Blogs Coffee House

Labour’s true believers ask Ed Miliband to repeat past Tory mistakes.

8 July 2014

10:49 AM

8 July 2014

10:49 AM

The first, and perhaps most important, thing to say about the 2015 general election is that it is Labour’s to lose. The second thing to say is that Ed Miliband might be just the man to do it.

Nevertheless and despite Miliband’s awkwardness Tory optimists should ask themselves a very simple question: Which seats will we win in 2015 that we failed to win in 2010? Perhaps a handful will be taken from the Lib Dems and perhaps another handful can be snatched elsewhere but, overall, the battlefield picture is pretty damn bleak.

But perhaps Labour will help. Miliband’s problem is that his position is not secure to hunker down, do bugger all, and just wait for victory. He must move. Unfortunately, moving also exposes him and there is the chance that the public will not be impressed by his style or, for that matter, destination.

I fancy that Miliband’s supporters are repeating mistakes the Tories have made time and time again. Here, for instance, is the New Statesman’s George Eaton:

The party has certainly moved to the left under Miliband, but it is wrong to suggest that it is now further from the centre. As I’ve noted before, if the Labour leader is a “socialist”, so are most of the public. Around two-thirds of voters support a 50p tax rate, a mansion tax, stronger workers’ rights, a compulsory living wage and the renationalisation of the railways and the privatised utilities (actually putting them well to the left of Labour leader).

The insight that defines Miliband’s project is less that the centre has moved leftwards since the financial crisis, but that it was further to the left to begin with.

[Alt-Text]


See! We were correct all the time! This is the sort of argument Trad Tories have been making for years and years and years. Since 1997, at least. Europe! Crime! Tax! Immigration! In all of these individual policy areas strong majorities favour – or seem to favour – a robust and robustly right-wing  approach. Hurrah! We are right and the people love our arguments!

But they did not love you, did they? They might have agreed, in theory, with much of what you had to say but that imposed no requirement to vote for you did it?

Obviously you can’t just ignore public opinion completely but following it is no good either. Voters don’t keep a kind of policy score that says ‘Gosh I agree with seven Labour ideas, five Tory notions and 1 Lib Dem folly so I guess I’d better vote for Mr Miliband.’

Their reasons for supporting a given party are as varied as they are mysterious. Habit, often. Inclination, just as frequently. Which is why, I think, Peter Kellner is right to suggest that apparently popular policies can be poisonous if they inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes.

After all, strengths are also weaknesses by another name. Intellectual confidence can be arrogance, a conviction politician can be a blinkered ideologue and so on.

So the thing is that it is a mistake to think that the people are with us, therefore they like us. They probably don’t, even if they might agree with you on a single, isolated, policy question. Alas, a general election is not won by the party that wins the most single issue battles; instead it is won by the party that inspires the most confidence (or, if you prefer, the least horror) and political confidence is a magical thing that, like its economic sister, depends on much fairy-dust and the occasional unicorn.

It’s the entire picture, silly, not the detail that counts. Which is another way of explaining past Tory failures and, perhaps, their best shot at earning a second term this time around.


More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.



Show comments
  • arezoo

    The under-occupancy penalty began as a Labour idea. It was ok then.
    فروش سگ
    درب اتوماتیک

  • starfish

    Hmm

    “Around two-thirds of voters support a 50p tax rate, a mansion tax, stronger workers’ rights, a compulsory living wage and the renationalisation of the railways and the privatised utilities (actually putting them well to the left of Labour leader).”
    2/3 of voters – but is that 2/3 of taxpayers?
    and what poll asked these questions?
    It is a bit like ‘should we spend more on healthcare’ answer is invariably yes, but ‘should we introduce charges into the NHS’ and you will get a different answer
    The people who actually pay for public services are seeing their disposable income drop – and they are often not consumers of some of these public services
    Ask them – ‘are you content for OAPs to pay more tax on the inflated value of their property’ and you will get a different answer to the mansion tax question

    • Colonel Mustard

      YouGov, a gift for Labour:-

      http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/01/28/majority-support-50p-tax/

      http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/02/21/majority-support-mansion-tax/

      The so-called mansion tax would be a £200,000 annual levy on properties valued at more than £2m. There is still more support for a £100,000 annual levy on properties valued at more than £1m but by ignoring income the proposal really is on dangerous ground and has shades of a regressive “window tax” about it. Somebody living in a £1m property without the disposable income for the levy would be forced to sell up to pay it. Socialists: “We are profligate and need to steal more of your money to spend on our favourite causes, even when it is not really money you actually have but just a calculated asset value.”

      The fact that there are Tories that also support this nonsense is deeply worrying.

