Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Blue Labour

I want to talk a little about Blue Labour, but first I'm going to do a bit of post match analysis and strategy proposal. Often things only become completely clear after an event so here is a few things I have noticed Labour activists (me included) could do better in the future.

We need to concentrate more on simple soundbites, not that I'm suggesting the electorate in this country is simple, rather more that they are busy, and often only vaguely interested in politics and lack the drive to take the time to understand complicated multi-layered political arguments. When I listened to George Osborne keep repeating 'fixing the roof whilst the sun is shining', like a B movie actor struggling to add depth to his lines; I thought 'are people really going to buy that stuff'? But actually I recognise those kind of catchphrases had a lot of success. What about Labour have catchphrases like Labour will 'Save for a rainy day' or Labour are 'For you + For business'.

Poor Nick Clegg has had a hard time which I think is mostly unfair. Whilst in coalition with the Conservatives, Ex Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg blocked much of the extreme legislation the Tories proposed. Without Mr Clegg, the Human Rights Act would have likely already been removed, and replaced with a Tory style British Bill of Rights which is almost certainly going to be weighted in favour of the state. Supporting the axe for the Human Rights Act is like voting to remove your appeal procedure at work, yet you need an appeal system if you are for example wrongly disciplined. Or following along with my soundbites theme, it's like 'shooting yourself in the foot'.

As the newspapers have said, Labour need to focus more on appealing to middle England voters. I don't agree with the idea that Miliband's Labour had moved to the left of Tony Blair. If you read the Miliband manifesto in full, you can see it's very centre politically. But what we did do wrong was fail to communicate effectively that we were centre. Something the Daily Mail and The Sun mercilessly exploited and made much capital on. The Labour manifesto for example made very clear, Labour are Pro Business + Pro Worker and not just on one occasion. The Sun photographing Ed Miliband quite normally eating a bacon sandwich (all our faces naturally contort when we are eating) and taking still frames at moments when Ed's mouth was full or he was chewing was simply not cricket. Doubtless The Sun editors liked all the potential 'Pig's Ear' headlines they could use.

Another point is strategically a Conservative win is not necessarily a bad thing. Some may be reading now and shout out 'you're just saying that now because you lost' - but if you want to add me as a Facebook friend you will see I said this long before the election. But why do I say this? Well, Neoliberalism (Tory Economics) can't work/won't work in the long term. It will just cause economic bubbles, blown up with hot air and that eventually go bang. A lot of professional economists say this and so does history. But the problem is if Labour had got in now with say a slim majority whilst the economy is in a slight cyclical upturn, clever and unscrupulous Tories, backed up by the right wing press would have sat on opposition benches and endlessly pushed the idea that only the Conservatives are responsible with the economy. This premise could have been cemented in the publics mind if the economy had  say a little downturn between now and the next election and in 2020, the hard right could have got back in and stayed in for a very long time.

But now we have the Tories back in with no Lib Dems to mitigate their worst excesses; or for the Tories to blame if things go wrong. Don't get me wrong, I hope David Cameron and Tory policy goes right as it will be better for everyone if it does, but alas it's not going to. With the Conservatives in between now and 2020 it gives a chance for their neoliberal/classical economic theory to be proved wrong and for a more moderate party to build up public support. When things go wrong (and not before) is when all those middle England voters will suddenly run to the other side of the ship and that's the exact moment we need to be ready to gather them together with our soundbites and Blue Labour.

After the 7.5.15 general election, I looked at a few articles and in one I saw the words 'Blue Labour' - wow it's a brilliant name I instantly thought, before I had even read any of the ideas associated with the movement. In fact before I had this Damascus moment, I had been thinking how well the words 'New Labour' worked  because they disassociated from a more Red Labour people perceive (wrongly) as being socialist or even communist. I hoped that Blue Labour would have great policies to go with the clever name (as we can't go back to New Labour) and amazingly I found that Blue Labour agreed
with several ideas I had already written about, and also had some good new ideas too.

So why could Blue Labour help us? Well most obviously the name will appeal to Conservative voters, especially Tory voters who mistakenly perceive Labour as anti-business/anti-success. By the way, Labour party colours could be changed from being only red. We need to put some blue and maybe yellow and green in our emblem. Business gains greatly from 'newness' and rebranding so why shouldn't we gain also. We need to once and all break free from the legacy of the Labour Party in the 1970s, the high inflation and rubbish on the streets from the 70's still being used to frighten people into not voting Labour even today.

Blue Labours main policies are as follows:

* An emphasis on Family, Faith and Flag.

* A rejection of neoliberalism with an emphasis on guild socialism and continental corporatism instead.

* The name was introduced by Maurice Glasman, a life peer and academic who is a senior lecturer in political theory at London Metropolitan University.

* A focus on relationships and responsibility.

* An emphasis on values with a more 'conservative' leaning, E.G family, loyalty, community + locality.

* De centralising power from the state, when appropriate - to more locally + democratically run organisations.

* Christian values, policies are viewed as right and wrong.

* Blue Labour call for more housing and a living wage.

You can see how the policies are progressive. The idea of moving power from the State to local organisations, eg housing associations, councils, credit unions is a difficult one at first. But more decentralised power will save tax payers money and ensure services are more geared for local people. Blue Labour has high profile support, John Cruddas, Frank Field, Chuka Umunna, Rowan Williams and more.

A policy suggestion  I'd like to throw out there is a top rate of tax of 30%. Psychologically no-one wants to pay more than 30% and if we persist in advocating higher taxes for the rich, we will just alienate them. The rich are powerful and influential and we need to keep them onside and feeling relaxed about living here. The reduction in the top rate of tax could be paid for by increasing the supply of housing to meet demand, (as well as other policies), increased supply would lower rents, therefore lowering the housing benefit bill; also the reduced rents would increase disposable income and therefore aggregate demand in the economy. What I'm getting at is with a society running more efficiently and equitably, we won't need to collect more than 30% income tax.

Another strategic issue is, to the wealthy Labour backers, I encourage them to support the newspapers more. We were unjustly savaged by the Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph and should we not support the Daily Mirror financially more? Where is our Daily Mail equivalent, centre leaning newspaper? Maybe one needs to be started? Tony Blair got much of the press onside and won three times, if we can't beat the press, maybe we should join them.

You can find out more about Blue Labour in the book Forging A New Politics here. They have a website here. Or you can get an excellent one page fully referenced briefing on Wikipedia here. The only way we are going to win again is big tent politics. As I've stated in earlier articles, we should focus on centrism, being seen to be, and actually being fair to all groups, the poor, the rich and especially to middle England. Lastly, I'm not suggesting we rename the Labour Party 'Blue Labour' - just that we give approval to the ideas, and let the media do the rest.

James Bickle.