Opinion: John Prescott and the unions, voices of Labour’s rapid decline

Labour is not taking to opposition very well. Partisan points of orders, revisionist attitudes to the fiscal situation and demanding the coalition praises their formers leaders. And now we see Labour figures demanding voters to see a referendum, on the principle of a fairer voting system, as a “confidence vote on the coalition.”

By asking the public for their ideas and recommendations for public sector cuts, the Coalition Government has intelligently put the Labour party in an uncomfortable place. The unions are threatening general strikes and the average voter recognises the ideological and partisan attitude of the union movement. The “union barons”, who are on the most generous salaries, are not representing their workers interest or even the general public. It’s a defence, very inept and timid, for a belief system that is no longer supported in the post-Marxist world. However, what do Labour do? Join the coalition in developing a mature and non-partisan approach to the national crisis or side with the union paymasters? Either way, Labour is staring into the abyss.

The situation is not helped by the self appointed Labour cyber-tsar, John Prescott. Of course, he is a very passionate gentlemen, who loves his party, but his coup d’etat over the grassroots will bring much joy to Cameron and Clegg. Attacks against millionaires, bankers, tax the rich, fight the cuts, no to union legislation and “no to AV” will not hurt the coalition -in fact, it will provide much more support. The coalition, especially the Conservative party, wants Labour to resort to left-wing policies. And senior figures are falling into the carefully planned trap.

A quick glance across the benches during the weekly, gladiatorial, Prime Minister’s Questions and we witness former minister in deep apathy. The acting leader, Harriet Harman, tends to ask questions related to women rights or narrowly minded partisan points. Either way, the Labour backbenchers are not very interested and majority of them are to the left of the front bench. A significant minority of the new Labour MP’s would rather side with Prescott in an onslaught of criticism of Liberals and Ed Miliband has publicly stated he wants the coalition to end very quickly. In fact, according to his philosophy, Labour should seek to end it. Tony Blair, in a recent public event, declared Cameron’s administration as “a centrist government” and Labour insiders were furious at this deceleration. According to Prescott, Cameron and Clegg were Thatcherites and even Labour leadership candidates were regularly declaring this in the Mirror every day.

With the government seeking to curb union powers, including their donations to the Labour party, we have to ask ourselves one question: what on Earth are Labour planning to achieve by agreeing with John Prescott and carrying out an ultra offensive campaign? Harriet Harman in her speech during the Queen’s Speech debate said Labour would be a constructive opposition. Well, they have a funny way of showing it. Either it is frustration at their predicament or tiredness, but it seems Labour is acting as if it does not want to govern the country again.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Andrew Waller 11th Jul '10 - 9:43am

    Interesting points raised here, and it is helpful to have a step back to look at why Labour feels the need to throw so much at us at the moment. The shamelessness of Labour politicians disowning any responsibility from the situation that they could have reduced the adverse effects of by acting earlier, or in some cases taking any action at all, is something that a key section of the commuity have seen and rejected. On the doorstep there is a more active engagement with politics than at any time over the last 10 years, and so we have to up our game.

  • Thisarticle neatly sums up what many people find most irritating about Lib Dems.

    Step back a moment and realised that you are criticising another political party because they disagree with you.

    Well that’s a bloody surprise.

    Rather than indulge in these endless “aren’t Labour being horrible to us now we are in power” pieces why don’t you analyse WHY you have slipped so dramitically in the polls and leading Lib Dem Councillors are saying there is “no point in voting Lib Dem”?

    I think you might find that a substantial number of Lib Dem voters never imagined that you would join the Tories and would go along with such a destructive agenda…

  • I agree entirely with what Geoff Payne has said. Joe, could you let us know who these “leading Lib Dem councillors” are? A statement like that implies a much wider group than I believe is the case.

  • If the IFS say the budget is regressive, Labour have a duty to attack and we in the coalition have a duty not to allow this to happen in the first place.

    However, the IFS said the budget was only regressive if taken as a stand-alone package. Is it fair to analyse it isolation? I don’t think so. The emergency budget carried forward most of the measures announced in the March budget. The coalition did not have to do that. They could have started again from a blank piece of paper. The emergency budget should therefore be considered as a series of amendments to the main budget. Taken like that, the amended budget in its entirety is progressive.

    Next year will be the coalition’s first proper budget and the first proper test of its progressive credentials. IMO, our main concern should be that next year’s budget contains measures that ensure progress towards the fiscal mandate remains progressive beyond 2012/13.

  • @Joe

    Your comment pretty much sums up what I was referring at. Labour ALWAYS assumed we were “little Labour” and now resort to calls of “you sell outs!” just because Labour didn’t get their way. Tribalism may be attractive, but it does not win you elections.

