By Simon Basketter
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Labour – still shying away from fighting the bosses

This article is over 8 years, 4 months old
Issue 2371

Labour’s leaders are worried. Their cunning plan was to sit back and do nothing while the Tories attacked, hoping that the Tories’ resulting unpopularity would get them back into office. 

The slim signs of recovery in the housing market have panicked them a little. The shadow cabinet is leaking its rows to the press. 

But there is still no sign of Labour standing up to the bosses or the Tories over austerity.

The Tory press is keen to point out that Labour had an opinion poll lead of around ten points or so for most of 2012 and early 2013. Now Labour leads the Tories by between three and seven percentage points in every poll published in September.

And Miliband’s personal ratings are dire in a world where politics is about personality and the perception of it.

His net positive or negative rating now hovers only one point above lows achieved by William Hague between 1997 and 2001, and Iain Duncan Smith between 2001 and 2003. 

One poll suggested that even 52 percent of Labour voters are dissatisfied with his performance. In contrast, a poll by Tory Lord Ashcroft shows Labour is ahead in enough marginal seats to win the next election. The survey was of 13,000 people in the 40 most marginal seats currently held by Tory MPs.

The findings put Labour ahead of the Tories by 43 percent to 29 percent in the 32 seats where Tory MPs have the smallest majorities over Labour.

The 14-point advantage is almost treble Labour’s 5-point lead over the Tories in a similar poll by Lord Ashcroft across the whole of Britain. In part, this is because of a collapse of the Lib Dems and Ukip taking Tory votes.

The findings would give Labour a comfortable 60-seat majority. In that context, it takes a rare genius to choose this moment to try and further weaken the link with the unions.

The right of the party think it is always useful for a Labour leader to pick a fight with the unions. But the farce over the “investigation” into the Falkirk candidate selection showed that was a mistake.


Every Labour member recruited by Unite signed affidavits stating they’d freely joined the party. 

Unite’s Stevie Deans, chair of the Falkirk party, was threatened with suspension at work. But workers threatened to shut the Grangemouth oil refinery unless the threat was lifted. 

Even in Labour Party rows the potential for strikes have an effect. Tom Watson MP resigned as the party’s campaigns chief over the attack on Unite. He has yet to be replaced.

Despite backing down Miliband is still going ahead with a review of the union link.

The union bureaucrats are Miliband’s greatest allies. But he doesn’t want them. The risk for Miliband is that a potential £9 million will be lost in union fees and donations.

Union leaders are furious with Miliband—but they still want a Labour government. That is why there was slim polite applause for Miliband at the TUC Congress earlier this month. 

Among all the blather about One Nation, Labour is looking to find unpopular things to get rid of without promising to spend cash. Unfortunately that means it is happy to be part of a racist anti-immigrant consensus.

More positively, Miliband is set to announce a rowing back over the bedroom tax at the Labour Party conference this weekend. He will probably do something similar to what he did the TUC over zero hours contracts. There he denounced the widespread use of exploitative contracts without arguing he’d outlaw them completely.

It’s not much. Labour has committed to the Tories spending figures. That guarantees there will be cuts in the first year of any Labour government.

The refusal to fight cuts now, or promise to reverse them, is the main reason why not even the staunchest Labour supporters are enthusiastic about Miliband.

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