Is Labour really back in the game?

14 January 2011

10:38 AM

14 January 2011

10:38 AM

The Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election now raises the distinct possibility that
Labour could win the next election by default. People on the left have been wondering for some time what could unite the multiple and often contradictory tribes of the Labour Party and it looks
like “Tory cuts” and “Lib-Dem broken promises” could do the trick. Simple, crude, disingenuous – perfect.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy is half-right when he tweets “paradoxically, real danger may be for Labour…if they conclude they are ‘back in the game’ already”. Collectively (and morally) this
is true. But the bizarre situation we find ourselves in is that the electorate remains unconvinced by Ed Miliband and yet his party is trouncing the coalition in the polls. I suspect Labour would
still be ahead if Diane Abbott had been elected leader. It is quite possible that Labour really is back in the game, even though it doesn’t yet deserve to be.


The real test for Ed Miliband is not Oldham East and Saddleworth (which was always likely to be held). John McTernan, whose Telegraph blog has become a must-read, has it right when he says:
“most importantly Miliband needs to be able to pull off the trick of making the result – whatever it is – seem significant, while knowing that it isn’t.”

More than that, the Labour leader now needs to decide whether he makes complacency the principle of his leadership. If he does, he could still win the next election on the platform of “Tory
cuts/Lib Dem broken promises”. But governments elected by default are never a good idea. Ted Heath and John Major should act as warnings to Ed Miliband that sometimes the British electorate
does not get the Prime Minister it deserves.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good view.

  • Erica Blair

    ‘When will Milliband marry that woman?’

    None of your business.

  • Fergus Pickering

    What is the Labour policy on anything that matters? When will we be told? Who is the real shadow chancellor? When will Milliband marry that woman?

  • Simon Stephenson

    Chris lancashire : 12.34pm

    “I wonder how they will cope though with a budget surplus, low inflation, interest rates at 3%, income tax reduced and about to be reduced again and growth of around 3%.”

    Well, if history is anything to go by, they’ll lie their way to a general election success, and then wreck the sound economy they inherit by implementing policies based on a cloud-cuckoo-land version of humanity that is massively at odds with how people actually are.

    Sound familiar?

    The real problem for the UK is that the next time Labour are given the opportunity to do this is likely to be the time when the results are so catastrophic as to be impossible for the forces of reason to rectify.

  • ollie

    Once the public find out what Miliband is, they will be repulsed by him.

    He is disgusting, in every way.

  • Fatbloke on tour

    Chris “Is it my name or where I live” @ 12.34

    You have a degree in wishful thinking if you believe that.

    2011 not looking too good.
    Double dip is getting closer by the day.
    Very sticky in Q3 and Q4.

  • Chris lancashire

    As others point out, Labour, sadly, never went away. I wonder how they will cope though with a budget surplus, low inflation, interest rates at 3%, income tax reduced and about to be reduced again and growth of around 3%. The date? Oh about late 2014, early 2015.

  • Simon Denis

    For all immediate tactical purposes we on the right must stick with Cameron and the coalition for now. Any weakening, any stampede for the exit will only benefit an increasingly hard left Labour party. However, in private the right is perfectly entitled to start drawing its own conclusions as to what has gone wrong. The issues boil down to this: Why is it that a population which favours the death penalty, dislikes continued mass immigration and is increasingly suspicious of high taxes votes in Labour governments at all? First, because of a gerrymandered constitution which makes it easier for Labour to get MPs into parliament than any other party. Second, because the corrupt West Lothian situation is allowed to persist unchecked and unbalanced. Third, because the BBC pumps out a left leaning vision of the world day in, day out. Fourth, because of the cowardice of the Tory establishment. Matthew D’Ancona, late of this parish, writes in yesterday’s Telegraph that the reason the Conservatives failed to win an outright majority was because the “detoxification” process had not gone far enough. Is he mad? It is clear that the failure to address concerns over the EU and immigration saw an evaporation of the gathering Tory lead. Detoxification means emasculation. Sadly, this eunuchoid status has now been entrenched by the deal with those perpetual castrati, the Libdems, people who have courted nothing but the most innocuous form of low level popularity all their lives. In a world confronted by the incompatible ideals of liberty and equality, they have done little but dither. For this reason they clutch at minor issues of the day or obsess over details of democratic procedure. What Cameron and D’Ancona et al forget is that the centre ground is only virtuous up to a point. In the epicentre of our political system there is an electoral black hole, down which the Liberals disappeared between the wars. There is considerable danger that Cameron is leading the Tories into the very same abyss. The great virtue of the right, meanwhile, is that it counts among the mass of the people in a way that high minded liberalism – classical, radical or conservative – can never do. This is why Salisbury, Mrs Thatcher and yes, Enoch Powell, held such sway over the public mind. They mobilised the workers along nationalist lines – the only known antidote and alternative to socialism for such voters. It is difficult, of course; and the Tory leader who ever undertakes it will doubtless be subjected to the most sustained, vitriolic and abusive smear campaign since Charles 1st was pilloried by the puritan press; but the only way out for Britain today is a virtual counter revolution. The policies which will rescue us from terminal decline will involve restoring the voting rights of the hereditary peerage to make parliament Conservative again; unilaterally leaving the EU; using tariffs against France or Germany if they try anything on; repealing the Human Rights Act; sacking the activist judges who inflict it upon us and privatising health. The savings thus effected should go into massive tax cuts – restoring to London its diminishing collection of beneficial billionaires and stimulating growth. The BBC should be obliterated as a matter of urgency and Gove’s free schools made really free by being allowed to select and make money. That would sort the country out within five years and yes, it would prove immensely popular. Why? Because private health would get rid of waiting lists, rationing and queues; because genuinely free schools would make our drug-ridden dumprehensives a nightmare of the past and because we would be able to sling back into the the sewers whence they came the various Islamofascist nutters who soak up our taxes and plot our violent deaths. That such a programme might be stigmatised as “extreme” – when it merely attempts to restore the status quo ante of some twenty years agon – merely shows what a gridlock the left exerts upon the perameters of debate. As long as the right cringes before those perameters it will never break out of the situation they endorse and sustain.

