What should Labour do?

TECHNICALLY, I’m on holiday for the next couple of weeks, so blogging will necessarily be light; for some reason, Carolyn prefers me to spend time with her and the kids instead of in front of my Mac.

So I’m suggesting an open thread on the subject “What can or should Labour do in order to win the next general election?” I’ll make efforts to dip in occasionally to approve any comments that have been left.



Filed under Blogging, Family life, Labour, Politics

76 responses to “What should Labour do?

  1. Jane

    Follow Jackie Ashley’s recommendation in today’s Guardian.

  2. I doubt there is anything to do now to win an election but here goes. I am working on the basis that Brown is now delusional if not totally mad and so he has to go. Replacing him with Alan Johnson and blaming all of the mess on Brown would help, then Alan providing strong leadership and actually doing something rather than saying ‘we are listening and learning’. Cutting the tons of wasted money and using this to raise the starting rate of tax from £5k ish. Staring a process of building enough gas storage to help us store gas rather than sell it and buy it back dearer. introducing incentives to install solar panels and sell the electricity back to the grid. All incentives to apply to all incomes and not just the poorest.

  3. Don’t panic!

    Expose inept Tory local authorities for what they are.

    Ridicule public shows of disloyalty especially from MPs (but keep open the channels for private expressions of doubt).

    Don’t feed journalists’ column-padding speculations.

    Be happy…

  4. Zorro

    Work out the physics involved in jumping the entire Labour party to an alternative universe. I suspect that’s your only chance. Plus you won’t be missed in this universe.

  5. Johnny Norfolk

    I think its virtually impossible. The first thing to do is to keep your promise on the EU consitution/ treaty and have the referendum, but you wont do that. Make up to loss to ALL that lost out on the 10p tax, but you wont do that, only build new ( eco) towns where local people agree, but you wont do that. You see i could go on and on and tell you what needs to be done you may listen but you wont act. You see Labour thinks iot always knows best, but it does not and that is your problem.

    Car tax
    Government debt
    Central control
    Stealth taxes
    Tax on fuel
    Soft on crime. no room in prisons
    Pay the police what they were due
    Keep rural post offices open
    Same deal for the English as the Scots and Welch

  6. John

    Send a survey form to every household asking for their opinion on running the country and what policies to adopt.

    We ALL think we know better than politicians and could run the country blindfolded. It would be our opportunity to prove it 🙂

  7. Johnny Norfolk


    When more money is spent on food for prisoners, than on people who are in hospital tells you all you need to know about this Labour government.

  8. James

    Put Gordon in a box marked “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL JANUARY 2012”
    Find someone, anyone, in the Labour Party with charisma, put them in charge.
    Tell us the truth, no lies, no spin, and DON’T screw us for any more tax.
    p.s. Your wife is right, but you know that anyway.

  9. Chris' Wills

    You should stand by the great and oh so intelligent and charismatic Gordon Brown, have him and that young thing Harriet Harman tour the country telling everyone how great they are and how much they’ve done for everyone. Oh yes, don’t forget to remind us that we are ungrateful sods.

    You know in your heart that the Labour party has done nothing wrong and that your predicament is soley down to the biased media reporting the wrong facts.

    Stand by your man, be strong in adversity and surely your righteousness will be revealed and your vision of unlimited expense accounts (for you and your mates) will be a beacon of light to the darkest soul toiling to pay your bills.

    P.S. Has Labour paid its debts yet?

  10. Richard

    Seriously, just go. How long will it take and how many elections must you lose before you realise that you’re done for? Every daft policy the unions force you to enact will be undone by the Conservatives and every bonkers giveaway you institute (don’t get me started on the stupidity of suggesting a raid on energy company profits at a time when costs are rising) will just be another coffin nail the Tories will need to unprise later.

    Just go.

  11. Richard – you seem to believe that democratically-elected governments should resign if they fall behind in the polls, without even a general election being held. Good for you!

  12. Jim Baxter

    It’s a great pity that nobody challenged Brown for the Labour party leadership. Had, say, Milliband done so, lost, and, say, vindictively, been kept out of a Cabinet post, imagine how he’d look now. He wouldn’t have to say, ‘I told you so’. But he Portilloed it. I greatly admire Alan Johnson but he doesn’t seem to want the job, which is surely an excellent qualification for having it. Look what happens when you get someone who wanted nothing else.

    Brown is constitutionally incapable of connecting with people. We hear all the storiries about how different he seems when you actually meet him. They said the same about John Major. I believe it about John Major but what I hear about Brown is that he shouts and bawls, sometimes at very junior people, sulks, and behaves generally like a particularly maladjusted three year old. Different indeed. A man who can’t run himself can’t run the country. He’s now a bigger threat to the integrity of the UK than is Alec Salmond, as Glasgow East has shown. He seems to think that we are fools who can be bought with trinkets, something Cameron has picked up on, and that what he says three times is true and how dare we not believe him. He’s deluded, as Crown says, maybe he needs help – either way, the country definitely needs someone else.

    I think Purnell is your man. He’s not been tainted with the story, as Milliband has, that he ‘bottled it’ despite being urged to stand. Will he now bottle it too and not stand if Milliband stands? Maybe he has the time to play the long game, let Milliband take the fall. But if nobody stands, well, you will all sit down hard. And I don’t wish that on Tom Harris who seems to be one of the few sane ones.

  13. John Taylor

    Sticking strictly to the question asked, I believe that all the Labour Party can do is sit tight and hope for better fortunes for them and/or the country over the next 18 months – with Gordon Brown in charge. And don’t laugh – I offer this as a serious suggestion as there is simply no alternative.

    They can’t change leader now irrespective of whether there is an alternative or not – yes, I know that they can from a constitutional perspective but to do so would further irk the public and excite the media to the point of collapse of all credibility for ever. They can’t have an election now as that would be a guaranteed defeat no matter how rose-tinted the glasses.

    Unfortunately Gordon Brown is just not liked (not hated either, but that’s not enough). My personal view is that the electorate at large feel that no-one elected him therefore he has rudely imposed himself. Ironically, if the Labour Party stick the knife in him, he will attract a degree of sympathy from the public and the media that he never got before. Sticking with Gordon Brown will at least give the impression that there is no inner turmoil and then you just have to take your chances with the current political wind.

