Coffee House

Where is Labour’s intellectual self-confidence?

9 May 2014

5:00 PM

9 May 2014

5:00 PM

What a funny, contradictory week it has been for Labour’s campaign machine. First Ed Miliband told the Evening Standard that he had greater intellectual self-confidence than the Prime Minister – and won praise in the Spectator’s leading article for being someone who does indeed have the courage of their political convictions these days. Then he seemed so confident of his policies that he chose to needle David Cameron with one of them at Prime Minister’s Questions.

But then he seemed to have a crisis of confidence and decided to produce a party-political broadcast that, er, didn’t mention anything Labour is up to at all. When I blogged about this latest offering from Labour on Wednesday, I said it was an example of class war with wit and panache. I now think I was being too kind: it was funny, but in the sense that a sketch on a comedy show is. If Labour Students had filmed this and it had gone viral, it would have had more effect, in the same way as the Mitt Romney Gangnam Style parody probably helped the Democrats but wasn’t one of their own attack ads. But this was a broadcast from a political party that had clearly poured a fair bit of money and thought into its prime time political broadcast slot.


And there were some very unfunny bits that told us a great deal more about how very highly Labour think of themselves and how evil they think the Tories are. The line in which a minister says the bedroom tax hitting disabled people doesn’t matter because ‘they can’t fight back’ is fascinating because it assumes that bad Tory policies are conspiracies, not cock-ups. We could talk about all the bad policies that Labour initiated, such as the desperately unpopular Work Capability Assessments, which also don’t do much for disabled people, but most critics of these policies would accept that bad policy is made because politicians are at best flawed and at worst fools, not because they’re moving evil flags over an evil map plotting how they can best be evil without anyone noticing.

But one ad doesn’t make a crisis. So today the party put out a new poster, again attacking Nick Clegg for his proximity to the Tories as part of its campaign for disgruntled Lib Dem voters. John has examined every inch of the poster’s claims, right down to its white asparagus for hardworking people. It’s even better than the cost-of-gymming crisis. And yet again, it fails to suggest that Labour is the solution to the problem it is highlighting. Which is fine if you’re after a small niche group of voters who used to vote Lib Dem but who might quite fancy Labour and whose votes could help you limp over the line in 2015. It also broadcast this new anti-Nick Clegg video:

But there is no effort here to persuade potential converts who are dithering about whether Labour really can be trusted again with the economy, or whether Labour has thought about immigration, or whether Labour does understand why they got a bit shirty about welfare and didn’t vote for them in 2010. Perhaps Labour isn’t as self-confident about what it can offer as it claims. Today’s offering is another 35 per cent poster. Presumably ex-Lib Dem voters are quite partial to a jar of white asparagus every once in a while.

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Show comments
  • David B

    This is the Al Campbell school of attack ad’s. The content is irrelevant as long as it attacks

  • Lucy Sky Diamonds

    That asparagus looks awfully like a……

    • James

      Lib Dem?

    • FrankS2

      Yes, I expect Anne Summers prices aren’t inflation-proof!

  • Tony Quintus

    The nonsense this week is going to cost Labour percentage points when it come to the 22nd, people with any political acumen hate attack ads, they show intellectual bankruptcy, not self confidence.
    If the Tories manage to squeak into 2nd place in the Euros, Labour have nobody to blame but themselves.

    • Holly

      They’ll probably blame us, or Thatcher.

    • Tony_E

      I think it’s highly unlikely that Labour will lose anything from this. The 35% or so that they are currently polling is about their core vote. All they have to do is get it to turn out for Miliband in a way they couldn’t for Brown (after the ‘Bigot’ gaffe).

      Think about who that 35% is:

      The Red Rosette on a pig brigade – so tribal they have had the same municipal rulers for 6 generations while they live in cities that are fast becoming dumps.

      Those who would lose from a truly free market – the public sector workers, the union activists, the employees of private companies who are really just fronts for huge public sector works.

      The welfare dependants, a huge number of people who can easily be scared into voting Labour with the scare tactics of ‘Evil Tories will take your benefits’.

      The immigrants who are constantly fed the lie that the right are ‘Racist’ and didn’t want them here in the first place.

      Add that up with the population distribution, boundaries and rotten boroughs and I think you’ll find that Labour has the next general election, and the next one, and probably the rest of your life pretty much sown up until the right centres itself around one party again.

  • saffrin

    Labour’s campaign posters show us the level of Labour’s intellect.
    Childish gutter sniping.

    • Chris Morriss

      The pic looks like a novel form of ‘Phallus Impudicus’ to me.