      • Kaine

        They can take a lodger. After all, that was the coalition advice for people affected by the under-occupancy penalty.

        • Colonel Mustard

          The under-occupancy penalty began as a Labour idea. It was ok then.

          To cover the levy a lodger would have to pay rent of over £16,000 a month which is more than the highest rent for a bigger than 3-bedroom house in Chelsea. Then there is housing benefit.

          But your comment reveals the essentially vindictive nature of the proposal. Don’t call us…

          • Kaine

            No, it was not retrospective under Labour. It is the retrospective nature that is the cruel point.

            You seem to have missed a decimal Colonel. Don’t worry, happens to the best of us. The YouGov polling is about a 1% rate, so £10,000 per annum on a £1m property. Average rent in London is £1300 a month according to the latest housing figures from the GLA, so a lodger is eminently plausible.

            Remember, we have a housing shortage, everyone must do their bit.

            • Colonel Mustard

              “No, it was not retrospective under Labour. It is the retrospective nature that is the cruel point.”

              Of course. Always an answer for everything.

              £20,000 on a £2m property and they won’t all be in London anyway. It is just a bad idea promulgated on juvenile concepts of class and wealth.

              And why do we have a housing shortage? Because of the stupid fucking policies of the party you think so much of.

        • saffrin

          Those effected by under-occupancy don’t have to shell out any money, they just recieve lass free money.
          Big difference.

          • clouty

            In that two thirds of those affected are sick and/or disabled; often in properties adapted for their disabilities; reliant on ‘free money’ for their very survival; often unable to pay the bedroom tax and eat or heat at the same time; there’s more difference for these people by a large factor than if you sir had to pay a similar percentage from I suspect a much larger income.

            • saffrin

              Benefit claimants pay no bedroom tax or any other kind of tax.
              They, in fact, pay for absolutely nothing at all, Nothing!

    • Kaine

      Everyone pays taxes, because everyone pays VAT. If you mean a net payment, that’s incredibly tricky to define. Over what time scale? Is a solid, middle-class professional suddenly a scrounger in the year they require expensive cancer treatment? What value do we attach to the millionaire who knows their money, and their person, is protected by law, with a bank account underwritten by a state guarantee? We know they attach rather a lot to it, which is why they live here and not Somalia.

      As for your mansion tax question, it has nothing to do with Ethel and Mavis being driven from their homes. There are plenty of companies that will allow equity release and let people stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. HMRC could do this too. The opponents of the mansion tax are not the asset-rich, cash poor gerontocrats, it’s their grasping children and grandchildren who want that asset after they shove her in a care home.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        You socialist nutters never tire of spending/wasting other people’s money do you? Just for once, why don’t you do something entirely original and unprecedented and actually create a bit of wealth yourself.

        • Kaine

          And you fore-lock tugging apologists for the ruling elite never tire of licking your masters’ boots. Why don’t you grow a backbone and realise the people who create wealth are not the same as the people who control it? Or are you that addicted to shoe leather?

          • Inverted Meniscus

            No laddie I am simply not a wasteful socialist nutter like you.

        • Colonel Mustard

          That’ll be the day. They are a bunch of rent seekers always looking to steal money from those who have to earn it. The duty blog monitor is probably taxpayer funded:-

          http://order-order.com/2014/07/08/senior-welsh-minister-sacked-over-smear-emails-read-bombshell-emails-that-exposed-labour-cabinet-member/

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Thanks for the link Colonel. What a drearily predictable story of Labour’s institutionalised dishonesty. Perhaps somebody should found ‘Socialist Nutters Anonymous’ in order to provide them with counselling on the avoidance of lying and spending other people’s money. One slight flaw with that idea ; it would require the hiring of Wembley Stadium each week as opposed to a local church hall for meetings.

      • starfish

        “Everyone pays taxes, because everyone pays VAT.”
        Well, that isn’t strictly true as some things are zero -rated.
        Anyhoo the point I made is that wage earners who pay taxes (rather than paying VAT on things ultimately paid for by taxpayers through the benefits system) are rather less likely to share the view of leftie wonk organisations
        But then , you knew that
        “The opponents of the mansion tax are not the asset-rich, cash poor gerontocrats, it’s their grasping children and grandchildren who want that asset after they shove her in a care home.”

        Is that your opinion or do you actually have any evidence for that assertiion?

        • Kaine

          That certain items are zero rated does not change the fact that everyone pays VAT, at least until you find an autarkian nudist.

          The fact you’ve not been allowed to get away with your divisive nonsense about ‘tax payers’ must rankle I’m sure. Next time you nick an argument from the American far right pick a better one.