  • I was not suggesting Joe was a Labour supporter, and nor did I say that.

    I reject the idea that Liberals will be wiped out within five years. With boundary changes and a potential new voting system, it is difficult to predict the general election 2015 result.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Jul '10 - 11:35am

    “However, the IFS said the budget was only regressive if taken as a stand-alone package. Is it fair to analyse it isolation? I don’t think so. The emergency budget carried forward most of the measures announced in the March budget. The coalition did not have to do that.”

    So what you’re saying is that the measures announced by Osborne were regressive, but not regressive enough to reverse completely the progressive nature of the previous budget. The coalition could have completely reversed that, and we should be thankful it didn’t?

    “Next year will be the coalition’s first proper budget and the first proper test of its progressive credentials.”

    I’m afraid that will come in the Autumn, because – remember – the IFS analysis was of tax and benefit changes only. The regressive measures announced in the budget were relatively small. The effect of cuts in overall public spending will be far greater.

  • David Morton 11th Jul '10 - 12:20pm

    This is Labour’s lowest ebb. No Leader, no one interested in what they are saying because they have just had 13 years to actually do it, The zenith of the Coalitions media honeymoon, they haven’t yet adopted a strategic response to either the cuts, the coalition or the AV vote. They also have zero distance yet between there own toxicity in office and todays polls. Afghanistan, recession nd administritive failure is still in the news.

    And yet. Consistantly up 4% to 5% in the polls, 30k + new members snce the election , no sign of an ideological civil war, being sensible enough to let a left winger into the leadership race, and doing as well as can be expected in exploiting the events, dear boy, events cock ups that any government makes and this one is.

    If as this author suggests” Labour is not taking to opposition very well ” then what will it look like when/if it ever does ? The first stage of any Labour recovery is getting back its core voters that it should never have lost in the first place. Preaching to the choir is only a failed strategy if the choir is already fired up and raring to go.

    I disagree completely with the article. The really concerning thing about Labour is, while too early to tell for sure, it certainly looks possible that the new Leader will inherit a party that has completed the first, small stage of its recovery with remarkable speed. Wouldn’t it be better to ask why this is happening and what is to be done about it rather than deny it?

  • Bit of a mistake from Prescott to make it know Labour are £10 MILLION in debt and that they need membership to go up in order to pay for that. What???

  • All 3 main Parties campaigned on a platform of deep cuts, “savage” as LDs said or “worse than Thatcher” as Labour said. The entire Labour front bench are now pretending that cuts never entered their minds. Even more pathetic, some of their “activists” are claiming their leaders arent Labour at all but “conservative entryists”.
    Its not surprising so many Labour figures retreat into a fantasy world where YouGov can predict an Election 5 years in advance & thousands of outraged Libdems flock to join Labour.

  • @Kehaar – “Joe spoke of anger from LibDem grassroots”

    Rubbish. Joe clearly spoke as a Labour member or activist and not about Lib Dem members. Lib Dem members are vocal enough to voice their issues and concerns to their own local group, they don’t need to go whingeing to their local Labour cabal.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 11th Jul '10 - 12:53pm

    “And yet. Consistently up 4% to 5% in the polls, 30k + new members since the election , no sign of an ideological civil war, being sensible enough to let a left winger into the leadership race, and doing as well as can be expected in exploiting the events, dear boy, events cock ups that any government makes and this one is.”

    I could not agree more. If a ‘week is a long time in politics’ imagine how far away the “tbgb’s” is going to seem in the winter of 2011-2012 approaching the 2012 locals:

    * an AV referendum will have been lost if Labour do not support it- or won if they do (daily press conferences with STV fan DM and Nick….).- and THAT will be the storyline alongside what will inevitably be the far deeper partisan anti fair voting on the Conservative benches and in the Tory press than seen amongst the fringe Labour PR-refusnik usual suspects;

    * the small defeat of the coalition in the 2011 locals will be building up for a May 2012 slaughter as regressive policies and ideological fiscal purity (i.e. cuts that go too deep than is necessary for IFS endorsed rectitude) have finally began to bite in ways people feel and observe amongst family, friends, neighbours and colleagues

    * jobless sluggish ‘growth’ providing little joy outside of the economic unbalanced black hole that is the south east region

    * the white collar middle class taking the brunt of the huge level of job losses- both in the public and private sectors. This won’t be the ‘middle class pain free’ Thatcherite induced slump that was the early 1980’s anti blue collar working class scenario (not least because almost all those jobs don’t exist any more)- its the middle class that is going to suffer most (in relative terms) over the coming years

    * high quality school, health, transport and university services to name a few (built up with Labours high spending largesse albeit) will be perceptibly raggedy by this time: is the narrative going to be ‘this was necessary’ or is it going to be’ sure we had to cut things but this is going too far’

    One could go on but suffice to say THESE are the matters that concern the mass of the average as opposed to: not sending convicted criminals to prison, running inquiries into MI6, pulling troops out of Afghanistan as soon as you can get away with it or abolishing ‘red tape’ and all the ilk of the so called ‘freedom agenda’.

