12th February 2016
Don’t you believe it
They always tell you not to believe everything you read, but should you believe the most reasonable arguments that you hear?
I like to think that you should. But what may seem like reasonable arguments can let you down.
Boris Johnson won the London Mayoralty and became possibly the most powerful Conservative politician in the country. David Cameron may have been the leader but Johnson actually had the power to enact.
Many said that this would be a real test for the Conservatives. People would get the opportunity to see what the party was really like in power after over a decade of being out of government and they would be put off the Tories when it came to the ballot box at the general election.
Of course people’s views will vary on how beneficial Boris Johnson has been for the capital, but I wonder if people were deterred from voting Tory, as the party gained most seats in 2010.
And talking of 2010, I remember getting back to work on the Monday after the general election and kind colleagues consoling me. They used the words that they had heard and said that the country was in a lot of debt and any party that got in would be forced to make swingeing cuts. The people would suffer and it would take a long time for them to forgive the party that made those cuts. Surely it would be better to allow the Tories to do the dirty work so that Labour would reap the benefits of a grateful electorate and we would be sure to win the next time around, and most likely for at least another election after that?
Reasonable, I suppose but how did that one work out? The electorate thanked the Tories for the cuts and gave them a majority in 2015!
It pains me to hear moderates believing that Labour stands a chance of winning in 2020 on the back of public anger over cuts. I cannot see why it should be any different this time. Remember, the Tories are masters of deflecting ‘blame’.
Councils, almost invariably Labour councils, will have to budget when there are even greater cuts from the government, and they are likely to reduce the provision of libraries. So what do I see in my email inbox? A petition from someone against the reduction in library provision and she lays all the blame with the councils and is angry with them. Like many, she does not realise the part the Conservative government is playing in all this. They will escape censure. The result? People who should be voting Labour will continue to vote Tory, thinking that they are the good guys when it comes to the issues that really matter to voters. And junior doctors in 2010, anyone? They were eager to tell us on the doors who they would be voting for, and it was not Labour.
A well-meaning friend is at it now. Telling me how the Tories will not continue to enjoy so much credit over the economy, and that governing parties will always have their low points in the electoral cycle. Voters will be suffering and a Corbynite agenda will be just what they think they need when they have lost their job, or cannot pay the bills, or both.
Many in the Labour party thought we had it sorted when we placed so much emphasis on the bedroom tax and zero hours contracts. We were told the country was crying out for an end to both and they would vote for us based on what we said we would do.
But we forgot that only a very small percentage of people work zero hours contracts, and many of them like the flexibility. Whatever debates we may have over the fairness of the bedroom tax and whether private sector tenants should enjoy spare room provision on an equal footing, it is not easy to get to live in social housing in the first place. Result? Only a minority of voters are affected by the bedroom tax. Labour needed and needs to place as much emphasis on policies that would serve a greater number. We will only win when our offer appeals to people across society.
It is easy to call an election wrong, as reasonable as your conclusions may seem to you. I worked for another organisation in 2004 and my senior colleague had it in for Tony Blair and was vehemently opposed to the Iraq war. Before they found Saddam Hussein my colleague laughed and enjoyed speculating that Saddam was living in luxury in South America and how that would make for a sweet revenge on Blair. No consideration shown for justice for the victims of Saddam.
Then one day I was alone in the office with my colleague and he shouted in my face, blaming me for all the Iraqi lives that had been lost “at the hands of Blair”, seeing as I supported the action. He had already handed in his resignation, but the last thing I remember him telling me was that the Liberal Democrats would win the next general election! This was because the country was so opposed to the war in Iraq and the Lib Dems were the party who had voted against it; they would be rewarded.
Shame I never saw my colleague again to ask him about what happened in 2005. About how the country voted for Tony Blair – despite the Iraq war!
So, what may seem reasonable to you may not be so to everyone else. Some of Corbyn’s ideas may, to some, sound like they should be popular: renationalising the rail network; not allowing dividend payments when companies fail to pay the living wage; getting councils to run our utilities. But can it be enough to defeat a Tory party which gains in popularity?
It is reasonable for me to want a Labour government in 2020. But first we need a leader who can convince the voters that we have a much better offer than the Tories and that we have the competence to deliver it.
A BBC exit poll at 10pm on Thursday 7 May 2020 predicting a clear majority for Labour – that’s what I would like to hear.
By Paddington Baby