Labour has had a pretty mixed 2011. We did very well to gain 857 council seats in the local elections, taking control of an additional 26 councils in may, and 3 more since then.
The Tories had an even better year. They gained more than 20 councils, and had a net increase in the number of councilors.
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, have had an appalling year, but then that’s to be expected. They are Lib Dems, after all.
The 2011 local elections went some way to restoring Labour’s position in local government that had been understandably devastated by 13 years of Government, with both opposition parties being able to make huge gains against Labour across the country, but particularly in the marginal parliamentary seats that Labour needs to be winning to win the 2015 General Election.
I think that it’s pretty easy to say that Labour’s had a good year if you are generally supportive of the present leadership, or that Labour has had an abysmal year, if you aren’t. As the saying goes, anything can be proved with facts, it’s the truth that really matters.
Lots of ink has been spilt on this topic by eminent Labour ‘Comrades’ including Luke Akehurst and Michael Dugher MP . On the other side of the fence sit Peter Watt and Anthony Painter.Take a look at their analysis; I’m going to give my own view.
First, lets start with some facts.
The first poll of voting intention in 2011 according to ICM* showed that Labour was on 39%, the Tories were on 35%, and the Lib Dems were on 15%. This gave Labour a 4% lead, which would have left Labour with a 40 seat majority assuming a uniform swing. Nothing to be sniffed at, a year after we narrowly avoided our worst every general election result.
Heading into 2012, Labour is in a radically different position. The Party finds itself either in a statistical tie with the Tories, or barely achieving a small lead in polling intentions. The final ICM poll, this time for the Daily Telegraph, using an identical system of measurement, Labour would receive 34% of the vote, the Tories would receive 34%, and the Lib Dems would get 14%. This would leave the Conservatives 6 seats short of an overall majority.
There is no way that I can see to say that this is good news, especially when you consider that it is likely that the Labour polling figure is soft, and the Conservatives would have the resources to pump into marginal seats to magnify the swing against Labour. Other pollsters tell a similar story.
Result: C- Must do better.
The next subject to consider is the economy. The economy is undoubtedly the biggest political issue at the moment, and will be the issue that will decide the next General Election. YouGov have helpfully produced a set of compilated data which can be found here.
Who is to blame for the spending cuts?
At the end of 2010, 41% of people blamed Labour for the cuts to spending. 23% blamed the Tories, and 24% blamed Labour and the Tories.
At the end of 2011, 39% still blame Labour. 24% blame the Tories, and 24% blame both.
Pretty poor, considering that we have moved on a year in time, and Labour’s message has been a repetition of the too fast, too far line.
Is too fast, too far working?
Yes and no.
At the end of 2010, 43% of people felt that the spending cuts were bad for the economy. 40% thought that they were good. At the end of 2011, 48% think that spending cuts are bad for the economy, and 35% think that they are a good thing.
That, take alone, would suggest that Labour’s central message is getting through strongly. A 5% reduction over a year in those supporting the cuts isn’t of itself a failure.
The real failure is in convincing people that the cuts are unnecessary. We simply haven’t done it, and the Tories are winning this argument hands down.
At the start of 2011, 55% of people thought that the spending cuts are necessary. 34% think that they are unnecessary.
At the end of 2011, 59% of people think that they are now necessary. 27% now think that they are not.
Pretty terrible, isn’t it? The public agrees that the cuts are too fast, and too far. They think that cutting spending is going to damage the economy. Yet, ultimately, they agree with the Tories. They think that cutting spending and reducing the deficit, whilst painful, is ultimately necessary for the economic well being of the country. The public, unfortunatly, agrees with the swivel eyed fringes Libertarians, and think that public spending should be cut. Shame.
80% of people think that the economy is in a bad position now. At the start of the year, 74% of people thought the same thing. Labour’s message is winning through. But it is being overridden by the Tories. We have failed to convince the public of our credibility on the economy.
Can we salvage our position?
Yes, probably. 2011, has, thankfully, seen the emergence of a really credible alternative to the Government’s economic strategy, and fortunately, it hasn’t come from the Lib Dems. ‘In The Black Labour’, produced by Hopi Sen and Anthony Painter.
I don’t know how you feel after reading the above polling stats. I was pretty shocked at how bad things are. We need a credible position, or frankly, we’re finished. Ed Balls may be right on the economics, but we haven’t convinced the public of that yet.
There is only one really credible alternative at the moment. In The Black Labour provides a radical, and truly Keynesian approach to economics that could restore Labour’s economic credibility. Labour’s polling position, an d the public’s perception of the economic crisis demands that as a responsible opposition, Labour takes all the action necessary to provide a credible alternative to the Government.
Labour’s position is hurting, and it isn’t really working.
*All voting intention figures are based on ICM so as to give the best sense of the change in Labour’s polling numbers, rather than the real figures.