    I would have suggested imaginative new policies (either to appease the left or right) but, as he hasn’t come up with them in the last 13 months, I doubt he will start now. And the last 2 years of a term is not the best time to start navel-gazing as to which part of the population you want to appeal to.

    Alternatively, repeat the phrases “we’re listening and learning”…”getting on with the job”…”sharing your pain”…until everyone slips into apathy.

  14. Angelin

    Clearly there is an intense public dislike of Mr. Brown.
    If he clings to power you will lose the next election. If he resigns the pressure will grow for an immediate General Election.
    So my solution is for Gordon to dissappear.
    I think the Darwin canoe trick is out of the question. The Stonehouse pile of clothes left on the beach, a possibility.
    Perhaps you Tom, could arrange for the Tardis to whisk him away. Win-win result all round really. Gordon could rule it over some distant galaxy, Labour gets to have a proper new leader election. New leader reverses all Labour policies to applease the public. Labour win the next election. Job done.
    Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

  15. Auntie Flo'

    I think you should ditch Brown and swap him for Miliband (either one will do) or Purrrrrnell. Hehehehehehe 🙂

  16. Tizzy

    Get John Denham to take the job. Now that’s cleared up, have a good holiday.

  17. Martin Cullip

    Johnny Norfolk has hit the nail on the head. Stop hectoring us and allow us some semblance of self-control in our lives, not just what Labour want.

    Public consultations that aren’t open to the public but highly-funded lobby groups instead, manifesto commitments that mean jack. Labour have treated the voting public with contempt and no amount of “we’re listening” repeated ad infinitum will change the fact that we have completely lost trust in anything you say.

    Why is Labour ‘targeting’ the middle classes (and spending £millions) for drinking too much wine, nothing to do with you. Why has Labour allowed ever-increasing enforcement powers to local councils for ever more trivial offences while real crime goes unpunished? Why is it that in the past one would write to one’s MP and get a personal reply, whereas now Labour MPs send a generic “Thanks for writing but our self-reported stats say you’re irrelevant”.

    You have set the standard for non-accountability to the public and you have raised the bar incredibly high. More and more barmy schemes are enacted that ignore the real problems and make your policies appear ridiculous.

    For example, Liam Donaldson talks of ‘tackling’ obesity in the same week that local Governments are rewarding teenagers for NOT breaking the law with cheap McDonalds!

    What a mess. You took a country at ease with itself and with a public that were happy co-habiting, and instead pandered (in a wide variety of matters) to those who have a spiteful vendetta against some form of society. And then you wonder why we are all at each other’s throats.

    Minor problems are given the ban treatment without a second thought (Police don’t even bother with some of your nonsense – tape measures for kids in cars for example), you criminalise law-abiding people for such massive trangresses like putting too much litter in exactly where it is supposed to be put, the bin. You pass the European nonsense without even a by-your-leave to the people who are affected by it and voted you in on the understanding that they WOULD have a say.

    Your Government is rotten and has forgotten that it is serving the people, not vice versa.

    Early reports from your policy thing in Warwick suggest that you aren’t going to change so it really doesn’t make a blind bit of difference who is steering the ship. Until you work out that people don’t like you because you have shown emphatically that you don’t give a stuff about THEM, you won’t win a plastic whistle in a lucky dip.

    You still aren’t listening after many defeats and the signs are that you never will.

  18. I think you should create a million “green” collar climate-change friendly jobs that will “generate” new prosperity for the people of Glasgow East (or South, as the case maybe). Oh, and you could also introduce a windfall tax on the energy companies’ excessive profits they have experienced.

    All that will go down well with the “lower and middle classes” but, just to make sure, you could tax the higher income earners. That’s always a vote winner. (But if you piss off the wealth creators too much they will go elsewhere to make their pile.)

    That’s about it, really. I don’t think you need to do anything else to lose the next general election by a country mile. Just listen to your trade union brothers and sisters and you won’t go far wrong.

    Anyway, have a nice holiday with your family, Tom. My lot are doing a weekend in Liverpool – European City of Culture – including a visit to Anfield for the benefit of the 11-year old – followed by a week in a teepee in Northumberland. (Don’t ask!)

  19. Chris' Wills


    You say that Labour won’t win and I agree but also say a prayer.

    However, they have been like this since they came into power many years ago (they started corrupt and got moreso) and sadly our fellow subjects re-elected them more than once. No wonder they have contempt for the public.

    Their only hope is that, as 50% of the electorate have an IQ 100 (too many apathetic electors out there) stupidity and ignorance will triumph over sense and self interest (lots of people seem to be happy to cut off their noses to spite their faces and accept the lies of NuLabor) once again.

    I am sure of two things; the infinite extent of the universe and human stupidity, though sometimes I wonder about the universe.

    It is the stupidity that they have to bank on.

  20. Johnny Norfolk

    A point that shows what is wrong, In the days of the Tory governments you would often have the top ministers on television on QT, or Newsnight.face to face with interviewers. Now we very rarely see the top person, its either a junior minister or the chairman of some related committee or more often than not ‘ no one was available to comment’
    This just shows a lack of contempt when ministers cannot argue their case in public and will not take hostile questions even from the leftie BBC. You see you cannot defend what you have done to this country and choose to avoid difficult situations.

    I still dont think you understand how the country (and I do not use this word lightly) hates Labour.

    Today we are told that supermarkets must reduce the use of plastic bags by 70% by next spring or else. Yet you do nothing about the plastic containers that fruit and veg are sold in and lots of other pre packing materials. You are just punising the customer and doing nothing about the real problem.My council insists that all my rubish must be put in plastic bags before it goes in my bin, so every bag a get is re used. if the bags from supermarket stop I will have to buy them. Just stop interfearing. Leave us alone.

  21. Richard

    What I think is that your government no longer represent the majority of the people in this country. The polls + by-elections and London election and local government elections are merely a symptom of how unpopular you’ve become.

