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Monday, May 19, 2008

The knives are out

Facing a crucial week Gordon Brown will find no relief from reading The Independent, who tell us that backbench MPs are planning to oust him if he fails to turn around the fortunes of the labour Party.

A number of MPs want to put Charles Clarke up as a stalking horse against the Prime Minister but the newspaper reckons that this is unlikely to succeed. Instead there is a move to drown Mr. Brown under a a "tidal wave" of statements from MPs that he has lost their confidence because the public have turned against him.

Meanwhile. former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has published a perceptive pamphlet, which argues that Labour are no longer relevant to the aspirations of the majority of their constituents. He says: "It is not possible to form a Labour government by winning key marginal seats where aspirational voters predominate unless the core voters there actually turn out for the party ... The 'New Labour Ultra' assumption that core voters have nowhere else to go is plain wrong: they are staying at home, or voting for minority parties including, sadly, the BNP."

Mr. Hain's pamphlet is mostly about Wales but it has a resonance across the border as well. It is worth quoting a significant passage, taken from his article for the Western Mail:

Although child poverty, low pay and job insecurity are still big problems for too many, for the great bulk of our citizens the old problems of just surviving are not the issue anymore. Their concerns are more the quality of their lives, the character of their environment, anti social behaviour and crime. Even under the difficult economic circumstances of a global credit crunch, fears of Welsh voters now centre more on mortgages and house prices than unemployment as in the past.

Incontrovertibly, Labour has transformed Wales for the better. But we are no longer benefiting politically, because we have not transformed ourselves. Welsh Labour has been acting in office and working locally as if the “old Wales” still exists – when it has been mutating into “new Wales” under our very guidance in government.

People now rightly expect to have, not just any job, but a decent job with chance to progress; not just any school for their children but a high achieving one; not just low hospital waiting times but high quality personalised care; not just a roof over their heads but affordable housing to buy; not just more police but better neighbourhood policing. And they are right to demand this of Welsh Labour.

Central to this group of voters are modern, personalised public services. They don’t and can’t afford to opt out like the wealthy. But they need those services to be adaptable and fit around their family and work lives, including wraparound child-care.

It is a message to all parties, not just Labour. That is especially so if we are to halt the increases in the BNP's vote in recent times.
No post on Nick Clegg's decision to jump in to bed with the Tories, Peter?
No, Nick has made a very sensible announcement that if the Tories are the largest party with no majority then he will ensure a stable government whilst seeking to influence the government agenda. Seems very sensible to me. It is a form of co-operation seen elsewhere.
Sorry Peter - that doesn't wash. Clegg is sending a clear message to Tory voters that they can govern without a majority. If you think that's a good, or indeed sensible, thing I'm both surprised and saddened.
That is nonsense Luke and you know it. For a start it is impossible for voters to collude in the way you are suggesting to achieve a specified outcome. Secondly, Nick is just answering the question as to what he would do in the event of a hung parliament. I am sure he would do something similar if Labour were the largest party. If he did not answer that question then you would be the first to criticise him.
Both Peter Hain and Nick Clegg seem to be saying eminently sensible things. If public opinion is turning to the Conservatives it would be electoral suicide for the Lib Dems to allow themselves to be portayed as propping up an unpopular party, surely?

There's a need for new thinking in the Labour Party - as Peter Hain argues. Simply trying to appeal to tribal hatred of the Tories will no longer do. The Crewe and Nantwich tactics seems absurd to anyone outside the Labour activist tribe. Like it or not most people think the Tories have changed, and in politics it is perceptions that matter. Labour need to address that, come up with new ideas and a create a sense of change. Tory bashing won't work any more.
Tory-ashing won' work, and Labour needs to learn - and do so quickly - that it can't rely any longer on anti-Tory tactical voting. In short, Labour is a bigger threat to many of the things that liberals hold dear than the Tories.

I've been talking with some young people of late and it's interesting that they think now of the Labout govt exactly what I thought of Thatcher when I was their age, viz: a remote, unfeeling elite, unable to tolerate 'dissent', self-indulgent in jingoism and expensive wars, that couldn't care less about the folk that pay for their limos but were a real danger to civic society and civil liberties ... and, as for economic competence ..... !!
The point is Peter, what exactly does Hain mean? Which Welsh Labour policies would he change? Which New Labour Policies would be so aluring to the so called Welsh aspirational classes? Lets try some examples for size:

1. Marketisation and privatisation of healthcare?

2. Handing GP practices over to Virgin Ltd. (Swindon)

3. School league tables, specialist and faith schools?

4. Private sponsorship of schools and influence over the curriculum?

Is this what you heard Welsh voters asking for on the doorstep? I heard 'Labour has lost its roots, it is no longer for the poor, it is just like the other lot'. We don't need anymore 'Tory Light' parties, we already have the Lib Dems.

Incidently I told you Clegg would back the Tories months ago during the leadership campaign. He has done us a huge favour. He has now shown his true colours and Labour voters contemplating voting Liberal Democrat know what they will get. Hiding behind this 'stable government' nonsense won't wash. He is clear that faced a choice between centre left and right he chooses right. We will see what the voters of Wales choose in that knowledge.
I think you will find that none of this is official and indeed according to Liberal Burblings this is just the Torygraph stiring up a bag of lies something the Financial Times tried before.
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