Potato Head

A man in Croyden thought Ed Miliband was a potato but they didn’t need an internal inquiry to tell them that. It was clear from the reaction in the hall the moment he was elected and beat his brother David that this wasn’t meant to be. And that was just the Labour Party. Once the country realised Labour were serious, the Yugh factor kicked in. It isn’t always measurable because most people don’t want to be rude about someone to a stranger asking questions for a polling organisation. So they find euphemisms like ‘looks funny’, ‘unconvincing’ or ‘not strong’. What they really think is: ‘I wouldn’t vote for this twerp to run a Scout troop.’

But Labour’s leaked internal findings, strangely missing from Dame Beckett’s Pollyanna storyboard of an election report, show that Ed was the least of Labour’s problems. Or he was just the visible incarnation of a party that had lost its way and misplaced its ability to reach the voters.

The two dominant policy themes were that Labour blew the money and bust the country and wasn’t interested in ‘me’…Me being the ubiquitous hard working family person. The first is nonsense. Labour were only spending modestly above income until the Crash which blew everything off course – certainly no more than Thatcher did. The point is that, instead of ensuring the agenda stayed accurate, or at least debatable, Labour allowed the Tories and their chums in the media to write the history. Thus, Labour spent all the money. Where are you, Alistair Campbell?

Secondly, they did what the party’s Right was warning of – they tried to shore up support by focussing on those suffering the worst of Tory austerity. What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, so long as it is balanced by making an appealing offer to the in-work and the better off without whose support you can’t win (to quote that nice Mr Blair). When Labour – and any politicians – talk about helping those on benefits, even if it’s for all the right reasons, to a huge section of the population devouring British media pap every day, that means scroungers. Duncan Smith’s department deliberately put out distorted information to selected right wing papers, the Mail and Telegraph, with individual cases of scroungers which sets an agenda picked up for the broadcasters and accepted as the norm. Voters think the billions the government talks about saving from the welfare budget are caused by workshy cheats. The official figures show it to be 0.7 per cent of the welfare budget.

Anybody who’s had to get out the door by 6am on a cold morning and comes home in the dark with a flimsy pay packet is going to feel resentment at dysfunctional types lounging on sofas, playing with the dog and smoking fags on Benefits Street. Labour’s concern was interpreted as over wrought concern for ‘down and outs’ instead of balancing it with a vision for the people who think of themselves – and are encouraged to do so by the government – as the Doers and Workers. Labour lent too far Left for a centrist electorate.

The other touchstone issue was immigration which, ridiculously, the Tories won. Cameron has only talked tough and consistently failed to meet any target he’s set – the same as Osborne on the economy. But because he talked about crackdowns and made some crass – and sometimes counter productive – gestures, the reporting made him look tough and Labour late and soft.

The terrifying part of this is how it is information manipulation that lies at the heart of politics. To a degree, your policies can be just about anything, but so long as you have a compelling story which appeals to the media and gives the public what they want to hear, you still win. Well done, the Tories. And, let’s be honest here, well done the SNP. They’ve also learned the trick.

Reading the report https://www.politicshome.com/party-politics/articles/story/leaked-report-reveals-powerful-negative-views-about-labour-swing

there were clear signs of what Labour has misjudged in Scotland, not just in the specific Scottish chapter. People felt Labour were obsessed with the past –all that How We Built the NHS etc – when they want to hear about the future, especially when the world has gone through a major financial upset. Labour looked and sounded historic and when your main comparison is with Tories yearning for a return to the 1950’s, you’re in trouble. Haven’t the SNP consistently talked about reindustrialising Scotland with renewables, imagining a new independent Scotland, taking the country forward – and have come up with new faces to mix in with the recognised. Indeed, wasn’t the resignation of Salmond a masterstroke?

But the cruncher for Labour in Scotland was surely the blindingly obvious – they might not be the SNP but why did they have to be so close to the Tories? The answer of course is that they aren’t really so far from them at all on too many questions and are side by side on the major issue of Scotland. How utterly out of touch could you be not to see the danger of that? (It amazes me that the man who drove that campaign, McDougall is still in place. How can you begin to start afresh when the man with the dirty hands is still gripping the wheel?)

I loved the idea that Labour were seen as indistinguishable from the Tories, only ‘not as competent.’ It isn’t Alistair Campbell they need. It’s Armando Iannucci.

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24 thoughts on “Potato Head

  1. Steve Asaneilean

    I am not sure I agree with you on the first Derek.

    (Not) Labour did create the deregulation conditions that effectively magnified the impact of the 2008 crash and then proceeded to bail out the institutions which exploited the deregulation whilst forcing the rest of us to pay for it.

    Oh, and Brown sold off gold reserves on the cheap and burgled public pensions.

    So their financial incompetence was there for all to see.