  • TrevorsDen

    Correct Mr Stephenson – Old and Sad cannot be compared to its predecessors.

    But Al is correct also – labour do not lead the coalition; polls show it about 46 – 41 is to the coalition at moment.
    And over on an analysis shows labour are relying on figures showing their poll numbers contain a lot from those who never actually vote.

    We have a coalition govt, and plays on words like from Steve E do not change that.
    I suspect that by 2015 the electorate will quite like that.

  • Paddy

    Well, let’s hope the Tories get their act together and learn to play as dirty as the Labour party.

    That together with with the boundary changes will make sure Labour stay out of power for good.

  • Simon Stephenson

    David Lindsay : 7.19pm

    As far as I can see, Oldham East and Saddleworth was a newly-formed seat for the 1997 election, and has returned Labour members on each occasion it has been called upon to vote. Which by my reckoning shows that both Al and you are wrong in your assertions.

  • Bernard Wright

    How many more politicians will be sent to jail for abusing their expense sheet

  • Bernard Wright

    Why are poliicians so inefficient?

  • hilton

    Kind of weird question when you consider that none of the three major parties has an overall majority. Cameron whilst being able to hoodwink the Lib-Dems into joining him in his love nest,the reality is that the Conservatives do not have the support, faith or trust of the British public.

    So it should come as no surprise that Labour are being are back on the tail of their two opponents.Far to many policies of this govement seem to being written on the back of a fag packet without being thought through.

    A goverment of any kind has to realise that its agenda is to serve the people for the future not just to carry tommorows headlines.

  • David Lindsay

    “This age-old North of England safe labour seat”? AI, it was a three-way marginal until this week, and in the last 20 years it has had MPs from all three parties. Have you even been to the North of England?

  • raymond jones

    of course Laboure is back,they employed over
    7 million.Who didn’t earn any proffits.All paid for by tax payer.Cameron has got no proper jobs to offer,because thatcher sabotaged them or gave them all away.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Erica, Martin is teaching the next generation of political journalists too, you will be delighted to hear. No doubt teaching them the techniques of stretching today’s event, any event, into a farrago of speculation about the mid-term future which will in fact be determined by a whole lot of other events yet to come.

  • Erica Blair

    Martin Bright manages to earn a living as a political journalist despite having no obvious knowledge or the subject. We have a party system, not a presidential one.

    ps Al, Oldham & Sad was never a safe Labour seat – it has always been a 3 way marginal. Do your homework.

  • Steve E.

    Labour increased their majority by more than 3,000 and matched their national opinion poll rating, confirming that the party is ahead of the Tories. They also gained a vital campaigning tool ahead of the local elections.

    Lib Dem votes in Parliament prop up a Conservative Government, while Tory votes shore up Liberal candidates.

    Not a bad night’s work, was it?

  • Pramston

    Is anyone actually surprised at this result? Even the most basic understanding of the political situation must have led inexorably to the conclusion that Labour would win this by election. Unfortunately they are also odds on favourites to win the next General Election as well. By continuing to spend right up to the last election they have ensured the cuts will be deeper than they should have been and will continue to claim they are unnecessary and idealogical in nature. I’ve no doubt this will chime with sufficient numbers of voters who have little time or interest in dissecting the sometimes complex facts and will understandably blame the coalition for the pain Labour caused and then deferred. The likelihood is that the Tories will be out of office for a long time with the ‘nasty party’ brand confirmed in the minds of a new generation of voters. In effect Labour have committed the crime but avoided doing the time, which the Tories will do instead. Political good fortune is not just about winning elections, it’s also about losing the right ones as well and Labour were fortunate indeed in losing the last one.

  • REPay

    I meant a profligate government!

  • REPay

    Of course Labour is back, it never went away. The vast majority of the population still thinks that the only problem we had was greedy bankers, not profligate bankers. The case for cuts has never really been made and the opposition, (Labour Party and the BBC). The Tamsin Lightweights at Tory HQ have never developed a compelling narrative about the crunch and how public finances spiralled out of control. Start by explaining how much debt per head is represented by one billion pounds! Then see is people feel the same about the 750 pound child trust or a few grand on education. I am afraid this is looking like a one term government.

  • Al

    Trouncing the coalition?

    Labour with 41.2% *lost* to ‘The Coalition’ who collectively gained 44.7% of the vote in this age-old North of England safe labour seat.

    On what basis did you conclude that they ‘trounced the coalition’? Certinly not arithmetically. They merely did not lose their safe seat. I’d say that was really rather poor.