Coffee House

Labour’s southern mission

21 February 2013

21 February 2013

How can Labour win back voters in the South East? At the 2010 general election, Labour took ten southern seats outside of London, compared to four times that in 1997. Like the Tories in the North, Ed Miliband needs to offer policies that will ease the concerns of these lost southeastern voters; to convince them Labour is once again on their side.

Miliband has tried to address the problem. The catalyst came from John Denham, who urged Miliband, as Giles Radice did with Neil Kinnock in 1992, to remember the ‘6:14 from Basingstoke’ voter and avoid using ‘north-south’ language. Instead, Denham suggested Labour should present policies that appeal across the whole country.

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The Labour leader has examined the cost of living several times, a particular concern for those in the south — as the Daily Mail illustrated here. He has vowed to fight the 2015 election on this particular matter and has already advocated a living wage. Miliband has also raised concern over rising energy and rail prices — but one has to question his thoroughness. On ticket prices, he offers no actual solution on how to reduce fares, just that it needs to be done. On energy prices, Miliband’s rhetoric suggests he is more concerned with cutting carbon emissions than bills. Paul Goodman explains here the political importance of advocating lower energy bills.

Tristram Hunt confirms in this week’s Spectator Labour is keen to win back these voters and their Eastleigh by-election campaign — just the kind of seat they need target — is a good precedent for 2015:

‘What is more, voters in Hampshire and the south do not have a foreign set of values to the heartlands of the Labour north. Instead, the difference is that the Labour party has too often failed to provide both a language which speaks to southern voters and a presence on the ground.

‘This is the psychological significance of Eastleigh. It shows that the Labour party is not going to retreat to a core strategy of upping the solid Labour vote while picking off disaffected Liberal Democrats. Nor will we limit ourselves to precision strikes against a few target wards in Stevenage and Redditch. Instead, we will treat the electorate with respect by offering them choice.’

In his political column last month, James bemoaned Miliband’s solid policy problem. When I heard Miliband give his energetic conference speech last year, I was impressed that he had created a strong party branding which still didn’t tie him to any particular policies. But so far, his announcements, while fitting into that framework, have lacked the definition these lost voters will want if they are to believe in Miliband and Labour.


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Show comments
  • ButcombeMan

    Why is anyone here interested in how Labour can become electable in the south?

    Broadly speaking, apart from odd patches, they cannot.

    Because “the south” did not quite get so drunk on the Brown handouts and swathes of public sector non jobs, it can never really /be/ convinced by Labour.

    The “south” is much more likely to remember who caused the Big Brown Mess and to remember who was alongside the economically illiterate Great Leader, when he did it.

  • Smithersjones2013

    If one looks at the electoral map Labour has rarely had these voters ever at all and only won more in 1997 because Blair was charismatic, (Milibland is the ultimate freakshow nerd twerp), pretended to be a closet Tory (Milibland is a Son Of the Demented Brown and from Communist Stock) and Major was a disaster as Conservative Leader ( granted Cameron is no better). 1 out of 3 won’t cut it particularly after the damage Brown’s economic mismanagement has brought down on those in the south who being more reliant on the private sector (and not benefitting as the North East and Scotland did from massive financial sector bail outs) have not benefited as the north have from an obese bloated public sector to anywhere near the same extent. In 1997 there was no memory of the south subsidising Labour’s profligacy in its northern ghettos but there is plenty of recognition of that now. Not to mention the EU, English Question, Immigration, Mansion Tax, Wealth Taxes etc etc all of which proportionately have a far more deleterious impact on the south than they do the North/ Not forgetting Blair greatest act of betrayal when he deserted the working classes for a bunch of minority groups and the liberal elite (who particular are allergic to the unwashed masses).

    The south may have little love for Cameron but it will still despise Miliband and Labour. Thats why UKIP will beat them in Eastleigh and thats why UKIP is the party of the working classes (and middle classes but thats a story about the Conservatives) in this country

  • andagain

    Are energy prices really any higher in the South? I cannot say I have noticed any big difference myself.

    But property prices are higher in the South, and that makes anything that requires a nearby building – shops, offices, houses and so on – more expensive. So Labour could offer a building boom that would cut rents, and therefore prices. It is not as if the Conservatives would be prepared to match them on this, after all.

    I don’t think that they will do this, but they could.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    The ONLY think I believe about Labour is that, given half a chance, they will completely wreck what’s left of our economy; they will open the floodgates to even more poor 3rd world immigration; and they will impose even more taxes on the middle classes to pay for their vote-buying welfare policies.
    They are by far the nastiest of the 3 nasty mainstream parties.
    I live in the south and I will NEVER vote Labour. The fact that they have a plonker like Miliband leading it should make them unelectable. Unfortunately, as the Conservative Party decided not to bother being conservative any longer, they may scrape in in 2015 on the back of defections to UKIP and the NOTA vote.
    But that can’t be helped – all the time the Tories refuse to do what the country needs and start implementing conservative policies and the process to get us out of the EU.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Labour are determined to recreate East Germany here. THey always think they have all the answers and when it goes horribly wrong – as it always does – it is always someone else to blame. How do they do it? I don’t know. I think it’s a religious cult.

