Sunday, 16 June 2013

Why vote Labour? It's the poverty, stupid.

It’s amusing to watch the state of the parties in Britain at the moment. Why, there was even an article in the Guardian yesterday about how the leadership of both Labour and the Conservatives is expecting to lose the next election. This is quite curious as it’s highly unlikely that anyone else will win, so it looks like we have political leaders who have all of them, across the board, resigned themselves in advance to losing.

A pretty dismal spectacle, to be honest.

Not a piece of advice enough people are heeding
But they should

I can understand how it happens. Labour is sitting on a lead in the opinion polls which was up to around 11%, on average, for quite a few weeks, but has fallen to 9% now. Reproduced in a general election, that would give the party a sizeable majority. But would it be reproduced? An opposition heading for victory should be sitting on a much bigger lead than that two years out, to counter the almost inevitable swing back to the government in the final phase of a campaign.

So how did Labour get into this position?

First of all, there has been a surprising bit of sleight of hand carried off by the right. Surprising because it seems almost incomprehensible to me that they should have got away with it. Somehow, a large section of the British electorate has let itself be persuaded that Labour is to blame for the financial crash that hit us in 2008.

This is presumably based on the fact that Labour was in office at the time.

What no-one has ever explained to me, however, is how this squares with the fact that Labour wasn’t in office in the US, Japan, Italy, Ireland or any other of the countries far worse hit by the crisis even than we were. I accept that Labour – or at least Tony Blair’s version of it, New Labour – was insufficiently active in trying to control the scandalously irresponsible behaviour of international finance that precipitated the difficulties.

But that was international finance. It was an international crisis. No British government could do much on its own to prevent it or stem it.

Secondly, and this is a much more serious problem, Labour is being abandoned by many of its natural followers on the left. Criticised for having done far too little on the domestic scene, and with great justification for having taken Britain into a lamentable war with disastrous consequences in Iraq, Labour has haemorrhaged support from its core voters.

My message to such voters is extremely simple. There are times when the behaviour of Labour ministers leaves me in despair, if not disgust. To give just one example, the recent revelations about snooping on private citizens, which was clearly going on under the last government as well as the present one, show how easily Labour succumbs to the temptation to be as authoritarian as the Tories.

But against these lamentable acts, there is one simple observation that cancels out all the others.

The Blair and Brown governments failed in their mission to cut child poverty in half by 2010. But they did manage to take over a million kids out of poverty, and that was a remarkable achievement.

We learned a few days ago that by 2011/12, the present government had plunged 300,000 children back into poverty. Along with 600,000 adults. The numbers will have got worse since that deplorable achievement.

Just remember that one fact. Think of the back-breaking, mind-numbing effect of poverty. Think of it applied to children. Think of how it affects its victims for life, through lost opportunities, poor education and unrealised potential.

And then ask: can you possibly allow this government to get back in? And not voting Labour will let them back – or possibly something worse: UKIP is only too ready to out-Tory the Tories in their onslaught on the poor.

To avoid that fate, it’s worth swallowing hard and putting your cross on the ballot paper in the Labour box. You can always take them to task over privacy, or Trident, or secret courts afterwards.

After all, you might just get a bit of a hearing from them. You certainly won’t from the present lot.


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

It all sounds familiar: do your best to pick out the least worst alternative. Makes me want to secede.

David Beeson said...

Wouldn't it be nice if we could pick the best for the job instead of the least bad? But I think we're a long way from getting there...