  • Denis_Cooper

    I wonder if Labour have ever heard of the law of diminishing returns?

    On the left hand side of the charts here:

    it can be seen that support for the LibDems dropped down from 24% at the general election to about 11% by early 2011, and from the way that the red line sloped up as the yellow line sloped down it seems a reasonable conclusion that most of that 13% lost by the LibDems transferred their support to Labour.

    Since then, support for the LibDems has almost flatlined, with a very gentle trend down to about 9% now. So there doesn’t really seem to be all that much more that Labour can hope to extract from the LibDems.

    It also seems clear from the charts that some of those who transferred their support from the LibDems to Labour have subsequently made another switch to UKIP – that second switch doesn’t show up when pollsters ask UKIP supporters how they voted in 2010, they are put down as having switched from the LibDems, not from Labour – and Labour is certainly not going to get those voters back from UKIP with the kind of nonsense that they’ve been producing.

  • robertsonjames

    All that matters is the target of 35%. Yes, it’s giving rise to some crass PR stunts that pander to the basest leftist prejudices. And yes, it’s an insult to democracy that a party can aspire to govern with an outright majority at Westminster with a mere 35% of the vote, even if another party gets 37% and all the other parties together get 65%. But with UKIP disproportionately damaging Tory candidates’ chances and helping more Labour MPs get elected, and with a pro-Labour skew in the voting system too, those are the numbers Miliband’s bunker are working with and in those narrow terms the strategy of lurching strongly to the Left, certainly more than any Labour leader in a couple of generations, makes abundant sense.

    Labour’s bottom line, those who’ll turn out for them in any circumstance, is evidently around 30%: even Brown got 29% and Foot 28% so Miliband’s people are right to assume they’re already most of the way to 35% and to government without even offering so much as a policy. Then add in the Lib Dems who’ve switched out of anger at Clegg’s co-operation with the “extreme right-wing” Tories and you’ve got yourself virtually 35%, all of them voters who lean Left and for whom talk about rent control, politicians setting fuel prices, definitely having no EU referendum (in fact stuff Blair, in search of 40%+ by winning over Tory supporters, would have avoided like the plague) is positively attractive.

    No doubt the greatest amusement in the Miliband bunker, as he announces more and more openly Socialist aspirations, is reserved for the continuing evidence that his Kipper helpers, even if he now committed to nationalising the 200 leading companies and opening a British gulag, would still be reassuring each other that there’s a single entity out there called “Lib/Lab/Con” in which it’s impossible to discern any significant political differences that would make the prospect of a Miliband government in particular most threatening.

  • you_kid

    I like white asparagus – the Greeks grow it on tens of thousands of acres of Greek land for export. It’s deficit reduction policy one might add – for those who are not familiar with the principles of such a thing.

    • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

      It must be the only white thing you like.

  • Ron Todd

    Intellectual self confidence requires some intalect.

    • telemachus

      In 1989, Miliband gained four A Levels (A in maths, an A in English, and Bs in further maths and physics) and entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Subsequently in 1995, with encouragement from Gordon Brown, he took time out from his job to study at the London School of Economics, where he obtained a Masters in Economics
      Not bad ha

      • Holly

        …..And after all those hours ‘studying’…..and all the time the tutors spent tutoring him… when he is actually ‘in charge’ of something, he discovers he is a useless gobshite, who thinks that telling the public Tories are ‘evil’ somehow makes him ‘good’, when in reality he is an over-educated plank, like Harman.
        I bet he believes he is so good that no one else has his intellectual self-confidence to hold the position he was shoehorned into…
        Because I very much doubt this plod got to where he is today on merit.
        I bet he was ‘chosen’ by Bozo & Balls just to make them look ‘brighter’ than those two morons turned out to be as well.

      • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

        Nobody’s claiming he isn’t a nerd, but that’s all he is. And he didn’t have the guts to go into the real world and get a job. A-levels aren’t a reflection of intelligence…… clearly.

        Can you tell me why you objected with such aversion to UKIP’s use of a candidate on a poster, but are yet to object to Labour’s use of SEVERAL candidates?

      • Ricky Strong

        “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught”
        – Oscar Wilde –

      • Ron Todd

        Four A levels at one of the few good non private school left at a time when grade inflation was already a factor is hardly genius level. Then uni and straight into politics with no practical experience. He lacks the intellect to see what the ordinary people need to be inspired he lacks the intellect to know that economic policies that failed on the 70s are not likely to work now.

      • HJ777

        I went to a bog-standard comp. and got better ‘A’ levels than that (before grade inflation set in) and then went to Durham to do a real subject. I think Miliband is a naive fool.

