Opinion: Labour needs to be honest with its core supporters

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. This quote, usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln, goes to prove that some things in politics never change.

After thirteen years of spin, media manipulation and bare-faced lies (don’t believe the rumours folks, Gordon and Tony really do have a very good working relationship), one might be forgiven for thinking that there was no one left who believed a word the Labour party had to say on anything. Nevertheless, they are out there, loyal to the party that did not trust them enough to tell them the truth. Willing to vote again for a party they thought was a disciplined, professional team, building a sustainable, caring economy on the rock of prudent financial management, but in reality was a faction-riven clique driven by personal ambition. Labour supporters are unique in accepting that buying popularity and the appearance of success by reckless borrowing was government at its best and most courageous. Already, the faithful are swallowing the myth that the poor and most vulnerable are going to suffer, not because of Labour’s disastrous reign, but because of the measures the new government have to take to repair their damage.

I am meeting these Labour supporters on the doorstep. They are frightened of the future and the possible collapse of their world, the safe world that Labour locked them into. If they had a choice, they would prefer things to stay as they were, and Labours careful rhetoric that somehow billions can be cut without affecting them, is appealing. Even the begrudging admission from Labour that ‘cuts are necessary, but not yet’, offers some form of relief. Pain deferred means no pain now, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who ever visited a dentist.

Labour appear at ease with the constant forecasts of doom and disaster emanating from their supporters, particularly the Daily Mirror (see Monday’s ludicrous prediction that within three years 8,000 pensioners a year would be dying from hypothermia, armed troops would be guarding 10 Downing Street from rioters and Diego Maradona would be raising the Argentinean flag over the Falklands). They are also seemingly at ease with the fiction that only they can maintain the welfare state as it has been. That if only they were still in power there would be no redundancies, no change to housing benefit, millionaires could still receive child benefit and the people who lend money to the UK would be delighted to continue offering loans at preferential rates.

But who are they trying to fool with this rosy interpretation of what the rest of the world recognises as a crisis? Surely they cannot be trying to appeal to their core support with this rubbish. After all, Labour supporters revel in the notion that they are the most tribal of the parties. Only Labour supporters chant ‘I’m Labour till I die!’ So is there a need to lie to these devotees?

Perhaps the habit of lying to their own supporters is so inured that Labour find it too much of a sea change to start being straight with them. After all, change takes time. There may be a new leader, but he and his team have emerged from the same culture that promised us an ethical foreign policy, no more boom and bust and a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. But it is a habit that Labour’s new leader really ought to break. The damage done to Labour’s moral authority as a result of many years of deceiving voters and their own supporters is already considerable. It does the party, and British politics in general, no good in the long run.

Labour’s hardcore support will usually swallow anything offered to them by their party, and a percentage of floating voters will support their narrative, as it is preferable to the medicine being offered by the other major parties. But are Labour offering an honest, responsible alternative, or telling people what they want to hear? Are they so desperate to garner support that they are prepared to dismiss a trillion pounds of debt and a deficit already in fifteen figures as ‘neither here nor there’?

I would hope not. I would have more regard for them as a party if they were to concede that things are bad and that they have not yet had time to formulate the policies they believe will put things right again. The public would also have more faith in them if they were to accept that they lost the general election and need to take a long, hard look at themselves and their way of operating. If their new leader were to declare that the party would put honesty and political integrity at the top of their change agenda they might even begin to repair the damage that has left their ‘brand’ synonymous with ‘spin’, double-dealing, false hope and lies. Be honest with your supporters, and with the country. Admit that there are no easy solutions to this mess, and that it is morally wrong to kid vulnerable people that they can somehow be divorced from the solution.

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26 Comments

  • I think you should worry about the Lib Dems before you think of Labour,what are the people on doorsteps saying to you being the Torie,s lackys, ie vat,cuts,housing benefit ,attacking the most needy in our society ,disabled,woman and kids having to go into bb,s ,you cant get one proper policy implemented or one proper cabinet job ,and what will you say about the NUS pledge ,we all know you had the books i dont know about down south but you are not very liked up here in Scotland for what you have done,
    you have smacked the needy and are helping the greedy
    andy edinburgh

  • weren’t you all doom and gloom before the election? oh i forgot you’re in government now so the script changes.

  • ” I would have more regard for them as a party if they were to concede that things are bad and that they have not yet had time to formulate the policies they believe will put things right again” how very Pretentious

    “The public would also have more faith in them if they were to accept that they lost the general election and need to take a long, hard look at themselves and their way of operating.” May I also remind you that Liberal Democrats and indeed Conservatives lost the election also.

