Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Colluding with the Tories is politically toxic




The right-wing of the Labour Party have been relentlessly pushing the narrative that Jeremy Corbyn is incapable of winning the 2020 General Election because he doesn't appeal to Tory voters, with the implicit assumption being that appealing to Tory voters is the only possible way to win a General Election.

In this article I'm going to criticise this ludicrous fairy story as the arrant nonsense that it is.

Ed Miliband's strategy

The first thing to note about this idea that Labour must appeal to Tory voters in order to win a General Election, is that this was precisely the strategy cooked up by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls as Labour's 2015 General Election campaign.

Instead of presenting themselves as a genuine alternative to the Tories and their socially and economically destructive ideological austerity agenda, the Labour leadership somehow decided to run an appallingly uninspiring "austerity-lite" campaign, that could have easily had the strapline "Vote for us because we're not quite as evil as the Tories".

Instead of deciding to point out that austerity is an obvious con designed to ensure the upwards redistribution of wealth, and presenting the absolute mountain of evidence that George Osborne missed all of his 2010 economic projections by miles - Labour decided to agree with the ludicrous Tory stance that "There Is No Alternative" to austerity.

Instead of attacking the Tories and their disastrous austerity con, the Labour leadership tried to agree the Tories into submission in a pathetic and utterly futile attempt to appeal to Tory voters.

The problem for the Blairites who keep shouting that Labour needs to veer rightwards is that in 2015 their austerity-lite strategy backfired terribly. The concept of selling exactly the same toxic economic snake oil as the Tories - but just in slightly smaller doses, was never going to inspire anyone other than people so blinded by Labour Party political tribalism that they'd been rendered utterly incapable of questioning the party line or recognising even the most strategically inept drivel for what it is.

Labour's decision to offer the same right-wing economic snake oil as the Tories and Lib-Dems had been pushing for the previous five years left the English electorate with the appalling choice between, ideological austerity, austerity enablers, or austerity-lite, which is no choice at all. Is it any wonder that five million people voted for UKIP and the Greens and 34% of the electorate didn't even bother to vote at all?

For every Tory voter won over by Labour's inept austerity-lite campaign, it's likely that numerous potential Labour voters were driven away, either to protest vote for other parties, outright non-participation or even "if 
Labour are offering austerity-lite then I might as well just vote for the real thing" .

Tory voters

The Tories won a majority government with the backing of just 24% of the eligible electorate. Of course a small proportion of this 24% voted in their own selfish self-interest (knowing that the Tories would continue lavishing the wealthy minority with tax cuts while loading the burden of austerity onto the poor, the young and the disabled), however many others voted against their own self-interest out of ignorance (the Question Time woman who voted Tory and then cried when they broke their election promise not to slash her Tax Credits for example).


There's actually very little chance of Labour convincing people who are so badly informed that they believe Tory election lies, rote learn their political opinions from the mainstream media and continue believing in ludicrous economic fairytales like the austerity narrative despite so much evidence that it's a con.

As Mark Twain once said, "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled". People don't want to accept that austerity is an obvious con because that would entail accepting that they've been taken for complete idiots for the last six years.

Lib-Dem voters

Between 2010 and 2015 the Lib-Dem share of the vote collapsed from 6.8 million (22%) to just 2.6 million (8%) largely as a result of their collusion with the Tories.

Nobody could claim that this mass abandonment of the Lib-Dems
 was a surprise to the Labour leadership because the polls showed a rapid decline in support for the Lib-Dems immediately after their deal to prop up David Cameron's government, and them consistently hovering at around 10% or below from December 2010 all the way up to the 2015 General election. 

It was beyond doubt that some three and a half million Lib-Dem voters (12% of the voting public) had abandoned the party, but the Labour leadership did virtually nothing to court betrayed Lib-Dem voters, preferring instead to attempt the futile task of pinching voters from the Tories directly with their austerity-lite nonsense, thus ensuring that people who abandoned the Lib-Dems for their collusion with the Tories had no reason to consider voting Labour.

When millions of people have abandoned one of your rival parties because of their collusion with the Tories, it takes a special degree of strategic ineptitude to decide to run an election campaign based on making your economic narrative almost indistinguishable from that of the Tories.

The SNP

The SNP annihilated the Westminster parties at the 2015 General Election because they presented a genuine alternative to Tory austerity. It would be ludicrous to deny the role of nationalist sentiments in the most stunning electoral surge in British history, but it would also be ludicrous to fail to recognise that Nicola Sturgeon's consistent anti-Tory, anti-austerity narrative helped to hoover up hundreds of thousands of dissatisfied Scottish Labour voters too.

Had the Labour Party presented an anti-austerity agenda instead of a pro-austerity ("we're not quite as evil as the Tories") one, it seems likely that their annihilation in Scotland might not have been quite so complete.


Labour membership

The massive surge in the number of Labour Party members since Jeremy Corbyn burst onto the scene is a very clear indicator that there is a strong latent desire for a change of direction away from the neoliberal crony capitalist agenda that has completely dominated Westminster politics since 1979 and the Labour Party since 1994.

The Labour Party now has more members than it has had in decades, but the Blairites would have us believe that tens of thousands of people flocking back to the Labour Party is some kind of disaster, and that what the party needs is to go back to alienating ordinary people by aping Tory economic policy and desperately sucking up to multinational corporations and the right-wing press barons who frame the political debate.

Is it really that outrageous to suggest that Labour have a better chance of success by trying to offer policies that their core supporters actually like and will campaign enthusiastically about, rather than by trying to imitate the Tories in order to seek approval from right-wing press barons like Rupert Murdoch and Jonathan Harmsworth?

Policies

The Blairites are absolutely desperate to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing policies, like investment in education and infrastructure, renationalisation of core infrastructure and services (like the railways, energy companies, NHS, education system and Royal mail) ceaselessly describing such policies as "unelectable", yet what they don't bother to mention is that the policy of renationalisation of core services is overwhelmingly popular with the general public, and not just traditional Labour voters.

Non-voters

By far the biggest target demographic for the Labour Party should be non-voters. Is it really that crazy an idea that the Labour Party should try to offer a bold alternative to the pro-corporate neoliberal consensus that has dominated Westminster politics since 1979 in order to attract people who were turned away from voting entirely after it became completely clear that no Labour were offering the same brand of right-wing economic dogma as the Tories?
The Scottish independence referendum was absolute proof that people will turn out to vote if they think it will actually make a difference, so perhaps it would be a good idea for Labour to explain how they would make a difference, rather than imitating the Tories in another futile effort to pinch a few of their voters (at the expense of alienating millions of potential Labour voters who would like to see an alternative to Tory ideological dogma, not a reiteration of it).

Conclusion


The Blairite fantasy that Labour has to shift even further to the right in order to become "electable" is completely unrealistic. It doesn't matter how many biased focus groups or blatantly rigged push polls they produce in order to manufacture the case that the public want Labour to imitate the Tories, the facts speak for themselves. Ed Miliband tried the strategy of imitating the Tories and failed abjectly. What the Blairites are calling for is yet another attempt at the failed experiment that lost them the 2015 General Election, and ended up alienating the Scottish electorate so badly that Scottish labour are now even less popular than the Scottish Tories!

The behaviour of the Blairites who would rather wreck their own party and hand power to the Tories than get behind Jeremy Corbyn is extremely destructive, and also reminiscent of Einstein's definition of insanity (trying the same thing over and again and expecting different results).

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