        What is your point?

        • telemachus

          My point was a refutation of the Ron Todd header
          I may have 4 A’s, a first from Milibands institution and a subsequent doctorate but still would not see myself worthy to tie his shoelaces
          He came from nowhere to lead our great party with its diverse personalities and intellects
          And has consolidated his leadership month on month
          You will marvel at his forthcoming stewardship of Downing Street

          • Colonel Mustard

            “You will marvel at his forthcoming stewardship of Downing Street”

            I doubt it. He has the look of a dictator in the making. A Chavez for Britain in the mould of his mentor the cloaked communist Brown.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Sadly those qualifications only exist In your imagination.

          • Colonel Mustard

            “I may have 4 A’s, a first from Milibands institution and a subsequent doctorate…”

            A gentleman would never boast about such things but instead remind himself of Ecclesiastes 9:11. But then hubris over humility is ever a characteristic of your announcements here, Mr Mitty.

            In this case, however, we have plenty of evidence of your moral and intellectual superiority as well as your undoubted skill in bringing incise logic and reason to any debate from your vast host of comments accumulated here (stop sniggering at the back!).

            • HJ777

              He “may” be an astronaut in his spare time too, which is no less likely to be true than his claim about his educational achievements.

          • HJ777

            You may have all those things. You may have walked on the moon. But the likelihood of either being the case is vanishingly small.

            Hero worship of politicians is for immature imbeciles. Consequently, I don’t find your hero worship of Miliband in the slightest bit surprising.

          • First L

            You don’t see yourself worthy to tie his shoelaces?

            I thought everyone on the Left was supposed to be equal? I thought you hated hierarchies? But anyway, if you aren’t fit to tie shoelaces then you clearly aren’t fit to be making political arguments on here. Certainly not any deserving of being listened to.

          • 2trueblue

            Came from nowhere. You need to bone up mate. His father was part of the left wing establishment, Tony Benn came regularly for tea, as did the most prominent marxist historian, and apologist for Stalins excesses. Don’t forget that he had a rather bright brother who was a shining light in the party and that Millipede2 stole his place.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Me too and a better degree so I thanked that idiot Telemachus for making me feel good!

      • Inverted Meniscus

        He only got a 2.1 at Oxford rendering this tagged tripe a shot in your own foot. Mind you, it makes me feel intellectually superior to that preposterous little twerp so thanks for that.

        • telemachus

          I can attest that the difference between an upper second and a first is miniscule
          When you add common sense drive and purpose you begin to understand Milibands winning combination

          • Inverted Meniscus

            I will leave you to your fantasies about his and your own academic achievements. Yours are none existent while his are second rate and unleavened by any practical experience whatsoever. That is why this preposterous idiot and his fat sidekick are the unproductive, economically destructive, intolerant scum that they are.

            • telemachus

              Achievements i academia are a matter of record and cannot be gainsaid
              On the question of the Charismatic one
              “The prime minister knows that Balls’ intellect and knowledge of the subject will make him a formidable opponent of the government’s economic policy. He will go on the attack on rising inflation and unemployment, falling living standards and sluggish economic growth. Indeed he already has. Ministers will do their best to blunt that attack by claiming Balls is weak on the deficit and out of line with his own leader.

              “Balls knocked more than 17 minutes from his 2013 time (5:14:13) when he finished in 4.57:40, in his third successive marathon, running for the charity Whizz-Kidz. khan

              • Inverted Meniscus

                Unfortunately for Labour the UK is now the fastest growing economy of the major Western economies.there was no double dip recession. The Brown deficit is being curtailed and Balls is now left shouting at an empty room.

              • Holly

                Rising inflation and unemployment?
                You are six months behind reality.
                Balls being a ‘good runner’ has landed him in bother with the police, and HE is,(at last) one of the Labour bods at risk of losing his seat.
                The people of Morley deserve better than this arrogant, ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM’ economy wrecker.

                • Tony_E

                  Unfortunately he was ‘in danger’ at the last election. I stayed up for Balls – he was the one scalp I really wanted to see as his economics had driven Brownism. I shan’t bother this time. He’s safe.

              • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

                Nobody’s claiming the moron can’t run a marathon, we are however claiming he can’t run a country, he has proved that already……He couldn’t run a bath. That might be the problem, labour shouldn’t pick their candidates on the basis of their running ability. Or hit and “run” ability.

                If you are suggesting he’s charitable and makes sacrifices for charity, can you explain why he claimed back money for a remembrance day wreath he laid?

              • HJ777

                4:57.30 is glacially slow compared to anyone who is half-decent .