          Most non-pensioner benefits go to households where at least one member works. The horrendous nature of the current economic climate is that full time work does not guarantee a way out of poverty.

          The evidence is simply that there is no need for any elderly person to move, as there are schemes in place already to allow them to spend the rest of their lives in their home. What we are talking about is distribution of the asset after they pass away. Indeed, the polling shows the over 60s support for a mansion tax is about the same, within a percentage point or two, as the rest of the population. If this was all the young grasping at granny we’d expect a much wider distribution.

          • starfish

            “That certain items are zero rated does not change the fact that everyone pays VAT, at least until you find an autarkian nudist.”

            Yes it does – and i said so, the point I made referred to people who pay taxes on earned income – which again you chose to ognore, a bit of a pattern

            “The fact you’ve not been allowed to get away with your divisive nonsense about ‘tax payers’ must rankle I’m sure. Next time you nick an argument from the American far right pick a better one.”
            Right on comrade!

            “The horrendous nature of the current economic climate is that full time work does not guarantee a way out of poverty.”

            Hyperbole – if you want truly horrendous go to South Sudan
            And I note you choose one particular version of the mansion tax proposals

        • LadyDingDong

          I note that this current favourite meme of the Labtard trolls that ‘everyone pays tax’ is a constant response to the welfare reform argument. As you rightly point out, unless the poor are spending all their money on TVs and petrol, most of (what should be) their spend: rent, food, clothing is zero-rated , and energy bills are at 5%. The fact that, for many of 50% who receive welfare, the little tax they might pay comes from money they receive from the state in the first place, escapes their enfeebled minds. Their other main argument is that most welfare spending goes on pensioners as if that excuses the close to 100 billion that goes on: the feckless, workshy, baby-producers, lazy, fake-disabled, housing benefits and non-contributing immigrants let in by their political masters, is also beyond their understanding. I blame an obvious genetic defect carried by those of leftist orientation that, because they breed with each other, has led to a diminution in their collective IQ – one only has to read their comments here to prove my theory.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Wrong again. Public sector workers pay no tax at all because they are simply recycling money taken from the productive members of society. You socialist nutters do not create any wealth lad you just spend other people’s.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Agreed and the classic of course is the ‘should we have a 50% tax rate versus should you pay tax at 50%?’ Question.

      • Kaine

        Which is meaningless. Unless you think asking the head of Warburtons to spare a loaf of bread is the same as asking someone at a food bank to do so.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Spending other people’s money is not meaningless laddie it is simply what you socialist nutters do. You seem to believe that you know how to spend money better than the people who earn it lad.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Which is why, I think, Peter Kellner is right to suggest that apparently popular policies can be poisonous if they inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes

    Yet the alternative approach can be framed as half-hearted, duplicitous, two faced, dithering, fence sitting and so forth. Massie is right about it being about confidence and the fact that Labour and Conservative collectively now only attract the support of some 40% of all those registered to vote when 65 years ago they were attracting over 70% of those registered to vote demonstrates the increasing vote of no confidence that the electorate have in the ruling parties.

    In such an environment it may well be that neither party can hope for a majority (the Tories least of all given the electoral landscape). As such the country faces yet another unsatisfactory and self defeating coalition.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “Which is another way of explaining past Tory failures…”

    If journalists like you had spent more time explaining past Labour failures we might live in a better country.

    • Tim Baker

      Most of the press are pro-Tory.

      • treborc1

        Are they surprising because they all fell in line behind Blair, oh of course he was a Tory.

  • Makroon

    Labour has “seven ideas” ? Pull the other one Mr Massie.
    I guess this blog-post is displacement activity – so that Mr Massie can avoid commenting on the Scottish pantomime outfit ……. errr, sorry, Commonwealth games official uniform.

  • allymax bruce

    “The party [Labour] has certainly moved to the left under Miliband,
    but it is wrong to suggest that it is now further from the centre. As
    I’ve noted before, if the Labour leader is a “socialist”, so are most of the public.
    Around two-thirds of voters support a 50p tax rate, a mansion tax,
    stronger workers’ rights, a compulsory living wage and the
    renationalisation of the railways and the privatised utilities (actually
    putting them well to the left of Labour leader). The insight that defines Miliband’s project is less that the centre has moved leftwards since the financial crisis, but that it was further to the left to begin with.” (George Eaton).
    George is kidding himself; trying to ‘bluff & bluster’ Labour/Miliband into a Public avowed position. I wrote a few weeks ago, on here, how David Cameron has successfully moved the ‘political ground’ back over to the Centre Right, from where it was under Bliar & Brown Fundamental Left.
    Alex, don’t take this rubbish from George, and his New Statesman Labour apologists; tell George et al, they’ve got no chance of winning the 2015 General Election, because Ed is Publicly disavowed; in any guise!

