It’s All Gone Quiet Over There

Posted on December 5, 2010


It is fair to say that almost every person living in Britain is concerned about the impact that the savage cuts being made the Con-Dem Government will have on them and their families. Headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, the coalition appears intent on seriously damaging the lives of ordinary people in order to reduce the fiscal deficit. Never has this country needed strong and vociferous opposition more than it does now, which makes the deafening silence currently emanating from the Labour Party particularly disconcerting. Instead of seizing the initiative and winning back the electorate by showing some passion and ingenuity, Labour have appeared nothing more than shrinking violets enjoying their time out of the limelight.

As cut upon cut is announced with unprecedented speed, many ordinary people are fearful of the future under our draconian Government. Whether it is the increase in student fees or the whopping 50% cut in social housing budgets, almost everybody will suffer under the new proposals. With such suspicion and contempt across the public at large, the climate seems ideal for Labour to capitalise by strongly opposing such a damaging Government and winning back public trust; but the opposite has been true. Rather than feeling defended by Labour the perception is that the public are being let down.

With the exception of Alan Johnson, the Shadow Chancellor, and Ed Balls, the Shadow Home Secretary, there has been an eerie silence at Labour HQ. A lack of clear policy ideas and overall togetherness has blighted their time in opposition. Ed Miliband, the new Labour leader, is particularly culpable, and he needs to realise that history suggests the first three months of a leader’s premiership is vital in shaping public opinion. Even party members who supported his leadership campaign have been left feeling that maybe the wrong Miliband brother was elected. It is one thing to go on two weeks paternity leave, but it is another to think that a couple of decent showings at Prime Ministers questions will make you electable. Furthermore, despite much Labour talk of unity in the post Blair/Brown years, there has been signs of cracks among the party’s elite. Miliband and Johnson are clearly at odds over the 50p rate of tax and the fallout from the Phil Woolas scandal saw Labour MPs attack Deputy Leader Harriet Harman for her handling of the affair.

It also seems as though many Labour politicians are still hurting about the Liberal Democrats’ refusal to enter into a coalition agreement with them last May. Andrew Adonis wrote a particularly scathing account of discussions with the Liberals in a recent edition of the New Statesman, claiming that the Liberal Democrats had become increasingly right-wing under Nick Clegg and therefore sat more comfortably with the Conservatives on policy issues. The truth, however, is more simplistic – the numbers just did not add up to a Lab-Lib pact. It would have still needed agreement with other parties, creating a ‘rainbow coalition’ that would have been difficult to manage. Labour needs to forget what happened in May and instead focus on taking apart two opposition parties for the price of one.

So, all is not lost for Labour. If Mr Miliband can unite his party and the shadow cabinet can iron out some credible, progressive policy ideas, they could wipe the floor with this current Government. The heartless view of society being portrayed by the coalition is disgraceful and downright wrong and this can be easily exposed. Hiding behind the deficit will not last long and eventually the coalition will have to start justifying their outrageous actions with something more substantial than laying blame squarely at the feet of Gordon Brown. In the meantime Labour needs to show they are a credible alternative to the current cut-throat masochists running, sorry ruining, our country.

words by Rob Pollard

Posted in: Politics