    By late 2011/ early 2012 (a very long time away) the preferred excuse/ alibi/ strategic cover adopted by the coalition (‘it is all Labours fault’) will have ceased to be in any way effective to the vast numbers of the electorate who are not interested in politics, current affairs or partisan argument like us. The people/ swing voters who look at ‘the government’ as the ones who are responsible for ‘how the country looks’- whether the problems are related to a previous government (alledegedly- and that’s an argument that will be taken up by the new leader and shadow treasury team), matters overseas or in the global economy or simply just to good old ‘events dear boy events’.

    Opposition is easy as Ed Ballsup- someone I have never really rated- has been proving with regularity and to great effect!

    But when you are firmly ensconced in government it is you who gets the blame/ the credit- rightly or wrongly- for everything that is happening. That all has an effect on the things that DO matter to the foot soldiers, the councillors and the parliamentary party: namely Bye-election results, council election results and the ebb and flow of the opinion polls.

    Daniel- having been through the last three years you have my genuine sympathies for what is to come your way. Enjoy the next nine months or so because these will be the only months you are likely to 😉

  • David Allen 11th Jul '10 - 1:17pm

    I have no idea what Joe’s affiliation is, but I have been a Lib Dem for thirty years, and I totally understand Joe’s point of view. This article is irritating and counter-productive. It irritates me because I hate seeing my party taking such a stupidly negative attitude.

    “What do Labour do? Join the coalition in developing a mature and non-partisan approach to the national crisis or side with the union paymasters? Either way, Labour is staring into the abyss.”

    Hey, aren’t we LDs the smart-alecs! We have found a brilliant “damned-if-you-do,-damned-if-you-don’t” argument to throw at the Labour Party. And, not only have we found such a brilliantly dishonest style of argument, we have boasted of our genius in doing so!

    Look. It’s just not about Labour any more. They are not governing. We are. WE have to justify what WE are doing. We cannot do that by erecting a smokescreen of distraction and grumbling about what Labour might happen to be saying.

  • I’m baffled by the continuing claims of disatisfaction amongst the Lib Dem grassroots. We have certainly upset some ex-Labour/left-wing voters who plumped for us as their least-hated option in the last couple of elections, but amongst activists / supporters / members I’ve spoken to there is an acceptance of and support for the coalition, and even enthusiasm for much of the programme, even if many of us dislike various bits of it.

  • Also: “I keep finding myself asking if the Torys had won outright would they have got away with being as right wing as the Gov we have got right now. I really just don’t know.”

    Errr- please elaborate on this Tonym because I don’t understand what you are talking about.

    What’s so right-wing about, for example, admitting that short prison sentences don’t work? Or about raising the income tax threshold dramatically? Or restoring the pensions-earnings link for state pensions?

    Also – we’re the Lib Dems – note the Liberal part of that. We’ve definitely got a more Liberal gov than we’d have had without the coalition.

    I could go on, but I suspect I’m feeding a Labour troll…

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 11th Jul '10 - 2:48pm

    “Also – we’re the Lib Dems – note the Liberal part of that”

    Yes hhmmm well as you well know full-well (I am assuming) there are social liberals- or rather social democrats- and economic liberals- or rather classical 19th century liberals…of an orange hue.

    There are big differences between the two and former would much rather prioritise tackling inequality than contemplate (remember nothing has happened on that…) shorter prison sentences for convicted criminals 😉

    Furthermore the tax thresholds won’t be of any use to the millions on benefit who are having their tiny incomes slashed by IDS nor by those currently paying income tax shortly to be taken out of it by being sacked.

    Neither is it very ‘liberal’ (EVEN in a 19th century sense) to by paying for the earnings link by forcing the population to work till they are 70 as will be necessary even though that will be phased in….

    Ditto neither is it very ‘liberal’ to force families to relocate away from their communities and social support networks on pain of having their welfare entitlements removed if a job happens to be available a couple of hundred miles away….

    Given your lack of concern or compassion (let alone perception) on these matters I am guessing you are one of the orange book wet tories?

  • Andrew Suffield 11th Jul '10 - 4:52pm

    WE have to justify what WE are doing.