    • Makroon

      The ‘fatal flaw’ from Eaton, is that he fondly imagines that this stuff is “socialism” rather than a series of free-money stunts and economic illiteracy.

    • Smithersjones2013

      To suggest Cameron has successfuly moved the political ground back to the centre right when there is now an increasingly credible threat to the Tories on the centre right is hardly a success. In fact there are those who would suggest that Cameron has been dragged kicking and screaming back onto to the centre right by the threat of that alternative.

      Ultimately I think its fair to say that a significant part of the electorate has dragged Westminster back onto the centre right political ground which both Conservative and Labour seemed determined to desert!

      • allymax bruce

        Hi Smithersjones2013; ‘increasingly credible threat’? You can’t mean UKIP, surely? UKIP are not a threat of any kind in this 2015 General Election. David Cameron has successfully, (albeit pandering to the political masses zeitgeist against further EU integration), garnerd the ideal that he too, his Conservative Party, are just as ‘UKipped’ by EU as UKIP are; thus giving the masses of disaffected UKIP conservatives an effective big dog to vote for. If you don’t want Labour, and don’t want further EU integration, and are reasonably happy with David Cameron’s performance in ‘Office’, then there’s no real choice other than David Cameron & Conservative! It’s a complete win/win situation play by Cameron. I advised him to go all-out on Juncker, and he did; he won big-time here in UK because of it.

  • http://t.co/rXjomKpfUv JP Janson De Couet

    I’m a bit thick, but I’m not sure what point this article is trying to make.

    • LadyDingDong

      I think the point is: thick people do not always vote for policies they say they believe in.

      • http://t.co/rXjomKpfUv JP Janson De Couet

        I think I’ve got a headache now.

      • monty61

        Indeed. The point (unstated) is that the great unwashed don’t vote for policies at all, they vote on personality .. or haircut … or – being charitable – ‘narrative’. The latter is what got Obama elected, not anything in his policy position.

        Given that no party or party leader has a remotely convincing narrative (George Osborne has come closest to assembling a passable one, though it rather falls apart under scrutiny) it would appear that this election is indeed wide open.

    • ButcombeMan

      I think the main point may be, that the level of political support has never been more uncertain, for any party.

      Cameron has alienated much of his core vote, Milliband has moved to the left. Clegg is an irrelevance.

      ,

      • Marmalade Sandwich

        All true, but what does it say about an electorate that still plan to vote for these people? None of whom govern for the best interest of either the electorate or for those who actually vote for them.

        • fubar_saunders

          It says that they are at best, selfish and politically immature and at worst, thick as pigs**t.

          Neither are good places to be.

    • HookesLaw

      Far be it from me to reinforce your opinion of yourself …

      But the article is saying that the centre ground is important. Why did the Conservatives win and win well in Newark? Because the UKIP candidate reinforced all the prejudices against UKIP and the electorate voted against them to elect the best placed party to defeat them.
      The electorate chose to ignore the party of protest and voted for the party in government. The tories polled more than Labour and UKIP combined. This I would have thought is some sort of confirmation of Mr Massie’s argument – if you chose to engage your brain cell.

      • Smithersjones2013

        [Yawn] 15.5% swing FROM CON TO UKIP

        Why do you spoil threads with your obsessive bigotry about UKIP? Get some counselling!

        • HookesLaw

          Spoil? I was on the topic instead of you left and right nutjobs blathering about whether VAT is a tax or not.
          Its not my fault that in a by election a year out the party of protest failed abjectly. Even its leader could not bother to turn up and get the vote out – he preferred an expenses paid overseas jolly. It failed because the tories were percieved as a safe centrist haven to vote for to keep out the extremist. Labour were not.

          .

      • http://t.co/rXjomKpfUv JP Janson De Couet

        Well I followed what you just said. Not sure that’s rue about Newark but at least I understood it So how does this apply to Labour?

        • HookesLaw

          Labour were not seen as centrist. The tories were. The libdem vote evaporated; it did not go to labour.

          • http://t.co/rXjomKpfUv JP Janson De Couet

            So this whole article assumes that Labour wins votes by being centrist and that Labour being left wing loses them votes? I guess that was possibly true in the 90’s, but today with a majority of people in favour of, for example, rail nationalisation it seems really out of date to me. But what do I know?

    • anosrep

      Don’t worry, neither is the author.

  • weescamp

    It’s a terrible choice. Milliband or Cameron. Both as mad as a box full of frogs, The UK needs a political upheaval. Could be that Scottish independence will bring that. It’s in the rUK’s interest to vote YES.

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here