Category Archives: Labour Party

Labour’s election nightmare

You might have thought that the Syriza victory in Greece would have given Labour a bit of a lift.  After all, here was electoral proof that anti-austerity campaigning worked.  In one of the hardest hit countries of them all too.  Instead, it provoked a debate about Labour's political caution that then lapped over into their heartland topic of the NHS.

The Guardian's Zoe Williams used the syriza victory to ask why Labour wasn't taking a leaf out of their Greek counterparts' playbook and pursuing a more radical line in "standing up to the moneymen".  Must have been music to Ed Miliband's ears.  Or not, perhaps, for as the New Statesman's Anoosh Chakeelian noted, Mr. Miliband was slow and cautious in his own response to the triumph of the Greek left.

Then the NHS reared its head.  Labour have been playing this as a key election winner for them for ages.  Alas, when shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham appeared on Newsnight on Tuesday, it was  to give a disastrous and bad-tempered interview which saw him cornered by Kirsty Wark over the issue of just how much private provision might be acceptable in a Labour run NHS.  This caused the Telegraph's commentator on all things Labour, Dan Hodges, to predict a Cameron victory in May, not least because of Labour's inability to come up with a decent and consistent narrative on the NHS.

And the battle just keeps on raging.  After Alan Milburn attacked the Labour strategy on the NHS, the fight was joined by Roy Hattersely, defending Miliband against Milburn.  Even the Labour's most admired 'lost leader', Alan Johnson, is rumoured to be muttering about the party's dark mood.  Anyway, for a bit of light relief, here's that Burnham interview again, just in case you'd forgotten the clear, lucid and calm defence he offers which is clearly going to see the Tories into the electoral ditch.

How bad was the Labour Conference?

Maybe not quite as bad as the commentators have suggested.  Certainly, it was no political lighting storm, but then we've just had one of those in the form of the Scottish referendum, and it was rather bad luck for Labour that their conference should come by just as the majority of the British public have had their annual politics fix.  Most people - including the 'ordinary people' name checked by Ed Miliband in his widely panned conference speech - simply aren't engaged with politics.  The chance of creating or rejecting a new nation seems to get them out, but a bog standard party conference isn't going to do the trick, so it would be unfair to be too condemning towards Labour on that front.

Nevertheless, this is an Opposition party that could form the next government heading towards another close election battle, so it is a failure on their part that they didn't even seem able to energise their own supporters. The most admired speech was from an elderly World War Two veteran, while the international guest speaker, Bill De Blasio, mayor of New York, failed to alight the passions of his fellow social democrats.  The two shadow cabinet ministers who seemed to energise their audiences the most were probably Health shadow Andy Burnham (a not very secret contender for the leadership vacancy that most observers think will be sooner rather than later) and Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary.

Miliband's own speech was a seriously uninteresting ragbag of anecdote and under the wire policy ruminations.  His forgotten sections were all the more newsworthy for the remembered bits having been so dull.  His party trick of seeking to memorise the speech probably tells us more about the disconnection of policy-wonks-turned-leaders who think memorising a speech is more important than its content, than it does about his actual policy priorities.

The excellent Spectator Coffee House blog, currently on very good form with several pithy, readable and shrewd updates each day, carries this analysis by Isabel Hardman of what was wrong with the Labour conference.  Politics.co.uk meanwhile is more positive about Ed Miliband generally, but damning about this year's his speech.