    Lashing out wildly, creating policies for which you have no electoral mandate is merely the last symptom of a dying government in terminal decline.

  22. I don’t think you understand just how much Labour are loathed, from Brown down to the Millibands, Cooper, Balls and Tiny Tears (Blears) herself. Its your breathtaking incompetence, from the complete lack of any clue about what you have got into in Afghanistan right through to ID cards. You have wasted, squandered, blown, set fire to millions and millions of pounds. You buy two aircraft carriers yet squaddies are dying in twenty five year old Landrovers meant to be used in Ireland. The NHS spine computer, whoosh, millions up in smoke.
    I will be opening the champagne when you and the rest of your ilk are slung out of office. The sooner the better and I hope you have to go through your own worthless job schemes.

  23. Johnny Norfolk

    My final comment on this.

    When I read what many have said it boils down to the fact that you have interfeared in so many minor areas that have iritated us so much and have not dealt with the big issues or have made a mess of them.
    The best thing you could do is go back and try and put right the things you have messed up and then do nothing at all.

  24. Auntie Flo'

    Diablo said:
    you should create a million “green” collar climate-change friendly jobs that will “generate” new prosperity for the people of Glasgow East (or South as three case may be)

    In other words, more quangoes and quango related ‘enterprises’, Harriet Harman’s million Green Quangoes?

    All paid for by yet more unsustainable taxation of millions of hard working people and the four million small companies which employ 99.9 of UK’s workforce who are already struggling to survive?

    Why not, Tom! Ignore the fact that it’s the creation of millions of, often overpaid and grotesquely perked, Mickey Mouse jobs exactly like the ones Harman’s proposing that has done so much damage to our economy in recent years and got us into the mess we’re in, with no money in the UK kitty to weather the recession.

    Ignore the fact that UK’s few hundred thousand corporate giants and supermarkets, the people who really run the country, will just pass their share of the cost of this onto SMEs and the consumer and tighten their garrotte -like stranglehold on all of us.

    All Ms Harman’s proposal will do is to compound our present economic problems. It will simply mean the government replacing even more of the irrational, unproductive, me tooist and elitist troughs of unregulated capitalism with even more irrational, unproductive, me tooist and elitist troughs of unregulated, so called, social enterprise PFIs.

  25. Flo – Not sure Diablo was being entirely serious, but don’t start me on the perils of attempting irony in the electronic meeja.

  26. Auntie Flo'

    I know, Tom, but hopeless Harriet Harman isn’t.. and your government may just listen to her, God help us.

  27. Auntie Flo'

    You might add to the perils of attempting irony in the elctronic meeja the perils of not fully reading the previous post before replying. I of course meant that Harriet Harman is taking her proposed million green collar jobs seriously…God help us all.

  28. Auntie Flo'

    I can just imagine being a fly on the wall at Harman’s meetings on this insane proposal.

    “I’ve got it! We can make all the COEs of these grotesquely expensive green collar quangoes and PFIs female and use them to dismantle the glass ceiling…they could be all women enterprises and……”

    Bl**dy Nora, God help us.

  29. DMEA

    Tom, am I banned from commenting? You didn’t moderate my last three posts. I didn’t swear or use bad language, although I did use “Zanu-Labour” and “Liebour”. Does that count as anti-social behaviour?

  30. DMEA – perhaps you would have no objection if I were to use the phrase “national socialist” to describe the SNP?

  31. devorgilla

    Gordon has to go!!! I predicted 10 years ago that if that man ever led the Labour party he would be the death of it, and everybody laughed at me. Gordon has an entrenched Scottish Labour fan-club, I realised.

    But I was right – this sounds really bad, but I am never wrong about things I have a strong gut feeling over. Never. And I had a very, very strong gut feeling about Gordon. I wish I were wrong! I’d be a happier person if I was as short-sighted as everybody else. Ignorance is bliss!

    No, seriously, he MUST go. He is hopeless as a leader. You have to be many things to be a leader. It’s not just a matter of brains and commitment as Gordon thinks. You have to be able to motivate people, especially when they are down; you have to be able to persuade opposite views to agree, get everybody on board; you have to be able to make people feel special; you have to be able to charm the media; laugh at yourself; appear self-effacing whilst all the while pursuing a clear vision in a charmingly off hand but actually determined and consistent manner; you have to be able to listen to people, draw in their views in creative ways that makes them feel listened to, like they have made a contribution, but also benefit constructively from their feedback, delegate…. none of these skills of the modern political leader, does Gordon have. Let’s face it, he is just not a people person.

    But the absolute worst of his sins is his arrogance. It’s that he lacks the ability to see his own limitations that I can’t forgive him for. And neither can Joe Public. That he should ever have thought he could be a leader is the worst of his faults. Gordon is excellent as a second in command, doing sums quietly in the background. He doesn’t belong in the limelight and should realise this.

    That was his worst political misjudgement, and from what I hear he remains unrepentant.

    Secondly, policy needs to change to alleviate the distress felt by the poorest in the current climate. In other words, some of the New Labour project needs to be clawed back.

    Otherwise the ‘left’ of the party will split the whole party down the middle. You are entering a serious prospect of involentary suicide. You must keep the party together; some small concessions like abolishing prescription charges, lowering fuel duty, would make you more popular without costing much and would help keep the Left on board.

  32. Richard

    Short of a meteor hitting Millbank tower I can’t see any reasonable way for Labour to win the next election.

  33. Frank Davis

    Tom asks us to consider: “What can or should Labour do in order to win the next general election?”

    Sorry, but I seem to be quite incapable of thinking about this. I can only consider just how badly I would like to see Labour crushed at the next election. . Would I like to see them with 50 seats in the next House of Commons, or 5 seats, or none at all? Would I like to see the Labour party very badly beaten, or utterly destroyed?

    I won’t flog my usual dead hobby horse. The other comments here say it well enough. The Labour party seems to have forgotten that it governs on behalf of the people, as its elected representative. They have instead regard the democratic process as something that writes them a blank cheque to do whatever they like until the next election comes around; to be an absolute monarch, a king for a day. They have behaved as tyrants. And that’s why everyone hates them. Although each person has different particular reasons for hating them.