    In Scotland they have become largely irrelevant because, as you say, the majority of us can barely distinguish them from the Tories and if we wanted Tory why would we vote for (Not) Labour?

    Some said that the report of their election failure was a white wash – I agree. It is merely another attempt to spin the reality into a fictitious narrative for who knows what ends.

    The Thick of It indeed.

    • You can add to that the missed opportunity to regulate the Financial sector more tightly. Instead we (the tax-payer) have bailed out the banks, and now we see that they are ‘rewarding’ themselves massive bonuses once more. The UK economy is again being built on a property bubble. Another crisis is not far off.

      • Also when TB and Brown arrived, they immediately got on with the job of privatising industry which they had argued against in opposition; some that even the Tories didn’t dare touch. Hypocrites since forever.

  2. Scottish Labour simply suffer from a clear lack of talented people. All the catch phrases they employ just cannot conceal the obvious. UK Labour are Unionist,and so of no help to Scotland.

  3. Labour lost the election because they claimed to be able to run the Free Enterprise system better than the Tories. Now SNP are making the same ludicrous claims. We in Scotland invented Capitalism and it worked wonders as long as we were near the top of pile. Now we survive on the margin and the situation is getting worse for us, and indeed the capitalist system.

    We cannot produce goods in sufficient quality and quantity for the Market, at minimum prices and hence provide for our people, so lets just start talking sense.

    I live in West Lothian, surrounded by derilict brickworks, clay-holes, auld unemployed brickies, unemployed teenagers desperate to be apprentices and vast tracts of under-utlised land, which should spell houses to us thinkers.

    We could also just as easily provide our people with the means of providing themselves with food and care etc.

    It is capitalism that is in crisis, not the Labour Party, or us, whoever you are.

    PS – anybody who shares the above sort of reasoning should try ‘Trends’

  4. Dave McEwan Hill

    Alan Findlay

    I haven’t noticed the SNP making any such “ludicrous claims”. Can you provide us with some evidence of that statement?
    As a matter of interest Scotland has a significantly higher manufacturing and production base per capita than the UK and this advantage is increasing.

  5. Steve Asaneilean

    Alan – we can’t return to the days of coal mines, steelworks, heavy industry of any significant kind.

    So we have to do what we are doing – focus on what we do well and where we are still world leaders – biomedical research, computer science, food and drink, renewable energy, etc.

    With oil I see the past rather than the future and hope our politicians see that too and start to move on.

    The Scottish whisky industry, for example, is continuing to expand with a number of new distilleries planned. That points to long term optimism as it will be years be they are profitable.

    Whisky alone is worth nearly £4 billion a year to the economy – £4 billion that would stay in Scotland if we were independent.

    • Young people in Scotland can’t afford a council house of their own, or in some cases to even feed their weans. I’ve outlined how we could chance that. You Steve and Capitalism haven’t got a clue other than hope that things wont continue to get worse at an ever increasing rate.

      West Lothian is reckoned to be the growth centre of Scotland, since the recent demise of Aberdeen as a capitalist hot-spot No that long ago we had Cameron Iron Works ,BMC, Uniroyal, umpteen coal pits and shale oil. Now I hardly know a soul who doesn’t work for the Council(due to be paid off come April) or working for buttons in shops or washing cars.,

      • Hi Alan – I think you misunderstand me and I am sorry if I offended you.

        I am no defender of capitalism per se – it is, as far as I can see, a failed model (well, except for the 1% that is).

        I grew up in industrial Lanarkshire and when I left there, to go off to study in the early 1980s, my home town had 47% male unemployment. I saw with my own eye groups of men on street corners waving down every passing van or lorry asking for work.

        I watched the local mines and steel works close and get knocked down. And I saw the devastating impact that had on families (many of them my friends), streets and communities.

        But we need to forge a new industrial future of Scotland and that will almost certainly bare little resemblance to the industrial Scotland I grew up with and was immersed in.

        If you have read any of my posts here over the years you will know that I am driven by a hunger to tackle inequality head on and create a much more equal society with liberty, egality and honesty at its core.

        The picture you describe for West Lothian is as equally unacceptable to my eyes as it is to yours.

    • There’s plenty of oil exploration to be done on the west coast when RN stop playing war games there. Those in the know insist the geology makes finding oil very likely.

  6. Labour aren’t in the doldrums because they had the wrong message. They aren’t even in the doldrums because they are crap. Both these things are true but both could be applied to the Tories. Labour are well and truly screwed because the Southern based media decided they are. Ed with his bacon sandwich? The media decided he wasn’t good enough to lead the country by the way he ate a bacon sandwich etc etc.

    TheTories have screwed the economy more than Labour did but are doing quite nicely thank you very much. The Tories message should be appalling but the media are very helpful at hiding the deaths and suicides due to cuts and sanctions. The national debt? Jesus H Christ! But where are the headlines? Anti Labour and pro Tory.

