I don’t often re-blog. But I’ll make an exception for this!
‘Jeremy Corbyn might represent our views, but if we want Labour to return to power he isn’t the right man.’
This was the tweet that broke the camel’s back. After reading it I was faced with two options – either write an article on why it wound me up, or scream long and hard into a cushion – I opted for the former. So here goes.
The argument against the potential electoral success of Jeremy Corbyn as labour leader can often be summed up in three words, ‘Remember Michael Foot.’ So let us remember Foot.
After Michael Foot’s election as leader in November 1980, Labour enjoyed significant poll leads of between 9 and 15%. Understandably, the departure of Roy Jenkins et. al. in March 1981, knocked public confidence in the party, and poll leads dropped to a four or five point average – but labour kept a steady lead, under…
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Elections are lost by the opposition, not won by government (generally.)
The main campaign argument of the Cons was quite transparently “higher house prices in the south” (same old news…).
The Cons voters will feel conned only if house prices in the south fall before the next election (aka the housing bubble bursts.)
In that case we may well have a Corbyn government.
Most elections in the UK since Thatcherism have been won or lost on whether property prices were going up in the South. That G Radice has called the “Southern discomfort” issue from a political viewpoint and C Crouch “Privatised Keynesianism” from an economic one.
Both New Labour and the Conservatives have accordingly “triangulated”: the core Labour base (low income workers and tenants, mostly in the North) are a minority, as are the core Conservative base (speculators on leverage and property owners, mostly in the South); thus both have been pandering to the southern middle classes to build an alliance between their core base and them for a parliamentary majority.
But the alliance between southern middle-classes and Conservatives has been run mainly for the benefit of the Conservative core base, while the alliance between them and New Labour has been run mainly for the benefit of the southern middle classes. It appears that the New Labour elites think that their core base is not that of Labour, but those southern middle-classes.
The Corbyn story seems to me that at the core Labour voters have therefore tired to elect as leaders New Labour figures that then run the country in the interest of those southern middle-classes, with the tiniest help for their core voters, and then only because of G Brown’s determination. If the Conservatives get into government, the City and also the southern middle-classes get taken care of; if New Labour wins, the southern middle-classes get taken care of, and also the City but only in small part the Labour core base.
Why should they vote for various flavours of triangulators given that when they get elected their main policies are so similar to those of the Conservatives? In particular as to making it really expensive for Northern workers to move South to find jobs, because the core populist policy of New Labour and Conservatives are the same, bigger work-free tax-free capital gains for the southern middle-classes…
My usual quotes:
T Benn’s diary, 1986-03-24:
“The Party’s Campaign Strategy committee, where four men and a woman from something called the Shadow Agency made a presentation.
They flashed onto a screen quotes which were supposed to be typical of Labour voters, for example: ‘IT’S NICE TO HAVE A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE BUT IT’S YOUR FAMILY THAT COUNTS.’
What we were being told, quite frankly, was what you can read every day in the Sun, the Mail, the Daily Express, and the Telegraph. It was an absolute waste of money.
Labour was associated with the poor, the unemployed, the old the sick, the disabled, pacifists, immigrants, minorities and the unions, and this was deeply worrying. The Tories were seen to have the interests of everyone at heart including the rich. Labour was seen as yesterday’s party.
I came out feeling physically sick.”
Lance Price’s diary, 1999-10-19:
“Philip Gould analysed our problem very clearly. We don’t know what we are. Gordon wants us to be a radical progressive, movement, but wants us to keep our heads down on Europe.
Peter [Mandelson] thinks that we are a quasi-Conservative Party but that we should stick our necks out on Europe.
Philip didn’t say this, but I think TB either can’t make up his mind or wants”
“Another of Thatcher’s magic potions was ‘home equity withdrawal’ or remortgaging – drawing down the equity in the borrowers home for (mainly) consumption purposes – new cars, holidays, and so forth. Under the two Prime Ministers that preceded her, James Callaghan and Ted Heath, home equity withdrawal as a percentage of GDP growth was around 36% for both.
Under Thatcher, this exploded to over £250bn across her premiership – a staggering 104% of GDP growth.
[ … ] But Blair did his homework and let loose – as did Thatcher – a wave of cheap credit, financial deregulation, house price inflation and an equity withdrawal-led consumption boom.
Withdrawals under Blair’s leadership totalled around £365bn, that’s a full 103% of GDP growth over the same period,”
That’s all of GDP growth over that period!
“It was indeed at the diffusion of property that inter-war Tories aimed, as the pragmatic answer to the arrival of democracy and the challenge from Labour. There were even prophetic council house sales by local Tories in the drive to create voters with a Conservative political mentality.
As a Tory councillor in Leeds defiantly told Labour opponents in 1926, ‘it is a good thing for people to buy their own houses. They turn Tory directly. We shall go on making Tories and you will be wiped out.’ There is much of the Party history of the twentieth century in that remark.”
All this in large part happened because in the 1970s one of the conservative think tanks found that even at the same level of income and education etc. voters who owned houses, cars and shares accounts voted Conservative far more than those who rented, used public transport and had a pension account (in the USA gun ownership makes a bit of difference).
That is, that well off people using trains, renting, with a pensions tended to vote more Labour, and low and median income people with a car, a house, shares tended to vote more Conservative.
The second effect was of course much bigger in terms of voters affected, and the numbers presented in that study were quite compelling, validating the intuition of that Tory councillor in Leeds.
Therefore after that study was published the policy of Tory governments, whether Conservative or New Labour, has been consistently to subsidize property speculation, undermine public transport, and discourage pensions.