  • 2trueblue

    Firstly they have to tack together some policies and explain their understanding of what a stable or growing economy means, and how to obtain same. After that they might be in with a chance.

  • Grrr8

    The biggest cost of living issue for southern voters is housing. The rest is small potatoes. Ed’s intervention on the mansion tax is a good starting point. But he needs to do more.

    • Dai Station

      Ed’s intervention on mansion tax is not a good starting point. It is an attack on Londoners and therefore highly divisive and completely at odds with his ‘one nation’ posture. There is a major problem for young Londoners trying to afford a home but Ed is not proposing that his “Mansion Tax’ will help them and, although I daresay such a tax would diminish the selling prices of homes round the £2million mark, I doubt it would have much effect on lower priced properties. Those outside London seem to be persuaded that having a £2million house equates to a celebrity lifestyle whereas, in London, it either means living in a pretty small house or largish flat in zone 1 or living in a 5-6 bed detached house in Zone 3 or 4. Granted, such home owners are generally pretty well off but very few are in the bracket where stamp duty avoidance ruses have been used. They are not super rich non-doms. More typically, they are professionals and business owners who have had to use a very high proportion of their income to buy the sort of homes that would cost half the amount in the Labour heartlands. Some, of course, are elderly people who have owned their homes for 40+ years and have under average incomes. It is a bit strange that any suggestion that such people should sell their (unoccupied) houses to pay for their own care costs if they need residential care, are met with outcry but it is apparently OK to force them out of their homes if they can’t afford a new and ill-thought through tax.

      • Grrr8

        If prices start falling at the top end, that effect should cascade downwards. I do think the tax has been set at a valuation level that is too high. I would have started at £1m. I also think that people should have to sell their houses to pay for care and that Dilnot is pretty much welfare for rich people. I also live in central London.

        • andagain

          Dilnot is pretty much welfare for rich people

          Elderly rich people. Welfare is apparently only wrong when it benefits young people.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Really? Who actually says that, apart from Labour’s propaganda machine and client state?

          • Grrr8

            Ironically, the beneficiaries of Dilnot will not be the rich old folk. After all they will pop off after consuming the care provided. Instead those saved houses will go to their children. Who are likely to be fairly wealthy themselves. And of working age.

            • andagain

              Which turns it into welfare for middle-aged wealthy people with rich parents.

              • Grrr8

                Exactly!

        • Dai Station

          The problem about setting it at £1m is that there are loads of £1m+ houses all round the country – just check out a few estate agent websites. Of course, that would actually mean that the tax would generate a lot of revenue but the party that introduced it would lose a lot of votes, and not only from£1m house owners but from anyone aspiring to have one and from those precipitated into negative equity by the downward cascade.

          • Grrr8

            Fair point – but it could work if a property tax was matched with an income tax cut for higher rate earners. I accept that (re: your point on negative equity) this will mean taking money from those who are have real estate to those who don’t. But this seems only fair given the ridiculous government engineered property price bubble we have gone through. For those who aspire to a £1M house, it may help that that house will become rather cheaper with the tax.

    • Fergus Pickering

      He needs to do more? He hasn’t done anything. He hasn’t actually promised a Mansion Tax

    • andagain

      Ed’s intervention on the mansion tax is a good starting point.

      Taxing houses in an area where housing costs are high strikes me as a poor way of demonstrating that you want to reduce the cost of living. The point of a mansion tax is to highlight the Tories-only-care-about-the-rich narrative. It does not in itself demonstrate that Labour care about the cost of living.

  • HooksLaw

    A pretty ageing voter profile in the picture.

    • David Lindsay

      They are probably party activists, who across the board mostly look like that these days.

  • HooksLaw

    OK then —

    Does Miliband have a policy for ‘rising rail and energy prices’? Does he admit to any (any!) part in their present level?
    Does he advocate more subsidies for rail and energy? If so where does the money come from?
    Does he advocate shale gas? The green groups labour rely on say no to shale. Labour It seems have committed to carbon free electricity by 2030.
    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2012/11/one-planet-labour/
    (Caroline Flint says – “If you think the long-term future is gas, you’re mistaken”)
    How do they achieve that and at what price. Are they spelling that out in Eastleigh? Can we expect them to spell it lout in the SE in 2015? Will they tell voters how much it will cost?

  • DWWolds

    Labour can talk the oh-so-caring talk but when it comes to facing up to the harsh realities of the mess they left behind they haven’t got a clue.

    • Andy

      Indeed. A mess which will take two generations to sort out. The Labour Party should be abolished.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Well, Citizen Blair did his best. Alas….