    “If their new leader were to declare that the party would put honesty and political integrity at the top of their change agenda they might even begin to repair the damage” Didn’t Nick Clegg promise honesty, integrity and a New way of doing Politics? Something he has failed miserably since being in office. (I never saw in anyone’s election campaigns they where going to throw thousands of people out of their homes, and cleanse the south, south East of welfare dependant families)

    “Be honest with your supporters, and with the country” I whole heartedly agree, stick to the pledges and promises on which you where elected.

  • What a load of tribalist propaganda, Matt! What are you – a Tory or a Lib Dem? If the latter, I do not recognise this guff.
    Where do you get this nonsense about HOW BAD the financial situation is? When even the dubious ratings agencies are saying, “Well, sorry Guv, it wasn’t as bad as we thought”. It seems you are quite prepared to impose your skewed and unreasonably hard policies on other people without thought of effects. How about giving some thought to the near desperate environmental crises – how are your solutions supposed to help in the resolution of them? I could go on…

  • Just five days before this year’s General Election Nick Clegg, when asked about the Conservative Party’s plans to make steep cuts to reduce the deficit, said: “My eight-year-old ought to be able to work this out – you shouldn’t start slamming on the brakes when the economy is barely growing. If you do that you create more joblessness, you create heavier costs on the state, the deficit goes up even further and the pain with dealing with it is even greater. So it is completely irrational.”

    It’s taken six months for Nick Clegg to sink to the same level of deceit and dishonesty that it took Tony Blair to achieve. What’s baffling is how many in the Lib Dems are seemingly incapable of seeing this.

    @Tim13 I suggest you read these two articles:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/vince-cable-osbornomics-would-make-britain-poorer-and-less-equal-1797942.html
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/10/paul-krugman-british-fashion-victims.html

    I feel disgusted with myself for voting for the Lib Dems for the last nine years.

  • sorry, that should say, ‘Tony Blair 6 years to achieve’

  • “…and that it is morally wrong to kid vulnerable people that they can somehow be divorced from the solution.”

    Oil companies who cause environmental catastrophes, should pay for the clean-up.

    And so should banks who cause financial catastrophes, pay for the aftermath.

    Bank and bankers should pay for their catastrophes, and pay back over a 30 year period, just like students.

    [V]”ulnerable people” were completely divorced from the activities of the bankers. They played NO part in it. Didn’t know it was going on. Had NO opportunity to check it.

    I don’t see why they should pay – nor anyone else not involved in casino banking.

    Cap the bankers salaries, just like Housing Benefit, until the bankers have paid off their debt to the big society at large.

  • @Tim13
    Apologies – I didn’t read your comment properly – I thought you were having a go at @matt in the comment above rather than the spoon that wrote the article.

  • (see Monday’s ludicrous prediction that within three years 8,000 pensioners a year would be dying from hypothermia, armed troops would be guarding 10 Downing Street from rioters and Diego Maradona would be raising the Argentinean flag over the Falklands).

    Statistically, I’d say all three of these are reasonable possibilities. You can argue over three years and Maradona if you like.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Oct '10 - 3:20pm

    “don’t believe the rumours folks, Gordon and Tony really do have a very good working relationship”

    Surely this is a joke, isn’t it?

    Why on earth would the Labour party have manufactured a false story about its two leading figures hating each others’ guts?

    I know this is labelled “Opinion,” but does it really do anyone any good to publish delusional stuff like this?

  • Just goes to show Matt Gallagher – your article was spot on in every way!

    Let’s hear it for the 7 wise monkeys that have commented before me.

    Any chance of where those 44bn and 20% reductions in the welfare state will come from? Got any details yet? Nah, didn’t think so – Labour don’t have a plan A let alone plan B.

  • “The damage done to Labour’s moral authority as a result of many years of deceiving voters and their own supporters ”

    What a joke and what a short memory – Clegg and co all signed a “pledge” to vote against a rise in tuition fees and deceived thousands of students into voting for them.
    In office he practises the same deception. In answer to every criticism about the cuts he replies: “pupil premium”. He claims that the education budget has been protected – this has been shown to be false. He doesn’t mention the cuts in EMA which will effect the poorest of teenagers, nor does he admit to cuts in support services in schools for the blind, deaf and disabled.

    Where will Clegg go next? He has risen to the dizzy heights of deputy PM on the backs of his party and voters.He cannot gain a higher position of power. It would be surprising if he retains his Sheffield seat and would he be happy being a mere LibDem M.P. or will he stand in a safe Tory seat with perhaps the promise of a Cabinet post? Or will he use his position as deputy PM as a stepping stone to an even more lucrative career?

