The Issues: Where does Labour stand?

Q: Which of the following issues is the most important for you and your family?

Q: Which is the best Party for dealing with the following issues? (Labour Lead:)

 

I have written here on why I think it is important that Labour has a credible economic plan. At the next election the most important issue will undoubtably be the most important issue for the public. If we are going to move closer to the public on one issue, then it must be the economy or there is little chance of a Labour victory. Labour’s new economic policy seems to be a good start.

 

Source: YouGov and Ipsos-Mori

Labour in 2011: A Year in Review

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.

Voting intention.

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.

Result: D.

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.

What’s next?

*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.

The 50p Tax Rate Doesn’t Work.

320,000 people, or the top 1% of earners pay half of their over £150,000 income to the Treasury. Many of these people are wealthy enough that they can afford measures to legally avoid tax, or even take their bank accounts offshore.

The 50p rate of tax does not work for two reasons.

Firstly, if as the IFS reports, the top rate of tax is causing a £500m net loss to the UK Treasury.

Tax payers money, and money from those earning less than a tenth of the top rate threshold, is spent on enforcing the 50p rate of tax.

That is a potential half a billion pound loss to the Treasury.

£500m that could be spent on teachers, doctors and nurses. Money that could be spent on Sure Start, Building Schools for the Future, or a cut in VAT to help hard working families.

Secondly – The other 99% of people aspire to be part of that 1%.The 50p rate of tax is a disincentive to those who seek to grow their small business, create jobs and train young people.

Cutting the top rate of tax would stimulate growth amongst wealth creators in Britain. Profit can be a powerful motivator, and a potent tool for helping the poorest in society especially where both owner and worker receive a fair deal.

In 1997, the New Labour manifesto pledged that: “There will be no increase in the basic or top rates of income tax”.

This is a pledge that should be made by Labour once again.

By saying that Labour would not raise income tax once again, we would avoid the gesture politics that plagued the Party in the 1980s.

Other measures which are economically efficient, and raise more money for the Treasury should instead be considered. An increase in inheritance tax, combined with an increase of the threshold or a land value tax which cannot be avoided. Both of these measures would ensure that Britain remains competitive in the global economy.

Liberal Democrat President, Tim Farron said this to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Birmingham:

“Are we all in this together? Well, not if we give tax cuts to the rich!

“At a time when 90% of the country is struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, giving a 10p tax cut to those who need it the least, would not just be economically witless, it would be morally repugnant.

“Now of course, all income tax is temporary!

“Income tax was introduced as a temporary measure in 1798 during the Napoleonic wars.

“So my solemn promise to you is that we will get rid of this temporary measure, as soon as we stop falling out with the French.”

Supporting symbolic measures such as the 50p rate, which are economically inefficient and harm the UK economy is a shared by many in the Labour Party, and it is in some ways appealing.

It is not realistic.

If Labour is to prove, as in 1997, that we understand aspiration and are serious about promoting growth and jobs, and providing opportunities for all in society, we should pledge to abolish the 50p rate of tax.

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