Post mortem

We lost, they won. Both of these facts are tragic.

We lost: we pandered to the right wing press and lost our true voice in the process. We apologised when we should have energetically proclaimed our record. We had 15 years in government and during that time, the UK was a good place to live: it was prosperous, our services were well looked after, less people were living in poverty and the economy was ticking over like a well tuned machine.

It’s true that there were things that we should have done but didn’t: we should have more carefully considered banking oversight and regulation. In retrospect the Big Bang de-regulation was a disaster (a Tory disaster) and we should have corrected it. We probably should have looked at pensions and social care and made (probably unpalatable) changes while we still has a massive majority. We probably could have looked at bringing transport and some utilities back into public control. We didn’t do these things and we sinned by omission.

Having said that, the deficit we left was a consequence of saving the financial sector: with London heavily reliant on the banking and finance industries, and with peoples wages, savings and mortgages dependant on the well-being of the too-big-to-fail banks, the Labour leadership opted to save them  – at great expense. Would the Tories have done any differently? I wouldn’t have thought so.

But the British public inevitably felt the need for a change in narrative after 15 years of government: they did the same to the Tories. But when we gave the keys to number 10 over to David Cameron the economy was back on track: there were positive signs of growth and the deficit was not increasing. The recession had more or less come to an end.

We should have said all of this and we didn’t. We gave the Tories months without an opposition and during that time they sold the banking crisis as Labour’s recession, and the deficit as a disaster. With that backstory they could then start doing what the Tories always do in power: dismantling the public sector, making the market king and impoverishing the majority of British citizens. They had Austerity as their excuse and it was king.

The Tories won: in 2010 they had the aid of a group of Orange Book Liberals to thank for power. I’ve always disliked the LibDems and the Liberals before them. They invariably seemed to have a manifesto stuffed full of sweeties and I knew a lot of people who wished that the Labour party could make some of the same promises. But if you have a 50/50 chance of power, you can’t, you have to promise things that are deliverable to a strict budget. An election isn’t a beauty contest where you vote for the party with the nicest manifesto (…perhaps it should be..), it’s about a realistic chance of taking power and putting sensible policies into place. The Greens have a similar problem in my view. They could promise the Earth, free unicorns and ice-cream every Monday in the full knowledge that they would never have to find the public funds to put their plans into action.

In 2015 the Tories won again: this time outright, much to more or less everyone’s surprise and to the dismay of the majority. They won 37% of the vote (a slight improvement on 2010) and 24% of those who could vote (the turnout was just over 66% – interestingly enough turnout is going up from a low in 2001, which isn’t the narrative you’ll see in the press, which is all about disengagement). This seems to have been a consequence of LIbDem voters ditching their party and going to the Conservatives, as well as the UKIP vote eating into Labour heartland. Of course the overwhelming victory of the SNP in Scotland was a factor in Labour’s defeat. Not a surprise though: up to 10 pm on May 7th, more or less everyone assumed that Labour and the SNP would rule the UK together.

Why did Labour lose? Was it because Ed was too Red, or too Austerity-lite, was it because the press (largely right wing) were out to get him, or was it because he couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich neatly. I don’t think it was any of these things: the Labour leadership couldn’t really be described as arch socialists, but on the other hand the Labour party was not going to cut as hard or as deeply as any of the alternatives (see the IFS report on the manifestos), the press are always out to get Labour and though Ed was viciously attacked, he came out fairly well. Bacon-sandwich-gate made the Sun look ridiculous, nobody takes it seriously anyway.

My feeling is that Labour are still distrusted on the economy and didn’t batter away hard enough or passionately enough about their record. They went to Scotland in September, and told the Scots that voting yes was silly and not very sensible, they sided with the Tories scare stories and gave the SNP the 2015 election on a plate.

Which might not have mattered if they could have persuaded anyone who was minded to vote that Labour cared about them – not just as a vote, but as a person with a viewpoint and a set of beliefs that needed to be engaged. There was calculation but not much passion.

The Tories are all about cold blooded, unemotional, market driven and hard-hearted expressions of self interest. They can say the platitudes about divided societies and poverty, but they don’t feel it. What they do feel is an unquestionable sense of ‘what’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is my own”and devil take the hindmost.