  7. Good stuff all round here although some false opposites seem to be getting punted about – build on our potential regardless of fad or trend or theoretically old and new technologies; and invest, invest, invest in life-long education and training for all and encourage creative thinking and innovation on all fronts be it philosophy, the Fine Arts, brick-laying, bio-tech, linguistics, zoo-ology, anthropology,pharma, health & medicine, innovative agriculture, engineering in all its forms, science in all its mantles,speculative physics, whatever.And I do mean whatever field of knowledge-enhancing field of human inquiry and creativity which adds to the universal sum of human ken and endeavor enriching all airts and pairts.

    In conclusion, DB, can you please get your beloved site re-techied by a fellow-travelling geek so that I can re-Pin you on Pinterest as well as elsewhere? Thank you:)


    • Dauvit,

      It is interesting, is it not, that tertiary education in Scotland is currently freeish? A long road to travel to your valhalla, perhaps, but a step in the right direction?

  8. I can only say what is being said on the doorsteps, and it chimes with the latter part od Derek’s article. As recently as a few days ago, and making contact with voters we haven’t been able to talk to before, we are still getting as the main reason from former Labour voters as to why they have, in most cases, switched to the S.N.P, and that is because during the referendum campaign, “they, Labour, stood with the tories”. How they recover from this I don’t know, and care even less. As far as I am concerned, they betrayed the people of Scotland, and I hope it will not only be apparent in this year’s Scottish election, but in next year’s council elections, when we have the opportunity to remove them from power, hopefully for many years.

    • It shows how out of touch the English Labour party was/is. In England people switch regularly between Labour and Tory but in Scotland voters almost never do. Standing with the Tories might broaden your appeal in England but it will sink you in Scotland, and I suspect, in Wales too.

      They really don’t understand us up here, do they?

      • Excellent point. When those like Andrew Neil like to dismiss pompously any claims that there is a difference between the English and Scottish electorates, they overlook this hidden difference.

      • I think that was true in the past but I’d be surprised if a fair number of Tories in Edinburgh South didn’t vote Labour and a fair number of people in Dumfriesshire, Tweedale etc didn’t vote Tory last year, now that the faultlines in Scottish politics seem to have changed fundamentally. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the Holyrood elections and if the Unionist voters feel comfortable swapping votes with the erstwhile opponents. I think they’ll feel pretty comfortable doing so.

        • I think you may be right there but voting tactily for the auld enemy to defeat an even ‘worse’ new enemy is a relatively new phenomenon and not quite the same thing as giving the auld enemy your first and unencumbered vote. I still think it is abhorrent to most Scottish people, whether Labour or Tory, to vote for the other. A minority may do otherwise, which is still significant, and I have to wonder if it might have been due to the large number of English born in these constituencies who were making this switch.

          Murray and Mundell both got in by only about 800 votes. Edinburgh South and Dumfries and Galloway have large numbers of English born for whom the difference between Labour and Tory may not seem so big.

  9. Alex Beveridge,

    Similarly, speaking recently to a couple of no voters, quite incensed, that contrary to everything predicted to go wrong if we voted yes, is going wrong anyway. Feeling now, that they have been made a fool of, laughed at by WM.
    Managed to keep my mouth shut.

  10. Andrew carruthers

    Relating to some of the above, I to have friends who were reluctant no voters, (they freely admit they fell for the economic armageddon line) and now feel rightly angry with themselves as well as with wm, as I have said to all of them though is that all of us at some point make mistakes, it’s how we deal with them that matters. That and they are my kin.

  11. It has been my opinion that Scottish Labour made the fatal error of assuming that anyone who had voted lab/con/lib dem in 2010 was by default a no voter. They also committed another one, where they foolishly blurred the lines that separated them from the other UK parties. When project fear got into full swing, it was literally driving a wedge between them and a large section of the electorate that had once voted for these parties. Where else could they go but the SNP?

    They didn’t plan for reconciliation as they didn’t think they needed it. In the end it didn’t matter because project fear “was” the reconciliation message and it failed. Facing disaster, needing to show some humility, Scottish labour chose Jim Murphy to be its leader, and he chose Blair Mcdougall and John McTernan as his advisors. The three men most associated with its collapse in support are chosen to repair the damage. Add in the milquetoast persona of Miliband who got played like a prize chump by Cameron, then labour’s near total collapse in Scotland is not all that hard to understand.

    Since then it has went on to display ( as Derek himself said ) knuckle dragging levels of stupidity.
    The most recent was the decision to poll for votes by turning up at people’s doors with Tunnocks tea cakes. Trolling voters who voted yes and switched to the SNP in 2015, was a dumb move. Its almost as if Scottish labour has forgotten how to actually behave like a political movement. And it is this loss of purpose that is far more dangerous to it than the SNP.

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