Sunday, 5 October 2014

Labour is failing to capitalise on people's disgust at Tory attacks on the most vulnerable in society reports today:

Last night we reported that John Prescott has used his Sunday Mirror column to complain that Labour are pursuing a “core vote strategy” – but it turns out that’s not the only tough reading for Ed Miliband in today’s paper.

First, there are the polls. A YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times (£) gives the Tories a two-point lead over, 36% to 34%. While one poll can be brushed aside (as Mark Ferguson explained after YouGov showed a single-point lead on Friday), two in quick succession cannot be ignored. Not a trend, but not an outlier either.

In the Rochester and Strood by-election meanwhile, a Survation poll for the Mail On Sunday suggests that UKIP’s Mark Reckless is heading for victory, with a nine-point lead over the Tories and 15 points clear of Labour. While no one (bar Luke Akehurst) really expected Labour to challenge here, it is a seat that we held (under different boundaries) in 2005, and the 25% Survation show is a drop from our showing there in 2010. Eight months to go, underperforming on 2010 is not good news anywhere.

The Sunday Times story also reports that senior Labour figures are unhappy with the party’s direction of travel. Lord Noon, a major donor, has joined the criticism for the mansion tax policy (criticism being led by London Mayor hopefuls Diane Abbott, David Lammy and Tessa Jowell), describing it as a “hopeless and desperate idea”. Noon said: “The mansion tax is going back to the 1970s.” Noon has donated over £100,000 to the Labour Party in the last year alone, but said that the leadership “really need to buck up”.

Prescott and Noon are not the only unhappy Labour peers. They are joined by Lord Levy, a chief fundraiser to the party under Tony Blair and who recently has been privately celebrated by party sources as being particularly “helpful” to Miliband.

Meanwhile, in today's Sunday Mirror, John Prescott writes:

If a Martian had landed on Earth and said “take me to your leader” he’d have ended up a bit confused.

At Labour’s Manchester ­conference he’d have seen a party ahead in the polls and seemingly heading to victory.

But he’d ask why the atmosphere was flat, where were the policies and who’s this guy in the park called Gareth?

Then our visitor would have visited the Tories in Birmingham, reeling from UKIP defections and facing defeat, but see smiles on faces, a confident leader and policies galore.

In Manchester, Labour had a great opportunity to put flesh on the bone, with papers and TV ­channels giving Ed Miliband and his team a blank page to get their policies across.

But bar a mansion tax to fund an increase in NHS funding and raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020, nothing sticks in my mind.

I do remember Ed Balls saying he would freeze child benefit but I can’t see many people racing to the polling booths for that.

Both, I feel, are missing the more obvious point. Labour is failing to capitalise on people's disgust at Tory attacks on the most vulnerable in society.

I don't think it's about courting business more, or courting business less, for that matter. I think it's about connecting with our values of decency, fairness, peace, ecology and along with that presenting a progressive vision for how we'd like society to be... And presenting that, for its own sake, regardless of whether that's pro-business or not. It's pro-people!

Lord Prescott suggests it's Ed Balls who is tying everyone's hands behind their backs, refusing to allow them to make any election promises which involve spending money.  I think Balls is way off beam if he thinks most people are behind these brutal cuts, to services people rely on. 

Ed Balls, and, for that matter, his wife Yvette Cooper, are ministers the public associate very much with New Labour. This is the New Labour the electorate rejected, spectacularly, at the last general election.  Why are such people still influencing Labour Party policy so heavily? That is the question many people are asking.

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