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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Labours drop in the poles; will they still win next year?

It was not only predictable but predicted – by many, on all manner of social media - which this government would start to rebuild its base and Labour's fragile poll lead would collapse, in the year before the general election. This is now happening. Labour's support has fallen six percentage points, and the Tories have a lead for the first time in ages. Why? Hasn't the Labour Party issued a number of popular statements, from fuel freezes to rent controls? Isn't this government implementing profoundly unpopular policies such as the de facto privatisation of the NHS? Isn't austerity - or at least this government's version of it - unpopular with most voters? And if Ed Miliband is uninspiring, wasn't he just as uninspiring when he had a seemingly commanding poll lead? The fact that labour is sleep walking into a defeat in the next general election in 2015 is interesting on many levels. Of course they can still win and nothing has been decided yet of course it would mean the Tories would need to go into next years election with a 7 point lead to achieve a majority. Labours opposition to the government has been woeful more often than not agreeing to the same policies but all is it doing it slightly differently such as the benefit cap which will cause many to suffer in the coming years. I think a lot of Labours drop in the polls and failure to really get a big lead over the Tories is down to several things but not least the fact many just don’t connect with Ed Miliband. Many I speak to find him weird and a little geeky and this doesn’t reflect well with people even if what he is saying some agree with such as price freezes to energy bills. The unions resistance has been pitiful not merely because of bad leadership, and not merely because they have been narrow and sectional in approach, more interested in limiting the immediate damage and preserving the bargaining mechanisms that limited their militancy in exchange for some influence than in leading a broad offensive against austerity. As important has been the politics of the union base, the grassroots. It's not just that there is no 'rank and file' to speak of, no movement 'from below' capable of driving the unions into confrontation with the government. It's not just that unions are more bureaucratised, more dependent on their leaderships than ever for initiative in such matters as industrial action and political campaigns. It is that the space for organised radical politics has declined in the union movement in proportion as it has elsewhere. The extra-Labour left has been nowhere, in total disarray, unsure of its strategy, unable to cohere its diverse strands much less pull together the scattered elements of resistance, unable to consistently mobilise opponents in numbers, and unable to actually disrupt very much (indeed, there are some on the Left for whom disruption is entirely beside the point). In the long, long diminuendo of organised left politics in the UK, the biggest organised left was the tiny far left which, even if it weren't for - you know - everything, was totally unequal to the historical responsibility placed upon it. The five years or so of crisis and austerity have transformed a sectarian left, with each grouplet placing its organisational interests before all else, into a fractal left, characterised by splits within splits, loudly achieving nothing. You know perfectly well why. The break up of the SWP obviously creates a space in which healthy elements can converge and rebuild. The flourishing of individual activists, of critical thinking, of strategic thinking, is real. However, it also liberates - without pointing any fingers - a horde of tinpot generals, smarmy amoral 'operators', cranks, blank-eyed dogmatists who may as well be in the Church of Scientology, vicious self-pitying moralists, bullies and sycophants, and parasites that feast on the decomposing flesh of larger organisms. We have not discussed UKIP here but I do think their influence on next years election where they may be coming off the back of a European elections win and with Nigel Farrage as popular in the media as ever their pull on votes between labour and Tory could play out very interestingly as no doubt UKIP take votes from the Tories but there is also evidence to suggest they are now picking up support from even traditional labour supporters quite worryingly I’d suggest. Labour as it stands does not inspire much hope let alone any change in direction. Its timid policies of interfering in the markets o bring about a more responsible capitalism if such a thing truely exists just do not seem to be capturing many peoples imagination and least not me. With less than a year till the next election in 2015 we will see a very interesting year in politics and I imagine the closer the election next year is looking likely to be the dirtier the tactics from both sides will become. So if you’re asking me who will win next year? I still would say the most likely outcome at this stage is another hung parliament with a possible coalition of either labour and lib dems or Tories and lib dems as we were before and after all the attacks that we have seen on our living standards the thought that the Tories could end up back in power is a disgrace to anyone calling themselves a opposition.

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