Published on January 15th, 2014 |
by Eleanor Newis
Image © Happolati 2010
What Labour Did Next
This month’s Guardian/ ICM poll showed the Labour party’s lead with the electorate slip two points to 35%. They are now only 3% ahead of the Tories, down from 5% last month and 8% the previous month. And if Miliband can’t hold onto The Guardian readers, he really has got problems. In fact, Miliband is currently looking at the same ratings he was last August – before he caused all that kerfuffle about capping domestic fuel bills. Oops. Given that so far Labour’s campaign for 2015 has been pretty much centred on the “cost of living crisis” there could be more problems ahoy if the living crisis is averted. Not that he wants us all to freeze and live on pot noodles, but I imagine the thought has at least occurred to Ed that a triple-dip recession wouldn’t do his election hopes any harm. However Ed, there is an alternative. Remember all those people who tuned into Russell Brand’s interview (yes Ed, people did tune in to listen to an actor talk about anarchy) and the people that are being fleeced of the futures by Osborne’s cuts? Those people: quite a lot of us are old enough to vote.
So, the Labour party has historically been “the party of the working class”. But increasingly, what with the TUC being more interested in its pathetic little attempts at internal politics than any wider political intent – or indeed its own members – and Britain’s electorate becoming more and more dominated by floating voters, this is becoming irrelevant. Yes, there are people who will argue with this. And they would probably be right. But being right doesn’t win elections, and it doesn’t get people voting in a country where political apathy has become the norm. Which is why things need to change; increasingly, “the working class” is too narrow a term for the appeal that Labour needs to make. Miliband doesn’t just need to stand up for the working class, or the (more PR friendly) squeezed middle. No, he needs to stand up for all of the people who are being pushed further and further away from the British political system. And many of these people are between the ages of 18-24 and being ignored by the political right because all the statistics show that pensioners and businessmen are more likely to vote Tory.
So come on Ed: where are you? The recent vow to help out the middle class (I’m not sure how, maybe by increasing Waitrose’s opening hours?) was the first sign of movement from the otherwise inert Labour party for about three months. You do actually want to be Prime Minister, don’t you? Looking closer at that ICM poll, we can see that the Conservative’s 32% hasn’t changed in a while: if they were hoping to claw back public opinion with economic recovery, those hopes have been dashed somewhat. And the Liberals have actually gained 2% – though they are still at, ahem, 14% and only 2% ahead of UKIP. Excuse me while I indulge in a gleeful chuckle of revenge. Anyway, now that’s out of the way – we can see that, in short, if Labour has lost the good opinion they were beginning to cultivate earlier in the year, it is entirely their own fault. Even Alistair Campbell has registered that some hard-hitting policy needs to be presented to the electorate. Suggestions are apparently being muted of renationalising the railways, and a major house-building plan.
Imagine, Ed, imagine the votes you would get if you just addressed a policy or two towards these people.
Whether or not these policies float your boat (and to be honest, renationalisation doesn’t float many peoples’ boats), it’s pretty clear that Labour need to at least do something. Something big. Rhetoric is all very well and good, especially in British politics, but a bit of policy wouldn’t go amiss now and again. Whatever your political affiliation, it is clear that young people are being overlooked and disproportionately negatively affected by the economic policy of this government. And if that’s what economic recovery takes, some would say, then so be it. And fair enough – if there is a proper debate first, and it is established that hell and high water for my generation is the only available path. But that is not what is happening, because there can be no debate when everyone is essentially saying the same thing, but in slightly different words. Many of the “hard working families” politicians are so fond of contain individuals who have never voted, and who are not likely to when two political parties are making them shoulder the economic weight of a recession they did not cause, whilst the other one mumbles about a “cost of living crisis” and turns a blind eye. Imagine, Ed, imagine the votes you would get if you just addressed a policy or two towards these people. The people who aren’t going to vote Tory or Liberal, but who probably also won’t vote for you: because they probably won’t vote. Apart from the votes, you would be doing this country’s youth a massive favour. Someone needs to start the debate about the role of young people in the economic recovery, the election and politics in general. Westminster is too busy using them as an economic crutch and bartering their futures. Can Labour do better?
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