                I see his physical abilities reflect his intellectual ones.

          • McRobbie

            The difference is intellect and application. So millie is second rate, and that shows.

          • Tony_E

            The problem is that if you are educated in a certain, raised in a certain way, and spend your youth exposed to only one way of thinking, it’s difficult to shake off in adulthood.

            The education system of the late 60’s and onwards was very leftist – many of the universities were the most radical left wing establishments on earth. Philosophy departments guided by the writings of Marx, Engels or Freud – Economics faculties dedicated to the proving of Keynes theories and the success of centrally controlled economies and central banking.

            It’s not a diverse education and it shows in how Miliband places such false hope in the centralisation of economic power. He doesn’t understand that such centralisation in peace time requires a degree of force, and in the end that free born men require freedom as much at they require air.

            The more socialist systems tighten their grip on the levers of power, even for the best of intentions, the more individuals slip through their grasp, until the trickle becomes a flood and the centre collapses.

      • ButcombeMan

        Extensive studying and even considerable success at it. does not equal common sense or ability to reason and choose a sensible course of action from a range of options

        Lots of well educated people supported the crass idea of the Euro. Some amazingly, still do.

        A host of well educated people could not see through Tony Blair’s duplicity and his illegal war on Iraq.

        Lots of well educated people really seemed to believe (truly astonishing this) Gordon Brown, when he said he had removed boom and bust.

        Cameron is well educated and was stupid enough to call UKIP supporters, those he needs to attract back, “fruitcakes”.

        Clegg is well educated and thought he could get away with false promises on student fees in his election manifesto.

      • Lucy Sky Diamonds

        Whoopie do. I have experience working in the real world.

      • Erictheowl

        That just shows he had competent t tutors and crammers and a facility for passing exams. It says nothing about him having any actual intelligence, ability in anything but wonkery, or a scintilla of common sense.

      • balance_and_reason

        Marxist economics no doubt….all swotting …. clearly no real world no judgement…..never built a company, run a company,or worked in a private sector job for any worthwhile time…no understanding of how economy works…Economics is a joke subject .

  • CharlietheChump

    Labour/left classic intellectual arrogance.

    • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

      Is that Abbott’s £12,000 portrait?

  • Mr Creosote

    Isabel – glad to see your wit-o-meter has been corrected.

    • Holly

      Yeah, but when you read what she has put, she more or less says the same as she did before…Miliband might think most of the population eat white asparagus, but he’s not to blame for that….He’s lovely.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Is there such thing as white asparagus? Who knew?

    • Mr Creosote

      They’re “forced” under plastic – same as white rhubarb.

      I think Isabel just likes the shape.

      • Holly

        I thought the post had been done by a bloke taking the mick out of ‘good old Ed’, when I first saw the photo.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        White rhubarb an’ all? What a crazy old world this is.

      • Rossspeak

        I think the analogy with Miliband is of a white phallic symbol rising out of manure.

    • El_Sid

      Yep – it’s much more popular on the Continent than here, presumably because in hotter climates green asparagus isn’t as tender as that grown more slowly in cooler climates. It’s forced under cover and then typically canned or pickled in jars. So it’s not just LibDems they’re after, but LibDems with European tastes in food.

      Aside from the aforementioned point that it’s VAT-free in any case.

      The obvious counter to the VAT argument is that Gordon Brown’s pre-election bribe essential stimulus to a wounded economy cost us £10-12bn, which went straight on the National Debt. We’re paying 3.44% on 30-year gilts, so ~£350m is leaving the Exchequer every year to pay for that one-off VAT cut. So we could be building another hospital or Navy ship or a dozen new schools every year if it wasn’t for that one-year VAT cut.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        Pickled white asparagus? – I wonder if Aldi do it.

        • El_Sid

          That’s a good shout, it’s just the sort of thing that Aldi/Lidl are good at, a staple in Germany that’s less common here.

          Having had a quick skim of the big supermarket websites here, Sainsburys and ASDA don’t have WA, Tesco do both fresh (with a Union flag on the packet no less) and in brine, Waitrose just do it in brine.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            I’m liking the idea of it pickled – aspirational asparagus bathed in geezer vinegar.

            • El_Sid

              Think you’ll find socialist geezers prefer to bathe in this stuff.

              • Hexhamgeezer

                I’ve missed out on so much….

    • you_kid

      You are right – most asparagus is Green – really.
      Like Tory logos.
      Or the Labour Rose.

      • Holly

        Or cabbages.

    • Holly


  • Matthew 88

    It is possible to be both intellectually self-confident and politically cynical of course