    The worst of it, unfortunately, is that this same conceit afflicts all the parties. The Conservative party is, sadly, likely to behave in exactly the same high-handed fashion as the Labour party, and with the same disdain and contempt for the British people. Cameron, like Blair and Brown before him, seems to think that he alone knows what’s good for the British people, and will accordingly set about imposing his own doctrines upon them, the god-awfulness of which will only become apparent to everybody in the fullness of time, when they will hate the Tories as much as they now hate Labour.

    We don’t so much have a problem with the Labour party, as with the entire established political class. They no longer represent us. They work in the service of other interests. They have their own agenda which has now become almost entirely detached from that of the electorate that put them in office.

    Nothing exemplifies this better than Global Warming. It seems to be de rigueur these days for every pundit and politician to mention Global Warming as “the most serious problem that humanity has faced in a century”.or some such tripe. David Miliband comes to mind, earnestly telling a Question Time audience exactly this a year ago. But do you find it discussed in our (wrecked) pubs and clubs? No. Nobody gives a toss about it. And anyone who does actually take an interest in it, and investigates a little, soon finds out that it’s complete claptrap, sheer science fiction. Yet somehow or other the political classes – with their heads quite literally in the clouds – manage to believe nonsense that the humblest lollypop lady could never contemplate. Such is the degree of disconnect now, that I half expect some politician to respond to rising food prices by saying something like, “Let them eat cake.”

    I hope the Labour party is decimated at the next election. I hope it is bankrupted. But I fear that, no sooner than this has been done, the electorate will have to set about destroying the Conservative party as well. And the Lib-Dems too. At the end of this process of purgation, we might find that we have a new and realistic political class with a new and humbler appreciation of the nature of democracy. If not, perhaps we should consider getting rid of all these elected representatives, and replace them with a direct democracy, in which the British people themselves vote in Parliament in some sort of e-democracy.

  34. So, Frank, can I assume that the main problem with all the parties is that they don’t agree with your opinion on everything?

  35. Richard

    Piece in The Times today was most interesting. Apparently a number of Junior Ministers are planning to resign in September to pave the way for a Milliband / Harman leadership contest.

    Can you shed any light on the veracity of this story?

  36. Auntie Flo'

    Tom said:

    So, Frank, can I assume that the main problem with all the parties is that they don’t agree with your opinion on everything?

    That isn’t how I read Frank’s post, Tom. What he seems to me to be saying is that politicians,in general, and your government in particular, have made themselves almost unaccountable.

    Your government have done that to such an extent that most Labour politicians now behave as though the government are our masters and we, the people, are the government’s servants.

    The power you exercise doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to us, the people, as Tony Benn rightly says. And it is our power that you’ve given away to the unaccountable and corrupt EU, without any consultation with us whatsoever and having broken your word and manifesto undertaking to give the people of UK a referendum on Constitutional change.

    It’s our money that you spend and our lives that you regulate and interfere with – increasingly punitively.

    I totally agree with Tom regarding this.

    Your government have turned yourselves into a hugely privileged elite. You talk of social justice. Well where is the justice in politicians exempting their grotesque expenses from the taxation and accountablity that all other decent, hard working citizens are subjected to?

    You’ve even exempted yourselves from many of the draconian regulations and investigatory powers that blight the lives of what Prescott calls ‘the ordinary people’ – gee thanks, Prezza.

    You’ve turned our country into a surveilance state. Even the government’s own information commissioner has warned of the dangers of this.

    Why, with just 1% of the world’s population, does UK have 20% of the world’s surveilance systems?

    Why is UK blacklisted, and classed alongside dictatorships like China and Russsia, by Privacy International? How shameful is that?

    Why are your government trying (though not succeeding) to force ID cards on us? Why are you fingerprinting us – and little children?

    Why don’t your government trust US Tom? And given that they don’t, why are you surprised that we don’t trust you any longer?

  37. “I totally agree with Tom regarding this.”

    I liked that bit.

  38. Auntie Flo'

    Good point. I do respect you, Tom, because – almost alone among your government – you have the decency and guts to post even highly critical comments to your blog. Thank you for that.

    However, you don’t seem to accept anything that we’re saying.What comes across from so many of your postings is that you think those of us who are critical of nulabour either do so on behalf of other parties or are simply whiners and idiots who can’t see, or refuse to see, how wonderful nulabour are .

  39. Flo – Please don’t forget that, as well as a blogger, I’m a government minister, and that means two things: I will always respect the collective responsibility of the government; and I will do everything I can to promote the Labour Party and to campaign unequivocally for a Labour victory at the next (and every) election.

  40. Johnny Norfolk

    I totaly agree with Mr Davies and Auntie Flow’.

    And Tom there you have it,theanswer to your question. and you totaly disagree with them and that is why you will loose the next election.

  41. Adam

    You need to rebuild the electoral coalition that got you elected in 97. To get back:

    1) Southern english liberals – ditch ID cards
    2) Aspirational white working class folk in Midlands/South England – reverse car tax increases.
    3) The whole of Scotland – Robustly explain the consequences of voting SNP at the next election; ie a Tory Gov in London by the backdoor.
    4) Public sector workers – explain that the choice is not between the ‘Labour Gov of you dreams and this Labour Gov, but between this Labour Gov and a Tory Gov’.

    and to everyone; empathise with their economic pain.

  42. Andrew F

    Tom Harris for leader of the Labour party, anyone? 😉 You’re 1. electable, 2. interesting and 3. basically out to do the right thing… you’d be a contender for my vote. Cameron was a relative unknown when he took the Tory leadership.

    I’m honestly not convinced that the next Labour PM is in the current cabinet.

  43. Richard

    You must genuinely see that there’s little or no chance of winning at the next election though, especially with Brown as leader…

  44. Frank Davis

    That isn’t how I read Frank’s post, Tom… most Labour politicians now behave as though the government are our masters and we, the people, are the government’s servants. – Flo’

    Thanks, Flo’. That is more or less exactly what I mean. To mount my hobby horse once more, the real reason why I hate the smoking ban was that the government overrode the wishes of the British people, who voted for a partial ban (and 70% of whom regularly polled in opinion polls in favour of a partial ban). and imposed a total ban on them which is now wrecking their social lives and bankrupting their pubs. If the British people had wanted this ban, I wouldn’t have minded (so much). But they didn’t. It was imposed on them against their will.

