Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fuzzy politics

Political cross-dressing is occasionally sensible from a tactical perspective but rarely does it make for an effective political strategy. Too many voters just don't see what the real differences are between the two main parties in Britain, we live in the age of fuzzy politics.

As Gordon Brown attempts to set out his 'vision' for the nation he knows that he will need to articulate what differentiates progressive Labour politics from reactionary Conservative politics.

For me there are three main differences:

1. Conservative politics believes that inequality in society is inevitable - progressive Labour politics believes that inequality is repugnant to a modern, civilised society.

2. Conservative politics believes in that most government 'intervention' is futile, be it in the markets or in the realm social policy. Progressive Labour politics believes that there is both strength and virtue in collective endeavour, that government really can make a difference in helping improve the quality of life for all.

3. Conservative politics seeks to entrench privilege and limit opportunity, it is about maintenance and not improvement. Progressive Labour politics recognises that to live is to change, that reform is often necessary to help re-affirm or re-assess strongly held values and beliefs for a modern setting.

Over the coming weeks and months Gordon Brown will need to share his 'vision' for Britain and offer the electorate a real choice come the next election. Yes, the centre ground is where elections are won and lost, but we should remember that in politics the centre ground covers a very wide area.


JRD168 said...

Can you pass some of that on to the leadership? He really does need to clarify his vision at the minute. See Lord Falconer's comments today also.

Stan!! said...

Labour has done little to relieve poverty. The reality of the past decade is that Labour have had no impact on the million plus rump of long term benefits claimants who could be in work. Specifically, in terms of unemployment, Beatty, Fothergill, Gore and Green (2007) have found that there is extensive ‘hidden unemployment’ in many parts of Britain and argue that the real level of unemployment is actually around 2.8 million. In addition, the increase on state spending for the poor has been far from even. A study by Charles Elphicke (2006) found that the poorest fifth of households, which accounted for 6.8% of all taxes in 1996-7, accounted for 6.9% of all taxes paid in 2004-5. Meanwhile, their share of state benefit payouts dropped from 28.1% to 27.1% over the same period. Our disposable incomes are shrinking even as Labour plan to throw more money at unreformed public services they have no idea how to fix. The past ten years have seen a squandering profligacy on an unparalleled scale but now people are slowly crossing to the other side of the river.

The new Conservative policy trails - so swiftly stolen by Labour - are exactly those anyone who is trying to get on in life is looking for - to benefit their children - the most basic of natural human desires. What the Tories need to do urgently is to effectively broadcast the message of Labour's waste. And make no mistake…. we will, day in day out until 2010.
Political arithmetic or no you will find that when the electorate turns on Labour it will be with a collective, vindictive desire to remove them from power...forever.
Gordon needs to share a vision. He's had 10 years to do that!

*Beatty C., Fothergill S., Gore T., and Green, A., (2007). The Real Level of Unemployment 2002, Sheffield: CRESR, Sheffield Hallam University.

*Elphicke, C., (2006) Robin Hood or Sheriff of Nottingham? London: Centre for Policy Studies, August 2006.

Daily Referendum said...


Did you write this in 1907?

I don't think it is that easy to clearly define the two parties today. I have always voted Labour in the past for some of the ideals you have stated, however this government is entirely incapable, or unwilling to implement them.

I voted Labour in the last election against my better judgement. I was hoping that they could gain control of the juggernaut they had set in motion. They haven't and they don't look like they ever will. That's why I'm now a member of the Conservative party.

Mike Ion said...

stan!! and Daily Referendum

My point is that after a dozen years of new Labour, and a much briefer period of Tory strategy modelled on new Labour, we are left a fuzzy sense of political identities. New Labour has been cunning at making forays into enemy territory and adept at eliminating its own negatives. In recent years however the Labour party has become a good deal poorer at articulating its positive vision of what a good society might look like. Brown is a man of strong convictions and has defined his premiership around the virtues of strength and trust. It is true that some governments are re-elected for being competent administrations, so long as their oppositions are sufficiently implausible. But centre-left governments have to do more: they need to persuade people there is a task for government, something that needs to be done. My worry is that Brown's government is still struggling to define which compelling tasks will give it purpose.

Of course I could have written this in 1907. Why? Because the role of government still remains the most profound dividing line in British politics.

Stan!! said...

Thanks, Mr Ion. But I say bring back Kier Hardie.
Brown has taken every opportunity to be more Blairite than Blair - since he took over the top job, he has used every Blairite trick in the Blair play book; the big tent, the tough love with the unions, even the praise of Thatcher, and looking out for British interests in Iraq. Blair still dominates politics like few Blairites thought he would - his legacy remains completely intact, and now those who thought Brown would go a different way are forced to concede that Blair did what he did for very good and logical reasons and opposition to him was very superficial. Being Janusfaced came naturally to Tony Blair, which is why he got away with it for so long.
But Gordon really is in the last chance saloon, and if he doesn't realise that Labour will soon return to the wilderness. I doubt if the Labour Party will tolerate his inconsistencies and equivocations in the way it once accepted similar behaviour from Blair.
In truth, the Labour Party was finished with the Blessed Margaret’s victory in 1979. Thatch herself said that her greatest achievement was New Labour, and she was right. In hubris, the present Labour party rivals the Tories before the Poll Tax. They simply can't imagine a future that is not Labour.

Gordon Brown will no doubt be tested when the economy falters or the housing market collapses but at the moment, we have got a prime minister whose strategy is directed at his own survival rather than the interests of the country. So much for convictions....the tectonic plates are shifting Dave's way.

Daily Referendum said...

Nice reply Mike,

I can agree with a great deal of it. The bit I can't agree with (or you need to amend) is Brown defining his premiership around the virtues of strength and trust. He may have set out to do just that, but he failed miserably when it came to the crunch.

Phil A said...

The gap between rich and poor has increased under New Labour. sadly Gordon Brown clearly has little real concern for the poorest in society as he increased their basic rate of tax.

New Labour from their actions clearly do not practically demonstrate any obvious belief that inequality is repugnant.

They clearly do have plenty of humbug.