    He continues to defend the indefensible – the cap on housing benefits, which will cause thousands of families to be displaced from areas of London. He blew his top when an M.P. accused him of “cleansing” the streets of London – this disturbed him, yet he is quite happy at the prospect of thousands of families, including pensioners and young children to be evicted from their homes. His new catchphrase – an echo of Cameron- “What about those hard working families?” Does he not know that hard working families on low income also receive housing benefit? That is the problem with public school boys, millionaires from priviledged backgrounds, running the country – they have no understanding or empathy with the plight of disadvantaged people living in poverty.

    I know that there are many Libdems, who are equally horrified at the actions of their leader and those in the government. The phrase “Lions led by donkeys” springs to mind, but in this case it should read: “Lions misled by an Ass”.

  • @John
    I like your cunning plan of insulting Lib Dem voters for deciding to vote Lib Dem on the basis of your manifesto – you know, that piece of paper you tore up.

    @Sue
    Well said.
    There was a constiuency poll in Hallam conducted a few weeks ago. Clegg was on 33% with Labour on 31%. This was a very safe seat for him. I know several people in the constituency who have now vowed to vote against him.

  • LeftLeaning 27th Oct '10 - 3:38pm

    “Labour needs to be honest…..”

    How can LibDems even mention the word ‘Honest’ in a serious article. Surely you have heard about Mr. Nick Clegg? He leads your party. The face of dishonesty in British politics. Don’t believe me? Do a poll of who the country finds the most dishonest of all politicians.

  • This would be hilarious if it was not so ludicrous.

    “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” A hell of a lot of students and their families saw that one demonstrated .
    I would steer clear of such quotes if I were writing in support of a party that threatens to renegle on a signed pledge to oppose any increase in student fees. Using that in any defense of a party which also appears intent on denying, and doing a 180 on, major aspects of its manifesto is rather like having a watchdog that refuses to bark , plays blind , and keeps biting its master in his backside.

    ” one might be forgiven for thinking that there was no one left who believed a word the Labour party had to say on anything. ” This is exactly where the libdem leadership , and the associated lack of discernible honour in its parliamentary party, places the LD party…NOW . By its own hand – After only five months. At least it took NewLabour 13 years to tarnish its image beyond any electoral recognition. Behold the damage the LDP is willingly embracing.

    The author also refers to an economic crisis that has impacted the whole world. Yet oddly , in other secttions of his tract he lays the blame for this situation firmly at Labour’s door. How does that work. I imagine the USA might be eager to have it explained how the debacle that was NewLabour destroyed the world economy. Britain’s situation is a facet of that world economic slump , not the other way round. It alarms when when tories and their libdem cheerleaders seek to obscure that simple fact. Do they think their suppporters are really so gullible , or stupid.
    If there was ever an election year when tories and libdems thanked god they were not in ppower it was this one.

    ‘I’m Labour till I die!’ The author falls back on hackneyed old myths. Are libdems really so out of touch. Do some persist in believing in this myth. Get out of your self reassuring comfort zone , or the little blue blanket too many seem willing to wrap their heads in. The reason Labour is , and has ever been , out of power is precisely because Labour voters DO NOT think and vote that way.
    However, the faithless antics they are seeing from libdem MPs are having a parallel effect. From what I am hearing LibDem antics and blatant lies are driving voters back to the labour party in droves.

    “Perhaps the habit of lying to their own supporters is so inured that Labour find it too much of a sea change to start being straight with them.” Did you really say that. I refer you to the LibDem manifesto. If you seek examples of lies to supporters you need go no further.

    ” The damage done to Labour’s moral authority as a result of many years of deceiving voters and their own supporters is already considerable. It does the party, and British politics in general, no good in the long run.” The inclusion of this after LDP’s recent performance renders the article no more than farce. All it needs is a picture Brian Rix running round with his trousers round his ankles shoutingg ‘look , I am in the coalition’. LDP suppporters seem inclined to regard comments such as the above as self-fulfilling prophecy. The smart ones know that after a few short weeks the future of LDP Parliamentary advancement has been trashed. Only those with a penchant for feeble excuses (‘didn’t know it was that bad’..for godsake ) will take the LDP seriously . Most LDP supporters seem to know that.

    ” The public would also have more faith in them (labour) if they were to accept that they lost the general election and need to take a long, hard look at themselves and their way of operating.” Does the author really say this , or am I hallucinating ?. No one won the general election. Has the author actually overlooked , or more likely missed, the fact we have a coalition government. The result of the election demonstrated that even faced with tthe most unpopular , discredited, Labour government for decades , and an unelected PM ( rather like now) neither the Tories nor the LDP could manage to achieve a true majority victory. The major fact of that election was that a majority of voters rejected Tory policy and voted for the centrist alternatives. This should be a factor of import to a party professing to seek AV or PR as a form of political life.
    All claims that current electoral process is wrong , unfair , undemocratic , are somewhat ramshackle , if not hypocritical in extremis , when that same party uses the same ‘undemocratic system’ to scrabble at whatever small grip on power it can, and shore up its own unelected leverage..

