Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Poll shows Labour 8% ahead but still not winning on economy - Why?

Labour has opened up an eight-point lead over the Conservatives, according to a ComRes survey for The Independent. The figures would give Labour an overall majority of 102 if repeated at the next election. However, Labour has not yet won the key battle on the economy. Why http://www.comres.co.uk/page1902124918.aspx
Only 36% feel Labour would do a better job on the Economy so the lead may be more about disaffection with the ConDems than any major shift to Labour. And there lies the problem the party needs to address. As one tweet from the Netroots event at the weekend said, "Most people buy into Tory cuts argument. Don't think they are 'fair' but....."

The economic and social arguments against cuts that candidates in the Labour leadership hustings articulated loudly and well (especially Ed Miliband, Balls and Burnham) seem to be strangely muted these days. At best, national Labour responses seem to react to the Tory agenda instead of getting across the progressive alternatives. At worst there is no real consensus or commitment to those alternatives. Repeating the mixed and fudged messages of the election campaign that effectively implied the Tories might be almost right (but not quite) on the economy is not the route to re-election.

In the long silence after the gerenal election, the only real challenge to the Tory agenda was coming from the broader trade union and labour movement. At the very beginning UNISONActive's 'mythbuster' series of articles challenged the 'givens' that there had to be cuts. Like many on the left, it recognised that the Tories were winning the propaganda war and there was a need to get the alternative arguments out there.

The movement swung into action to build the resources to take the arguments out, face to face, to our activisits and members. A long overdue drive to build political education and debate at grass roots level.

UNISON's East Midlands blog produced a simple to understand presentation last August laying out the myths and alternatives, later picked up by UNISON Scotland, building on detailed arguments from UNISON staff and activists and resources like LeftFootForward, the False Economy site, and the STUC's There is a Better Way campaign.

And we still need those resources because the trade union movement is still the only real voice consistently promoting a radical alternative despite the vitriolic (and cosily simplistic) campaign from the forces of the right - and sadly - from the dumbed-down 'political' mass media.

Take Len McCluskey's valiant attempt to get the real issues across on Radio Four this morning in the face of an interrupting interviewer intent on hearing more from himself than the interviewee. Large parts of the media really have swallowed (or indeed invented) the myth that there is no alternative and treat anyone who dare argue the opposite with an almost dismissive incredulity. How often have we heard so-called dispassionate interviewers starting off debates with, "We know there has to be cuts...".

Officials and activists across the country will testify to encountering that approach in every media contact.

Thankfully, Len did get his message across that the cuts were "an attack on the very social architecture that has held our nation together for 60-odd years" and at least the BBC Radio 4 website was gracious enough to report that. But how much further will that message get?

So if Labour are not so far winning the argument on the economy, the responsibility lies even more heavily on the trade union movement to make those arguments. On the Today programme, fine. On radio and TV, fine. On blogs, websites and social networking media, absolutely. But really we need activists, equipped with the information, making the arguments among personal networks, in the workplace face to face and at the Branch AGMs that will be coming up across the country in the weeks to come.

Oh, and not to forget taking those arguments into the Labour Party itself. This could just be a failure to get the message across effectively but you can't help feeling that if the shadow cabinet were all as convinced by the arguments as we are, they might have been putting up a more robust show.


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