Monday, 28 December 2009

It all kicks off in Labour

It hasn't been very festive or fraternal/sisterly in the Labour Party over Christmas with a row breaking out over Gordon Brown's so-called 'class war tactics'. Unreconstructed Blairites Mandy and Tessa Jowell have made their concerns known and Jack Straw has also weighed as a so-called party statesman. In the other corner Ed Balls, Gordon's preferred successor, has weighed in with the argument that Gordon's remark about the playing fields of Eton was a joke which has only upset the Conservatives.

Given that voters (somewhat unrealistically) tend to favour united parties and don't like intra party bickering this won't do Labour any good in so far as anyone has noticed while they enjoy the festive period.

One complaint of the Blairites is that this is a 'core vote' strategy of the type used with little success by the Conservatives until Dave Cameron took charge and re-positioned the party to appeal to voters in the middle of the spectrum. However, a core vote strategy is not irrational if you think you are going to lose and want to minimise your losses so that you have a springboard for recovery. If you lose by 30-40 seats rather than 100, you have a chance at the next election (and, meanwhile, the Conservatives have to try and clean up the post-crisis mess).

One can't use an anecdote in academic evidence as it is the ultimate example of the individualistic fallacy but you can get away with in a blog. I was talking to a friend at our Christmas party and he said he had been a lifelong Labour voter but probably wouldn't vote at all at the next election or might vote Liberal Democrat (which is a rather odd thing to do in Warwick and Leamington given that, as another friend pointed out, the 'progressive' vote here has always been Labour rather than Liberal Democrat). Labour actually needs to hold on to and also mobilise this sort of voter. There is some poll evidence that the 'class war' tactics may have solidified the core Labour vote.

Personally I don't mind that Dave went to Eton, which is a rather good school, although I am more impressed by the fact that he got a first in PPE in Oxford which you can't do if you are spending your time on high jinks with the Bullingdon Club like Bozza (which perhaps explains why Dave is the party leader and not Bozza, leaving aside a helpful intervention from the Palace at the outset of the former's career). What irritates me somewhat is Dave's attempts to be 'blokeish', no doubt on the advice of his image makers. He should just be true to himself, i.e., a decent, intelligent, caring person. What concerns me is that a quite a few people in his party of a rather different ilk and he may have a problem controlling them.

The Conservatives may have some problems filling all the most junior posts (and certainly PPS roles) from serving MPs (or members of the Lords) given the turnover that is occurring in membership of the Commons and that may create interesting opportunities for the brighter and more clued up new MPs.

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