    So, Frank, can I assume that the main problem with all the parties is that they don’t agree with your opinion on everything? – Tom

    No. It’s not about whether political parties agree with me personally on everything. That’ll never happen. It’s about the absolutely fundamental matter of whether political parties reflect the will of the people – or reflect something else (such as the will of the medical establishment – in the person of Liam Donaldson – in the case of the smoking ban).

    My concern is that, once Labour has been consigned to oblivion, we’ll still be stuck with a Conservative government who, like Labour, think it’s their job to paternalisticlly tell us how to live our lives, rather than to reflect our wishes of how we wish to live those lives. My concern is not so much with any particular policy, but with democracy itself, which now seems to be coming more and more under threat on a variety of fronts.

  45. Jim Baxter

    Labour is going to lose the next election. That is as close to being a fact as something that is not yet a fact can be. And my guess is that every time some minister comes on the TV or the radio to tell us that Brown is the right man to steer us through difficult times labour loses yet more votes. who are these people talking to? Each other I suppose, because the public have switched off. Harman was giving us the same refrain on Sunday. Glasgow East would not have been lost to Labour but for the difficulties with the economy. No doubt there is truth in that but Huw Edwards missed his chance to say that it would not have been lost under a PM who is credible and appears honest, who doesn’t flash a random rictus grin, who doesn’t blatantly lie through those whitened teeth. Speaking of Edwards, he called her ‘Harriet’. Would he call Brown ‘Gordon’? Maybe they are personal friends but that was inexcusable. Maybe he’s just a fool.

    Tom Harris is my MP and I think he’s a good one. I agree that for him to allow on here some of the comments that are made shows guts and a commitment to democracy. I like the circulars you send round Tom. I even read them. But I won’t vote for you as long as a vote for you is a vote for Brown. Lose him and you have one vote back at least.

  46. Auntie Flo'

    Flo – Please don’t forget that, as well as a blogger, I’m a government minister, and that means two things: I will always respect the collective responsibility of the government; and I will do everything I can to promote the Labour Party

    Point taken. Though does that beg the question of: which Labour Party? New Labour, Old Labour – or a modernised Old Labour?

  47. DMEA

    Tom said: “DMEA – perhaps you would have no objection if I were to use the phrase “national socialist” to describe the SNP?”

    That would suit me fine, Tom. 😉

    Seriously, the answer to your question is not that difficult. People are over-taxed. People are over-regulated. People are fed up with bossy government telling them how to live their lives and poking their nose into every little thing. People feel like their incomes are dying a death by a thousand cuts and it’s no longer worth working just to have it all taken away. People can cope with a lot if the economy is ticking over nicely and they feel like they’re getting out what they’re putting in. But economic activity in this country has been taxed and regulated to death.

    Get this one right – cut taxes and slash red tape, running up a big budget deficit in the short-term if you have to – and the opportunities will open up to do anything else. I once went to see the former Estonian Prime Mart Laar, who when asked how he created such an innovative, dynamic high-tech economy simply replied: “I don’t know. I’m not an economist. All I know is that the more I cut taxes, the more jobs became available, the more money everyone had and the more revenue came into the government budget”. Why don’t we follow this example? Why assume that cutting taxes means cutting public services. Can you tell me how many policemen and nurses and essential public services this government had to cut to pay for Northern Rock, or the Crewe and Nantwich election 10p tax rate election bribe? The answer is none. So why assume that cutting taxes to stimulate the economy would require such “cuts”.

  48. Harry T.

    Go back in time via Dr Who’s Tardis and make sure the current Prime Minister is not elected as leader!

  49. Finally get on with delivering your 1997 manifesto promise and reform the voting system for Westminster as the first stage of moving towards a full federal system.

  50. Martin Cullip

    “So, Frank, can I assume that the main problem with all the parties is that they don’t agree with your opinion on everything?”

    Good Lord Tom, I thought you were better than that!

    Frank is one of your employers, your job is to agree with ALL of his opinions if you possibly can. Why on Earth do MPs now seem to think that they are somehow superior and can blithely ignore the electorate’s concerns with a bit of arrogant dismissal?

    Tom, no matter how much you think you know better, you don’t. You’re not there to know better, you are there to accommodate the wishes of ALL the public, not just the majority and certainly not business or lobby group interests disproportionally to the wishes of your voters (which Labour have done countless times quite shamelessly).

    Frank didn’t post anything that most here wouldn’t agree with. Cameron is a spawn of the twisted Blair Labour doctrine of ‘ignore the people, we only need them every few years’. The problem with Labour is that once they got the votes, they competely abandoned the policies on which they based their election campaign.

    Labour thankfully won’t win again in my lifetime, and whilst you have a sense of humour and are one of the better ones Tom, I seriously hope Labour will be purely a brief footnote in history after the shocking way they have turned a once proud institution into a hateful, vindictive crusade against their own public.

    Labour don’t care about people, they care about themselves and those who have money and bend their ears. Never has democracy been such an empty ideal when our millions of votes aren’t nearly as powerful as the votes cast by just a few people after the democratic charade has been played out.

    I’d join Labour again the day that Labour tell highly-paid lobbyists from huge companies and {cough} charities “The people run this country and they vote accordingly, nothing you can say will sway us from representing the people and all their diverse opinions. If you want your say, stick an X on the ballot paper like everyone else … now get lost!”.

  51. Irony – moi? All those sleeps ago I was trying to be helpful – honest!

    It seems that David Miliband has already launched his leadership campaign and Harriet is hovering in the background. Interesting times for the Zan… oh, sorry, we can’t use that term, can we?

    On a less serious note, I think the forthcoming party conference season is going to be one of the most riveting we’ve had for at least a year.

    Labour will come out with some of the most “eye-watering, progessive, radical and tax raising policies” we’ve heard for, oh, let’s see, well over a month; the Conservatives will surprise their supporters by saying that have ditched the link to the government’s spending plans and will pledge to sort out the mess that the Labour Party has made over the last 11 years: and the LibDems will say whatever they think will give them a decent showing at the next general election.