    And it’s easy enough to justify, and been done plenty of times. What you’re seeing here is just a reaction to Labour’s ranting. (When they spend so much time screaming at everybody, it does get a bit hard to concentrate on the actual issues)

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Jul '10 - 4:59pm

    Quite funny that someone could respond to an observation that the Lib Dems need to justify what they’re doing, rather than attacking Labour, by … attacking Labour!

  • Tim13
    ” Joe, could you let us know who these “leading Lib Dem councillors” are? A statement like that implies a much wider group than I believe is the case.”

    OK – leader of Lib Dem group in Liverpool reported pretty much everywhere, and this from the Lib Dem Chief Whip in Bristol (run by Lib Dems).

    “The problem I have with the coalition is that we lose our own distinction and take away our unique selling points to the electorate. The Tories, as the larger party, will take the credit for any successful policies and we will share the blame for things that go wrong. So it’s a lose-lose situation for us.”

    I think he’s got it just about bang on.

    To clarify I am a Labour voter – however I have voted Lib Dem in the past. It is very unlikely that I will do so again.

  • Interested to see Daniel’s comment about “the government seeking to curb trade union power”. This was widely trailed in some newspapers, such as The Times, in the same week that Nick Clegg was making grand statements about the need to restore our civil liberties. Errr, isn’t the right to strike (already subject to tight legal constraints) a basic civil liberty?

  • Andrea Gill 12th Jul '10 - 9:48am

    @Joe thanks for that quote – odd coming from a Lib Dem to say coalitions are rubbish etc, has that guy ever thought about what would inevitably happen under PR which our party supports? 😉

    @John – There’s a difference between an individual’s right to strike, and unions holding the country and members of the public to ransom over petty squabbles and power games. Surely if it’s about the right of individuals, rules requiring 40% of union members (IMHO should be higher) are to be encouraged. Would YOU want to be forced to go on strike because of a vocal whingeing minority?

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 12th Jul '10 - 2:00pm

    “Maybe I’ve missed an announcment, but I thought Ian Duncan-Smith’s proposal was to help those who want to move in order to get a job”

    Oh how innnocent and naive you are 🙂

    Of course it is a nonsensical idea given social nwtorks coupled with lack of affordable housing i.e.
    h ttp://www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-policy-blog/2010/06/wonky-wheels-on-iain-duncan-sm.html

    Some reports including IDSand government quotes:

    h ttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/7856349/Coalition-to-tell-unemployed-to-get-on-your-bike.html

    h ttp://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/news/Tory-urges-jobless-to-39get.6386403.jp

    h ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/01/iain-duncan-smith-ignorance-welfare

    h ttp://www.metro.co.uk/news/833053-on-yer-bike-jobs-plan-is-under-fire

    h ttp://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/06/28/on-your-bike-again-and-this-time-you-lose-the-house-too-115875-22366097/

    Whereas here is the view of the 19th century classical liberal (such as your orange self) !

    h ttp://www.adamsmith.org/blog/welfare/moving-to-work/

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 12th Jul '10 - 11:04pm

    George K- helpfully (sic) you ignored the community care expert website blog: I’ll paste it for you as it refers simply to (utterly deconstructs) the idea as currently and dishonestly sketched out i.e. not the idea that the neo Thatcherites favour and will inevitably (if you know your political history) be the one they attempt (and fail BTW) to implement. Though damaging hundreds of families in their wake.

    I’ll let you read the ‘coffee house blog’ yourself for the full red meat of this idea at your orange-book self leisure 😉

    “That we have areas of high unemployment is indisputable. That there are parts of the country screaming out for labour is more difficult to show – at least for work rewarded with a living wage. Many of the “ghettos of poverty” referred to by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith are today ghost-towns of a bygone industrial age, with generations excluded from mainstream society but held together by the glue of friends and family. So what happens if mum or dad – or both – are force-shoved on to the metaphorical bike? Switching from a former pit village in a Welsh valley to a job in relatively high-earning London may seem attractive. Smith says moving everyone to south-east England is not his aim. Yet history suggests that if people are to move, London is among the primary destinations along with the wider South East. And when they arrive? The jobs on offer will be at the lower end of the pay scale, for it is unlikely that many people from the “ghettos of poverty” will be professional or highly skilled. With London’s housing renowned for its exorbitant rents, social housing construction at a virtual standstill and the capital’s schools already stretched, that bike might as well stay in the shed and rust.

    What Smith has overlooked is that communities – particularly in poorer areas – exist to support each other emotionally and, often, financially. The role of family is of huge importance in this and kinship care comes into its own. Break these bonds and you break society.”

    VERY ‘liberal’…..

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