May 22, 2010

THE LINE BETWEEN TRAGEDY AND FARCE IS NEVER THINNER...:

Labour's new motto: immigration, immigration, immigration: Some Labour people have settled on a daft strategy: outflank the Lib-Cons from the right, and so satisfy the proles (John Harris, 5/21/10, guardian.co.uk)

One element of New Labour theology, however, remains securely in place. You hear it in the pronouncements of the supposed leading candidates, and in anxious chatter around Westminster. The C2s – skilled manual workers, whose loyalties play a crucial role in so many marginals – have deserted Labour in droves, particularly men. Their key complaints are about supposed welfare malingerers, and new arrivals from abroad; and this is where Labour must focus that time-honoured ritual known as "listening and learning". So it is that the future of centre-left politics occasionally threatens to come down to kicking the dispossessed, and parroting the early summer's big Labour mantra: immigration, immigration, immigration.

All this is currently a matter of broad-brush rhetoric (strange how men so steeped in the forensic stuff of policy seem so hesitant about coming up with ideas of their own), but the signs are clear. When announcing his leadership bid on Wednesday, Ed Balls mentioned the "I" word endlessly, and praised a politician whose sour countenance and self-styled toughness have long embodied the most dried-up school of Labour politics: Phil Woolas, this week heard bemoaning the fact that Labour failed to make more of the policy whereby benefits are refused to those seeking indefinite leave to remain (which would have made for very uplifting posters).

As well as obligingly claiming that Labour has been deaf to worries about immigration, Andy Burnham has admiringly cited voters who thought that "money and help was going to people who were not, like them, trying to do the right things" – and he didn't mean your Bob Diamonds and Fred the Shreds. The Milibands, to their credit, have been much quieter on this stuff, though Ed saw fit to leaven his first leadership bid speech with the obligatory mention of an unidentified working-class voter who thought his benefit-claiming neighbours were swinging the lead. "We have hard thinking to do," he concluded, ominously.

Elsewhere, plenty of Labour people are truly ablaze. At a meeting of the parliamentary party at the end of last week, voices who last had their chance when Hazel Blears made her doomed bid for the deputy leadership reportedly piped up, talking about benefit claimants getting "something for nothing" and the need to sound strong notes on immigration controls. One myth is already doing the rounds: that Margaret Hodge's victory over the BNP in Barking was down to her strident line on somehow putting "indigenous" people ahead of new arrivals in the queue for public services, whereas Jon Cruddas's failure to romp home in Dagenham and Rainham came from his refusal to do anything similar. In fact, Cruddas's narrow margin of victory was down to boundary changes. Moreover, Cruddas's is actually the whiter of the two seats, which makes his achievement all the more remarkable.

Whatever, all this ugliness has a long and lamentable Labour pedigree. For a flavour of how the party responds to defeat, think back to the Crewe byelection, its witless class warfare and its maligning of the Tory victor as someone who opposed "making foreign nationals carry an ID card". Now, with Clegg and Cameron looking like the embodiment of bourgeois bleeding-hearts – all "Big Society" promises and strong talk on civil liberties – some Labour people seem to have come to a truly stupid conclusion: that the Con-Dem coalition has to be outflanked on the right, because the proles demand it. This takes us to what might prove the biggest problem of all: that four ex-wonks with limited life experience may not be the best people to divine what exactly it is that the fabled white working class is after.


The New 2010 Game Plan (Douglas Schoen, 5/22/10, Daily Beast)
[T]o fully take advantage of the sour and cynical public mood Democrats must move decisively to the right, clearly and unabashedly, as Mark Critz did in winning a surprising 10-point victory in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional district. Critz made it clear in his special election victory that he was no liberal. He underscored that he was anti-abortion, anti-gun, and anti-Obamacare. The core message of the Critz campaign was that he was independent from President Obama, and had a distinctive agenda that was fiscally and socially conservative.

Put simply, the Critz victory shows that the only way the Democrats can win is by distancing themselves totally and irrevocably from the big government agenda of President Obama and the congressional Democrats, that polls show has been clearly been rejected by the American people.


...than when the Left tries to get out in front of "populism."

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 22, 2010 12:09 PM
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