    What do you think, Tom? No need to reply straightaway – you are on holiday after all. (How’re the batteries on the Blackberry?)

  52. Johnny Norfolk

    This is why we feel under constant threat (in todays DT. ) It just never stops its drip drip all the time. It feels like a police state not free England.

    and its your department

    “New parking fine threat to motorists”

    “Millions of motorists risk being fined up to £70 for “anti-social parking” such as parking more than 19 inches from the kerb even if there are no warning signs under new proposals unveiled by the Government. “

  53. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom I just re read one of your posts.

    ” I’m a government minister, and that means two things: I will always respect the collective responsibility of the government; and I will do everything I can to promote the Labour Party and to campaign unequivocally for a Labour victory at the next (and every) election.”

    It should mean 3 things. There is only mention of party not country. and that is Labour, only interested in the left wing ideals of the party.

    You put party before country and its people, and there we have it, and that is why your party will never recover from this.
    If you get any job offers I would take them if I were you.

  54. Jane

    I share Jim Baxter’s post regarding the leadership. I am a political anorak and read all political books. Blair Unbound gave an even clearer picture of the PM and how he functioned as a technocrat, a “calculating machine”, his rudeness and his belief that he had the God given right to be leader.

    I read with interest the article by Bryan Gould in the Guardian yesterday. He claims that the Labour Party inherited an economy released from the ERM which permitted us to outperform other European Countries. He suggests that the past ten years was based on good fortune and it incorrectly inflated GBs unearned reputation.

    Regardless of all the negative reporting, I will never forgive GB and his cohorts for the removal of Tony Blair. OK GB did not wield the knife to put in Tony Blair’s back but do not tell me he did not know and agreed with the actions of Tom Watson et al. Everything I have read suggests he knew and was in agreement with the coup. However, he is of course clever and nothing could be traced back to him. I find it astonishing now that his associates are calling for loyalty. As you sow etc etc……

    It seems apparent to me that the PM is unable to articulate a vision of where the party is going despite his great grasp of politics. It is no good saying someone is an excellent politican has a wonderful intellect etc. Leadership demands other qualities and sadly the PM is lacking. I do not see him improving – he is mature and whilst he has improved his image – hair, suits etc he cannot be taught how to be comfortable in the media. I cringe with his forced smile etc. He is better with his figures and plotting to outmanoevre the Tories. The 10p tax fiasco (I am still £112 a year worse off) clearly outlines his problems. The tax iniative was to score a point over the Tories (he reportedly stated that the Tories were never able to reduce the basic rate to 20%), he failed to listen to others(I wrote to the Treasury following the announcement) about the millions who would suffer, and as David Miliband said today in his article in the Guardian, the government needs to show humility when things go wrong. Oh how much better it would have been if the PM had said from the very beginning – I made a mistake and I am sorry. The damage is done and somehow I cannot see him retrieving the goodwill of the public.

    What should the party do? I feel really concerned that whatever we do we may lose the next election. However, I somehow feel that we would do better or the loss will be not be as great if we change leader. Further, I would like to see some of the party stalwarts brought back into the cabinet. I would plead with John Reid and Alan Milburn to return and most definitely bring back Charles Clarke. (Have you read Janet Daley’s article in the Telegraph about her attendance at a forum run by Charles Clarke? She went as far as saying that the Conservatives would not have a chance of winning the election with someone like Charles Clarke in a top job). I would demote some of the PMs close associates who may have a wonderful intellect but are ghastly and patronising. I do not need to mention names….

    In the past year I have been in despair at some policies which have felt to me like they are in response to getting headlines rather than for the common good. Reclassification of drugs went against all expert opinion and appeared to be for the headlines. I have also felt that some Ministers have been patronising to the public during interviews. The Minister put up to explain the 10p tax issue started a diatribe on class rather than satisfy those effected. . As I was effected (retired under aged 65) I was furious that the Minister (YC) refused to apologise. Similarly other Ministers seem to treat the electorate as if they were morons. The Nanny state seems to have been in overdrive and again David Miliband hinted at this today with his assertion that power needs to be removed from the centre.

    We have gone through bad times in the past. Somehow, this feels greater. We have not only lost the support of Middle England but the working class vote too. It could be that party loyalties are no longer relevant and more people will support a party that they feel warm towards. We have to be more reactive to changing needs and a more articulate public with a greater knowledge of what is going on in government due to technological advances. I too can read Documents lodged in the House of Commons Library, Select Committee reports etc etc. The Party should be embracing all this change – it is not!

    Whatever, I am going to remain optimistic…….

  55. Frank Davis

    Why on Earth do MPs now seem to think that they are somehow superior and can blithely ignore the electorate’s concerns with a bit of arrogant dismissal? – Martin Cullip

    Why indeed? It’s not just Labour MPs. I’ve been living in Tory constituencies for the past 20 or more years, and my last Tory MP used to just write back to me to tell me he “didn’t agree” with whatever it was I’d written to tell him. I took great pleasure in voting him out of his seat 10 years or so ago. My current Tory MP is rather better, but an anti-smoker. She wrote to tell me that her father had been a smoker, and died of a heart attack aged 50. “Guess what caused it,” she added, as if it was painfully obvious.

    Maybe the truth is that MPs have always thought they were superior beings of some sort (an Elect?), and it’s just that voters are now starting to demand more of them. Perhaps for many MPs, it has often just been a nice, cushy job – or a passport to greater things.

    It’s to Tom’s great credit that he runs this blog. It’s not something he has to do. But he clearly enjoys it, and he’s interested in the opinions that people express, even if he doesn’t agree. How many other MPs do that? A bare handful, as far as I can see. Tom, it seems, is one of those rare MPs who is actually interested in what other people think. But it shouldn’t be rare. It should be a commonplace. Anyone who becomes an MP should recognise that they’re taking up a very important post in which it is going to be their onorous job to more or less constantly listen and respond and argue and consider.