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.hudson.946 Roger Hudson

    If they want to win like 1997 they should get another leader like Tory-lite Blair.

    • HooksLaw

      if like 1997 they need to get the Lib Dems on side. And the BBC of course.

      • David Lindsay

        They didn’t need the Lib Dems on side in 1997. They have never needed the Lib Dems or any its predecessors on any of the occasions when Labour has won a General Election. The Lib Dems’ natural allies are the Tories, anyway. As we now see.

    • David Lindsay

      No, they just have to sit back and let the present lot get on with delivering the biggest Labour victory since 1945.

  • Sir Derek Trotter OBE

    If lthe Labour party thinks that repeatedly saying to people in Eastleigh that the housing shortage is a result of poor planning regulations, the Labour party should pack its bags and find a grave to put themselves in. What a bunch of scoundrels.

    • Grrr8

      Lol except on that one they are 100% correct. And don’t ask me or them. Ask the impeccably free market Institute for Economic Affairs.

    • andagain

      If lthe Labour party thinks that repeatedly saying to people in Eastleigh that the housing shortage is a result of poor planning regulations

      Are they saying that? Where?

  • Harold Angryperson

    How to make Labour electable in the South and South East:

    1. Wreck the economy of the region. I know Labour tried their best last time, but REALLY wreck it. Make all the high paid jobs disappear, get everybody whether working or not onto some form of benefits.

    2. Move lots of bloated Civil Service/NHS admin jobs into the area.

    3. Flood it with non-EU immigrants.

    Job done.

    • Andy

      You forgot to mention ‘And Gerrymander constituency boundaries like they have in the North, Wales and Scotland’.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      “Move lots of bloated Civil Service/NHS admin jobs into the area.” or don’t you mean Move lots MORE bloated Civil Service/NHS admin jobs into the area.

  • Ron Todd

    Unrestricted immigration will eventually get labour the south east. When we next get a labour or labour/liberal coalition the living wage will be a way of getting a higher minimum wage for the public sector at a cost of higher taxes for the rest of us.

    • Grrr8

      I hear the Falklands are rather nice (and white) this time of year.

      • Ron Todd

        Do you not think that labour will get rid of them before long?

        • Grrr8

          Wouldn’t that be a good thing? The British taxpayer won’t have to pay for their defence. The residents won’t have to be governed by labour 😉
          Sent from my iPad

      • Colonel Mustard

        You should go to North Korea – it would suit you and the other commies nicely. Meanwhile the rest of us would be pleased to see the back of you.

    • Austin Barry

      Unrestricted immigration will eventually get Labour the country – a huge client state of public employees, immigrants and welfare recipients.

      And nobody seems to care.

  • telemachus

    I am not sure I agree with the premise here
    Labour do not need the rural South East to win
    We do not want to go back to Blair revisionism
    All that is needed is to hold nerve and stay on track
    The right wing of the Tory party will do the rest

    • HooksLaw

      ‘The right wing of the Tory party will do the rest’ —- nut jobs take note.

    • George_Arseborne

      TEA Party

      • Colonel Mustard

        No, Mr Al Fayed, that is the USA. Unless you mean the Mad Hatter has invited you to tea again? And why not. I’m sure you could contribute immeasurably to the sensibility of his tea party conversations.

    • andagain

      The right wing of the Tory party will do the rest

      Assuming that the left wing of Labour does not sabotage Labour first. Sometimes I wonder if any of our parties wants to win an election.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Come off it. The “left wing” of Labour? You mean the ones who are openly “left wing” instead of the ones who are but pretend they are not.

  • http://twitter.com/VisceralRage Slicer

    Labour are full of traitors. They have flooded London and the South East with immigrants who mostly couldn’t give a damn about this country but quite happily claim benefits at our expense. Anyone who votes Labour is a lunatic after what they have done to this country.

    • David Lindsay

      You will, I take it, be voting the party in favour of unrestricted immigration from India? That is the other option.

      • Grrr8

        Wow David, who knew that behind that mild mannered facade a secret racist lurked.

        • David Lindsay

          Who, indeed?

          If you saw my façade…

          • Fergus Pickering

            There’s a photograph of you somewhere. You are younger than one would have thought possible given your crusty old opinions. Unless the photograph is old of course.

            • Grrr8

              Photo on his blog! An earnest young man.

              • Colonel Mustard

                Unlike you.

                • Grrr8

                  As always Colonel, a personal insult from you tells me I’ve won the argument :-)

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Dream on. I’m not even in this argument. Still I’m glad you admit your purpose here is to “win” rather than just comment. Typical Labour.

              • David Lindsay

                It is a few years old, and in any case bad living must be good for you, because contemporaries of mine from school and university always marvel at how little I have changed. I have no idea how I have managed this, or I’d be a very rich man.

                I was born in the same year as a Spectator columnist. Which one do people think, and why?

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