10 mile each way trip to and from school every day. It was on its last year before closure. Then a couple of Polish families moved into the village, one family had two young kids the other had three. The school suddenly had a possibility of a future. Now the impending closure was staved off the village became more appealing for other families looking to move to the area. More people with kids moved in and by the time I moved away a couple of years ago the school had more than 20 pupils again and a thriving pre-school nursery. Without the EU immigrants the local people of that area would no longer have a primary school and the village would be on its way to becoming another retirement/holiday village.

  3. I see Labour’s electoral problem as a lingering aftermath of Blair and the fundamental problem that Labour was not identifiable as the genuine Labour party. This was the party that believed in the state, nationalised services and was the party of the worker and not the city and business. People were already leaving Labour and Brown’s successor needed to return to its core voter and policies. The financial crash compounded New Labour’s folly and inevitably those whose cheque books were out for Blair were now out for Cameron.
    We know that immigration and foreigners are always targeted by tin pot failed Tories like garage. The job of Miliband and Labour is to stand up for Labour policies, oppose racist intolerance and emphasize the virtues of immigrants.
    I don’t think the phrase ‘open door policy’ when referring to EU immigration and free movement, is helpful, accurate or one used by thoughtful observers. We know UK citizens enjoy the benefits of living and working in EU countries and garage and his ilk make little reference to that!
    Labour are struggling because as a party they lost their way under Blair,pandering to business, wealthy and Murdoch. Labour are not doing better because they have forgotten and abandoned what they stand for.

  4. Labour won’t actually commit to anything – they need to make a huge move now in this pre-election year, but are they going to?
    The voters are so low due to being lazy – its not apathy, it’s not due to not knowing who to vote for, it pure and utter idleness on behalf of the public. Those who moan and complain are usually not voters, so they have no right to grumble as they should have gotten off their erses and voted.
    I would never miss voting, I see that as my duty and think of those who died whilst fighting for the vote to all.
    Ukip are only tories and they are already in talks of a coalition…

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