    But who is going to make that happen? Not the MPs. It’s probably going to have to be up to us voters.to do something more than just cast our vote every 5 years. We could set up organisations (on the internet maybe) to keep a close eye on MPs, report what they’re saying and doing. naming and shaming the ones (of whatever party) who’re not pulling their weight. Under that sort of public scrutiny, the bad MPs would be driven out, and replaced by a new breed who’d see themselves as fully accountable to the electorate. To some extent perhaps this is already beginning to happen

    That would be something of a revolution in itself. But it’s one that demands that us voters be more active than we have been. Voters are going to have to get off their backsides too. Oops.

  56. Frank, you wrote “my last Tory MP used to just write back to me to tell me he ‘didn’t agree’ with whatever it was I’d written to tell him.”

    Well, at least he was honest and didn’t try to “soft soap” you. Were you offended because he didn’t share your views? What if your next door neighbour were to write to the same MP expressing directly opposing views to you? How should the MP respond to these two constituents? By telling them that he agrees with them both, or by telling the truth?

    Democracy isn’t just about doing in parliament what your electorate wants you to do (not always an easy thing to judge, anyway) – it’s also about being held accountable at the next election for judgments that you have made on your constituents’ behalf. Every decision – particularly controversial ones – will, by definition, be supported by some of an MP’s constituents and opposed by others. That is unavoidable.

  57. Danus McKinlay

    I think we should all just take a holiday and see how the land lies at the start of September I mean there is no point in plotting at the moment BlackBerry bills will be sky high everyone is abroad best do it when everyone is back in the UK much cheaper.

  58. Auntie Flo'


    You haven’t addressed the issue of those policy areas where there is a substantial amount of concensus among the electorate – a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, for example, in respect of which, survey data and the result of the IWAR regional referendums have confirmed that the vast majority of us in UK demand a referendum and do not want either the Lisbon Treaty or a federal Europe.

    Sould MPs follow their party line or the views of a majority of their constituents under such circumstances?

    How many MPs hold **properly constituted** public meetings (not bogus focus groups comprised of party members and known supporters) on important issues such as the above? My MP didn’t and has refused to hold public meetings on issues which will affect all of his constituents.

    Given the huge amount of oppositon to the invasion of Iraq – and I would argue a majority of the public were right to oppose this while a majority of MPs were wildly wrong – how many MPs even held public meetings on this? Mine did, to his credit, yet he mispent that credit by completely ignored the opposition expressed by the overwhelming majority at a packed meeting and lobby of his surgery.

  59. Auntie Flo'

    You appear to be saying that, as an MP, you are a delegate, not a representative.

    That suggests to me that you believe it’s quite alright for MPs to totally ignore their constituents views, because you believe MPs ‘know best’. Yet, too often it’s clear MPs don’t know best.

    It also suggests that you believe it’s ok for MPs to impose their will on all of us outside the political bubble, even if that will runs contrary to the views of an overwhelming majority of the electorate.

    So, it’s ok, for example, for a very small number of MPs among the governing party to follow the party line and to drag c 50 million people, kicking and screaming into a federal EU those c 50 million do not want under any circumstances.

    That’s basically Party before people, it’s the stuff of dictatorships and it’s wrong.

    Such a view surely also means acceptance of the right of governments with a very small proportion of electoral support – of less than 25% of the electorate say, which is the proportion of support your government has, to drag a hostile electorate into invasions and wars which might be judged to involve crimes against humanity in years to come.

    Does your view suggest that you might believe it ok for a Prime Minister who believes he or she ‘knows best’ what is in the public interest to ‘over egg’ the PR or propaganda pudding, or to set up a hegemony to exclude other views or to even lie in order to get backing for a policy he or she believes is for the general good?

    The problem is, of course, that’s extactly what Hitler did.

  60. Frank Davis

    Were you offended because he didn’t share your views? – Tom

    No. I was offended because he just wrote, “I don’t agree,” without offering any further justification.

    What if your next door neighbour were to write to the same MP expressing directly opposing views to you? How should the MP respond to these two constituents? By telling them that he agrees with them both, or by telling the truth?

    Well, certainly such an MP shouldn’t agree with both. The MP should express a personal opinion..What really matters is that an MP should be, or should at least present themselves as being, prepared to listen, and open to persuasion. There’s nothing worse than encountering a closed, dogmatic mind. At least when someone has an open mind, they are in principle open to debate, to persuasion.

    Parliament is surely about listening and debating, or it is nothing at all. That is, after all, what it says on the tin. The place is arranged and organised for the purpose. If all an MP ever does is say, “I don’t agree” or “I agree”, then there is no real debate going on, and we may as well not have a parliament.

    Of course MPs are going to have opinions. Anyone who thinks about and discusses more or less anything .is going to form an opinion about it. And some of those opinions will be dogmatic. The difference between the core beliefs of Tory and Labour MPs is ultimately dogmatic in nature. Tories want freedom. Labour wants equality. Something roughly along those lines. And freedom is incompatible with equality, and so people fall on one side or the other of the divide. And core convictions are very difficult to debate. Most of us don’t have the words to explain. Nevertheless, people still change their minds even over core beliefs.

    In my view, debate – parliament – is everything. While people can debate, they can change their minds. Where there is no debate, there is only dogma. It is shameful, utterly shameful, that there are people who now say, almost with pride, that “the debate is over” on so many issues, many of them trivial. And very often there never was a genuine debate in the first place. We seem to be sliding into an age of dogma, in which everyone has a fixed opinion on every matter, and takes a perverse pride in so doing. We seem to be becoming more and more like the Taliban we are supposed to be fighting in Afghanistan.

    And what matters more to you? To be a member of our august parliament, and able to debate with its other members? Or to be a member of the Labour party, toeing its dogmatic party line?

  61. Frank – i absolutely agree it’s unaceptable for an MP simply to write “I don’t agree with you” toa constituent, and to leave it at that. I hope I don’t follow worst practice in that respect.

    As to your last point, I believe in parliament and I feel genuinely honoured and privileged to be a member of it. But I also believe strongly in the party system and don’t believe those positions conflict in any way. To the contrary, the party system is essential to the good governance of this country and to its democracy.