Labour values are about community, fairness, commonality and just rewards for hard work, protection and security when it all goes wrong. These are things that you want to shout from the roofs, call out in the streets, get a bit teary about. Labour acted as if Austerity was just another tool to be used in government: they didn’t appear to get angry about the lies and demonisation that the Tories used to under-write their hellish vision of the UK. The NHS is a treasure but where were Ed’s thanks for his wife’s safety during childbirth and the health of hid kids: if it isn’t personal, why are you bothering?

I don’t want to support a slightly more left-wing version of the slick political machine that the Tories offer: I want real people, getting angry about real issues, offering policy that makes you feel better about the future and your children’s future.

What we need is to abandon the focus-group led, managerial, Westminster-blinkered and press-ganged version of Labour that lost this election. We should opt instead for a street level, passionate engagement with real people. Not pandering to prejudice and saying ‘yes’ to bigots when we mean ‘no way’, but a conversation or even an argument. If we don’t think we can persuade people on the streets of the UK to agree with out policies and plans, why on earth do we think that they might vote for us in the next election?


Wanted: New Leaders

Today we saw three leaders of UK political parties stand down after a night of defeat and dismay.

Now the parties need a new leader what have we learned from previous examples?

We want a male (women may apply,  but must be outstanding candidates). He shouldn’t be too young or too old (Vince Cable is too old. Ed may have been a smidge too young). He should be handsome (many psychological studies have shown that we tend to assign positive qualities to more attractive people. They could be as evil as Mao and Hitler combined but if they look like George Clooney, we are smitten). He should be intelligent – but not too smart, it seems that the UK electorate are suspicious of people with a degree from Oxford (unless of course, it’s part of a ‘born to rule’ package with prep school and public schooling).

You should be able to eat a sandwich with unusual precision, but should never use a knife and fork for ‘finger’ foods.

Smoothness of skin is no handicap – a degree of natural ‘airbrushing’ around the jowls is acceptable. in repose you shouldn’t look to sad, and your eyes shouldn’t be too deep set.

You will have a spouse (conventional marriage for preference): she should be shorter than you, slim, English and not too successful.  If you are applying for a Tory role, a public school background is an advantage in your choice, so is a large fortune. You will appear hand in hand with her at all times. Children are a must, but not too many. If one of those can be a wee bit disabled, we will look more kindly on your application.

You must refrain from hand gestures when talking, you must have a resonant voice (no stuttering, no nasal qualities either but these may be fixed with surgery if necessary). Ideally you should be able to speak without notes for at least an hour, while wearing a plain white shirt, with the sleeves rolled up.

You must be rich if you propose to lead the Conservative party, but if you aspire to lead the Labour group, your income must not exceed the national average. Your house should be modest and mortgaged. If you are not able to satisfy these requirements, please note that you can still become leader, however you must expect to be labelled a ‘hypocrite’ or indeed a ‘champagne socialist’.

You should not be ‘weird’ (though we have yet to determine what that means), have a sexual past or parents who were anything other than stockbrokers/miners. If your parents were of note in some field, or left you property this is acceptable if you are applying for a position in the Tory party, but if you are a Labour applicant your parents should ideally have been miners, postmen or similar.

NB it will be assumed that you have a public school background. Most of our applicants do, however you can apply if you have been to a ‘normal’ school. It would be helpful if you are able to describe it as a ‘grammar.

If you have had a previous job, well done. If you worked in politics that is unfortunate. We like our candidates to have very little or no experience of politics before becoming a politician. (We would prefer candidates who were postman, miners, banking executives or stockbrokers).

You should support a football team: it doesn’t matter which one (but avoid those clubs that are too successful and/or rely on foreign cash). Please note that once you state your preference, you should remember the name of your chosen club.

Consider your name: ensure that there is little likelihood of unfortunate punning; for example “Balls-up” ‘Milipede” or “Clegg”. If it is feasible for you to have a name that is slightly Francophone, please do. However if you are applying for the Labour leadership, you should consider a simple surname: e.g. Smith, Johnson.

Drinking: encouraged. If Labour avoid champagne, in most cases it might be best to stick to beer. By the pint.

Fashion. Not a requirement. Unless it’s a ‘quirk’ (only applies to candidates interested in the UKIP position).

Special requirements by party

Labour: should be ‘normal’ (although this is yet to be defined)

LibDem: should be comfortable with giving up your personal values and adopting a submissive attitude.

UKIP: racism is not essential, but it is an advantage.

Conservative: You should have no special interest in the truthfulness of your assertions. In many cases the ability to lie smoothly is an advantage. Have you met any of the people you may be required to demonise? No? Doesn’t matter, this is not essential to your application.