UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 15 May 2015

No right turn

I have previously referred to Ed the Moribund and I was openly critical of his circus act hustings at the last leadership contest surrounded by labour students – an earlier pre-cursor to Milifandom without the notoriety; he struggled to distance himself from the Blair/Brown era and, terrified of the ‘Red Ed’ label, appeared to be neither the darling of the left or the right, popping out like a weather vane to try and please both sides. His early leadership days were beset by waffly concepts – egged on by ill-advisors, like Cruddas, who still tinker with blue labour ideals of replacing public services with co-ops, mutuals and all things woolly rather than making a commitment on hard policy pledges that would capture the hearts and minds of voters.

Too little, and too late, in the campaign he then redeemed himself somewhat with commitments on social housing, energy pricing, a living wage, regulation of the banks and stamping down on tax dodgers, but the messages were weakened by Labours’ own concessions on charges of economic mismanagement. The Tories were allowed to promulgate the myth that ‘labour is to blame’ for the national debt. The truth being of course labour didn’t cause the global collapse of economies in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain or anywhere else for that matter. The election campaign attempted to focus on the NHS ignoring the economy and failing to hold the Tories to account for their own economic mismanagement. Osborne inherited a debt of £1 trillion and it now stands at £1.5 trillion. The Tories lied their way through the general election campaign and got away with it. In doing so they also allowed UKIP to shift the blame for all things ill on to immigration.

Even with these campaign own goals, and a leader that was viciously mocked by the right wing media, and ignoring the landslide victory of the SNP, Labour still managed to secure more votes in England than in many preceding elections albeit they didn’t transfer into seats. So are we expected to just swallow the medicine dished out by the right wing press who would have us believe that Miliband campaign pledges patently failed to connect with voters? Because the hard evidence of voting patterns suggests otherwise. A lurch back to the right, leaving the core labour vote in tatters, is not what is needed. Do we measure our economy on the ability of Osborne to spin his way out of the facts? Or should we be pointing to the food banks and the immorality of a Tory economy which will punish the poor to support the richest? If left ideals are out of fashion can we explain away the phenomenal success of an anti-austerity message from the SNP; a party which ironically contains many right-wing (pro corporation) concepts in its rather well hidden manifesto, but swept to victory on populist left ideals.

There is support for left of centre policies which carry broad appeal. Presentation is however everything. Was it really a mansion tax or a call for a sensible revaluation of outdated council tax banding systems? Is a pledge to address the chronic housing shortage not appealing to the ‘aspirational middle’ whose kids can no longer afford to buy or rent a home of their own and for whom the Tories offer nothing but nimbyism? Miliband’s pledges shouldn’t have lacked appeal to the ‘aspirational middle’ (otherwise known as voters in the South and South East) but for a host of reasons Miliband couldn’t cut the mustard with them but that should not mean labour now needs to lurch back to the right. We should not tolerate being force-fed a right wing analysis and turn ourselves into political foie gras to feed the egos of the redundant New Labour acolytes.

Anna Rose