  62. Johnny Norfolk

    Democracy is the will of the people. We have a government that does its own thing against the will of the people. It promised a referendum and broke that promise. It may not matter to you but it does to us. You cannot defend the way Labour is running this country. If we had democracy we would not be fighting 2 wars and we would have had our referendum. You wont hold one simply because you will not win and you know it. For this reason alone you do not deserve to be in power.This country and its people should come before party.

  63. Martin Cullip

    “If we had democracy we would not be fighting 2 wars and we would have had our referendum. You wont hold one simply because you will not win and you know it.”

    Johnny Norfolk smacks the centre of the Bulls Eye again!

    Over a million people march on London about Iraq and Blair just tutted, rolled his eyes and ignored it.

    The whole country wants a referendum on the EU, but it won’t happen despite being a manifesto commitment (Sorry Tom, but the argument that we wouldn’t understand the Lisbon Treaty is not only derogatory and condescending, it also flies in the face of the very idea of democracy).

    I cast my vote in 2005 with the above referendum being offered and the prospect of a perfectly reasonable partial smoking ban on the table. I was conned by a party that simply don’t think the voting process is even worth a secondary glance anymore.

    I’d trust the Daleks to be more democratic than Labour. Forget Miliband, get Davros in to lead the party and you have a much better chance of winning before 2038.

  64. Martin Cullip

    “I would plead with John Reid and Alan Milburn to return and most definitely bring back Charles Clarke.”

    Great comment Jane. Men with true character and not afraid to stand up to the public-bashing conglomerates in defence of Labour core voters.

    They had integrity too, just as the Blair-ite class of 2005 lack it in skipfuls.

  65. Johnny Norfolk

    I think you will find life a little easier under your new leader. He wont win the next election for you but at least he may stop the country sliding further down into the pit of doom. I dont rate him like many others do but Milliband will be better at presentation than Brown.

  66. Forget Labour, what about Jack White and Alicia Keys singing the Bond theme?

  67. I hadn’t heard that! Now, that’s what I call newsworthy…

  68. What should Labour do?

    I think ignoring the stupid bleatings of the rightwing idiots in this thread might be a start.

  69. David

    When asking for directions in some parts of the country you occasionally get “well…I wouldn’t be starting from here if I was you.” and I think a similar answer is apt…if unhelpful. The problem is that the Tor’s have ‘the big mo’ and the media are only reporting the stories that fit with the current narrative. My own personal frustration is that the recent fights have been over things like 42 days rather than core issues. I do believe that GB is a principled person with issues such as poverty and inclusion at the top of the agenda. I’m also…despite being an ardent Labour supporter…fed up with metrics. They are making people focus on them rather than doing a good job, and have basically gone far too far. What we need, then, is some truly radical and inspirational policies to lift our chins. It’s time to take some principled risks. In campaign terms, Labour is forced onto contending ground that they will lose, and seem to have lost the ability to articulate an inspirational social-democratic vision and show action in line with that vision. If the PLP can’t collectively do that, I might still cry when they are unseated, but I will wonder if it isn’t what they deserve.

  70. Whatever Labour does will have to be huge, radical and popular if it’s to stand a chance. Judging by the feelings, concerns and general fury of my friends, colleagues and family, I can’t see what Labour can pull out of the hat that would do the trick.
    there it is.

  71. Richard

    Chaging leader is clearly akin to arguing over who should captain the Titanic after the iceberg has hit. Labour can avoid disaster by changing leader, reversing a number of highly unpopular policies (many mentioned above) and moving straight into an election, relying on the bounce to prop the party’s ratings and profile.

  72. Unpopular policies, the biggest one for me is ID cards, where does Tom stand on that particular issue?

  73. themethatisme

    How about doing the right thing instead of the politically expedient?

  74. Frank Davis

    What should Labour do? I think ignoring the stupid bleatings of the rightwing idiots in this thread might be a start – Andreas Paterson.

    Well, we are ignored by Labour anyway already. And we may well be idiots. But are we rightwing?

    A year or so ago I was, believe it or not, a Lib Dem voter. I’d been one for over 20 years. The smoking ban did for all that. “Not very liberal,” one Lib Dem MP was reported to have said after 95% of them had just voted for it. Exactly my view. And with that my support for them evaporated overnight. Talk about scales falling from my eyes: overnight I went from greatly liking Charlie Kennedy to being delighted that the blighter had been fined for smoking on a train.

    Have I changed? Not that I’ve noticed. It seems to me that it’s the government that has changed rather than me, as it has lurched into something very like totalitarian socialism. I’ll be most likely voting Conservative next time. Not because I like the Tories. But because they look like the last best hope for a free country.

    For me the smoking ban was the straw that broke this particular camel’s back. But it could easily have been more or less anything else. Somebody – Nick -, mentioned ID cards as his biggest issue. Well, yes, I don’t like them either. It’s another bit of creeping totalitarianism. Its intention is not so much to “fight terrorism” (who’s doing that?) as to exert further controls over the indigenous British population. Nearly everyone on this thread has been saying the same thing. They may look like they’re pointing to different things, but they’ve all simply got hold of some bit of the same elephant.

    If that makes us “rightwing”, so be it. I’ve spent half my life being derided as a leftwinger. It makes a bit of a welcome change to now be called a rightwinger.

  75. Martin Cullip

    “I’ve spent half my life being derided as a leftwinger. It makes a bit of a welcome change to now be called a rightwinger.”

    Same experience here Frank Davis, it’s very odd how some try to conveniently cubby-hole people. I still don’t see what part of personal responsibility and freedom is so very ‘right-wing’.

  76. Dead easy Tom; firstly and most importantly get rid of ID cards and the National Identity Register, and secondly introduce multi-member STV to replace FPTP as the voting method in Westminster elections. Then, in no particular order; scrap any thoughts of workfare, reintroduce universal student grants for those in England and Wales as well as Scotland, and bring British troops back home from Iraq. Do all that, and your party may have my vote again. Until then, for all their faults, I’m sticking with the LibDems.

    Good work with the blog by the way; makes a pleasant change to see an MP who understands the medium.

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