Policies

Reflection on the General Election

So since my last post, Britain (well 24% of the electorate) voted for a Conservative government, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband both resigned as party leaders and Nigel Farage didn’t win Thanet (Oh and he stepped down as leader too, but only for 3 days). With all that happened, many questions emerged like why did Labour lose the election? Why were the opinion polls so wrong? Many politicians and observers have given their opinions since the election results were announced but its fair to say, there are things which need to be investigated, particularly within the Labour Party. Did they lose their sense of direction? Is socialism dead?

It’s worth reading this commentary on Labour’s defeat.

To be fair, the campaigning Labour did throughout the course of the election was overwhelming, but as the results have shown, it didn’t extend beyond London. The party most importantly failed to defend their role in the 2008 financial crisis and allowed Cameron and crew to spit all over them. That is important because Labour is traditionally seen as economically incompetent. However, the message that Labour failed to deliver was that the financial crisis occurred on a global scale, and most probably would have happened if there had been a Conservative government in office at the time.

After the party’s defeat, many turned to Ed Miliband as the cause of the party’s failure, but that may have been a but too harsh. The thing is, everyone (including Labour party supporters and politicians) were quick to come up with the reasons why the party failed to win a majority, but if we all noticed these issues, why weren’t they addressed sooner rather than later? Whether it’s Miliband’s lack of persona or the awkward #Edstone, the party’s failure, it seems, lay at their inability to emulate their predecessor, Tony Blair. Now, i know many do not like to talk about Blair because he led us into the Iraq war and all, but you cannot question his leadership style. It was under Blair that the Conservatives had to go through three leaders (William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith & Michael Howard) before it found David Cameron who tried and succeeded in emulating Blair’s style, politically and charismatically. Let’s also not forget Blair’s ability to get Murdoch eating at the palm of his hand. But seriously, Blair is the only modern political leader in Britain who had been able to resonate with everyone, irrespective of social class. Miliband on the other hand created a campaign based on an ‘us vs them’ which could have worked, but there is the small issue of people wanting to appear better off than they actually are. In short, in order for Labour to be a successful opposition party, it now needs to learn how to emulate the Conservatives (not by being an upper class snobbish party) but by recognising why the electorate seem to stick to the devil they know, and how they would create change for everyone, not just the working man.

We’ve all voted. We know who’s in government, but what now? What does a Conservative government mean for all of us? Well, for starters we no longer have Nick Clegg and the liberals to halt the passing of legislature that would be detrimental to ordinary folk like the axing of the Human Rights Act which would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights according to the party’s manifesto. If this specific mandate were to become law, it would mean that citizens would no longer be able to go to the European Court of Human Rights to appeal a court decision made by the UK Supreme Courts, giving legal sovereignty to UK courts. The idea of the UK Supreme Court having the final word has also evoked fear of corruption between politicians and judges.

Other Conservative Party policies that are likely to go ahead include:

  • Referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU
  • More devolved powers to Scotland – ‘The Scotland Bill’
  • Reducing the annual benefits cap by £3,000 to £23,000 and removing housing benefit from under-21s on jobseeker’s allowance
  • Taking out of income tax anyone working 30 hours a week on minimum wage by linking the personal allowance to the national minimum wage
  • New education bill to “force coasting schools to accept new leadership”
  • A housing bill to extend the right to buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants
  • A bill to double free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.

One thing’s for sure, Labour and other anti-Tory individuals and groups have to become more united than ever over the next five years as more cuts and austerity measures are expected to be rolled out. It will also be interesting to see how the Labour leadership contest plays out. It is disappointing that Chuka Ummuna pulled out of the contest as i think he would of been a great candidate, but what Labour now needs is someone who can shake things up a bit like Tony Blair. The leader of the Labour Party needs to be able to know what direction the party is going in, defend its economic history and fight for the people – the working and middle classes. Does it need to be centrist? Possibly, considering the left stance Miliband had clearly didn’t resonate. In short, Labour needs to redefine its political position in terms of what and who it stands for. And fast.

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Policies v Presentation?

Last Friday (25th July), opposition leader, Ed Miliband, held a Labour party conference ahead of next year’s general election. One of the topics discussed was people’s position on him being prime minister.

If you’re a regular viewer of Prime Minister’s Question Time, you will know that David Cameron is never too shy to attack Mr Miliband on his leadership abilities. When Ed decided to confront this issue at his conference, he stated “big ideas and principles are more important than image and Labour had the right policies on dealing with “the cost of living crisis”.

My question is: Does presentation REALLY take priority over policies? It has been evident in the past with previous PM’s such as Tony Blair, who gained a massive landslide in the 1997 general election and Gordon Brown who had less charisma and lost the 2010 general election to Cameron. But should this take sole priority in today’s politics? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about our housing crisis or the lack of employment opportunities for young people and the long-term unemployed alike?

Even a former Tory cabinet minister has cautioned  Mr Cameron and his fellow  Tories to stop taunting Ed Miliband, arguing if he [David Cameron] fails to treat Mr Miliband with respect, the party could lose respect from their own voters. But this ‘lack of respect’ goes further than the Tories – even internal Labour party members and supporters have mentioned their lack of confidence in the Labour leader. Many within the party fear that the constant negativity from the  conservatives could deplete their chances of becoming the governing party.

The debate over the two P’s (Policies v Presentation) caused me to wonder why the election of Ed Miliband as party leader in the first place? I mean, if i’m being biased here, i always preferred his brother David as party leader. But then i asked myself, aren’t i favouring presentation over policy? You see, David Miliband is charismatic, better looking and a better speaker. But would he have introduced policies right for Britain? Being biased, undoubtedly. How can i be so sure i hear you ask? Well,  i can’t, but i hold on to some sort of hope. Just stay with me here. The point i’m trying to make is that maybe we’re so consumed by image, which goes beyond politics itself, that we fail to acknowledge what’s important; their policies and beliefs that will influence everything we do as a nation.

Another issue which was raised in the Labour conference was political transparency and involvement. What do i mean? Well, in simple words, public involvement in PMQs which takes place every Wednesday in Westminster. Ed Miliband believes it would “let the public into our politics” and “change our political culture”.

Of course a political maniac like me, it’s fab news, but how easy would it be to introduce? There has also been some debate amongst voters who say the public PMQ should not only be held in London, creating concern in terms of accessibility. Would this make our government more transparent and accountable? Who knows, but it isn’t a bad idea Ed.

So if you haven’t learnt anything, take this: What do you desire from the leader of your country? Their charismatic persona or a person who can do the job regardless of their personality? I know what i’d prefer, but hey! as a wise tutor once told me, let’s not exploit your vulnerability…