    “If their new leader were to declare that the party would put honesty and political integrity at the top of their change agenda they might even begin to repair the damage that has left their ‘brand’ synonymous with ‘spin’, double-dealing, false hope and lies. Be honest with your supporters, and with the country.” Alright …Now I get it. The article is a skit , a parody . Sorry I took so long to realise. I mean I have read the LDP manifesto , so Now has to be a parody of Then.

    phewwww, for a moment there I actually thought the author was serious , and they had missed the events and impacts represented in so many posts on these pages.

    Sorry for taking the article seriously. After all , the accusations levelled in it are far too naively structured , far too able to be targeted at the LibDems for anyone to use them to seriously attack anyone else.

  • 1 You can fool some of the people all of the time
    2 all of the people some of the time, but you cannot
    3 fool all of the people all of the time

    So, which of the above are you attempting with this article, I don’t support Labour, I never have done but this ‘turning the spotlight on Labour’ is wearing a bit thin now, Labour is not in power, they are not making the choices as far as the cuts are concerned nor are they to blame for the shape of these cuts in so much that the poorest and the disabled are taking the brunt of of them, Labour have told lies and misled the electorate in the past yes but the Lib Dems are doing much the same now, the time for taking the moral high ground is well and truly over and as for the ‘new politics’ I once believed in, well that’s just turned into a joke.

    nige (exLD)

  • Sorry for the tone of my post above, it was written in anger

  • What about core LibDem voters?

    How are *we* supposed to feel when the MPs of party that we have worked for and voted for turn out to be a bunch of Tories?

    What is the point of getting out of a nice warm bed on a freezing cold Norfolk day to go and try to persuade people to vote LibDem to keep the Tories out? That a vote for Labour or Green is a wasted vote because it lets the Tory in? That the LibDems are the only *progressive* party that stands a chance round here?

    It might look very different in Sheffield or a LibDem / Labour seat, but round here the Tories are the enemy, pure and simple.

    If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be funny.

  • @ Matt Gallagher

    Er . . . just remind me, where in the Orange Tories’ manifesto there was a proposal that people should lose 10% of their housing benefit after being unable to find work for 12 months?’

    Where in the Orange Tories’ manifesto did it say that if you can’t find a job you’ll lose money and quite possibly find yourself and your family homeless, regardless that you attended interviews, re-trained, learned a new skill and did everything you could to find a job?

    A report by London Councils looked at the likely impact of the coalition’s planned cuts in Housing Benefit. The report showed that 82,000 London households could be made homeless because of cuts and caps on housing benefit.

    Where did it state in the Orange Tories’ manifesto that you were going to punish people who tried and failed to find work?

    Don’t you think that you should have been more honest with your core vote?

  • Matt Gallagher 27th Oct '10 - 8:08pm

    Some interesting, though not unexpected responses to my article. The title of the piece was ‘Labour needs to be honest with its core supporters.’ I note that none of the replies disagreed with that proposition. The response of some was very much along the lines of ‘ you lot are liars too.’ , hardly a convincing rebuttal of the original point.

    Nor is it a convincing rebuttal of the case that Labour has, and continues to mislead it supporters, by changing the subject to the question of who will be hurt most by the cuts. To defend Labour’s long history of spin and prevarication by pointing to the actions of the present government is not to defend Labour at all.

    I note that some respondants made assumptions about my views on the actions of the Liberal Democrat leadership. As far as I am aware no such views were expressed in the article. Indeed, nowhere in the article did I mention the words Liberal Democrats. The point raised in the article, about Labours need to be straight with its supporters, is one that could be made by anyone of any political persuasion, even Labour party members. The fact that no one was able to show I was wrong leads me to believe that I can rest my case.

  • @Matt
    “The point raised in the article, about Labours need to be straight with its supporters, is one that could be made by anyone of any political persuasion, even Labour party members. The fact that no one was able to show I was wrong leads me to believe that I can rest my case.”

    I think those criticisms of your article might be suggesting that pointing out one Party’s dishonesty, while not ‘acknowledging’ that this seems to be a feature of other political parties, perhaps even our own, might be a tad misleading.

  • Matt
    Another couple of points re – the Labour position. GB sort of acknowledged that the party no longer needed / wanted his approach by resigning as leader. I think at present it is too early to say what their new leadership approach might be, so it is wholly inappropriate to set about criticising them now.

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