Friday, September 11, 2009

Brown Needs To Be Bold, Says Union Chief.

Derek Simpson, the general secretary of Unite, Labour's biggest affiliated union, will today warn Gordon Brown that he needs to throw caution to the wind, or watch Labour slide to defeat at the next election.

In an interview with the Guardian, Simpson claimed that Brown too often "behaved like a rabbit in the headlights, suffering a paralysis for fear his colleagues are going to whip the knives out and stab him."

"That does not lead you to have a confident stance if you are not sure where the knife is coming from," he said. "Too often he is like a rabbit in the headlights, frightened of his back, his front and frightened of his side, and then something drops on his head." Simpson also said that half the parliamentary party and the cabinet "already think we have lost the next election."

He urged Brown: "Labour has got to be more clear that it is on the side of working people, rather than give the impression it backs big business. You save the banks, invest in the banks, relieve them of toxic debt, leave people running them that ran them before, don't act incisively on the bonus culture and see 10,000 ordinary bank workers made redundant. What conclusion do you draw from that?"

I pointed out in July of last year, when Labour lost it's 25th safest seat in Glasgow East, that the working class no longer felt that Labour represented their interests.

Blair was able to have success with Labour in areas which traditionally supported the Tories by pitching to the middle ground, but he was only able to do so because he could take the support of communities like Glasgow East as a given.

But Blair also enjoyed this success because in many areas he was stealing Tory clothes and forcing them further and further to the right.

The difference since the election of Cameron is that Cameron isn't falling for that trick. If Labour propose a policy which is vaguely Tory, Cameron orders his troops to support the policy, which causes Brown enormous headaches amongst his own backbenchers, who never agreed with his policies in the first place.

I think Simpson's warning is a prescient one. If both the major parties policies are almost indistinguishable, and the country is going through a hard time, it's simply common sense that it's time to give the other guy a shot.

Brown needs to remind people that it is a Labour government which best looks after their interests. He also needs to accept that the Daily Mail readers, which sustained Labour in it's early days, are gone. The danger to Labour is twofold. First, Cameron is managing to have great success in the polls - by proposing nothing which he can be nailed on - and simply by not being Gordon Brown. But secondly, and more importantly, in Scotland the SNP are cutting into swathes of what was always the Labour heartland.
The SNP have abolished prescription charges in the NHS and have scrapped the graduate endowment to restore free education in Scotland. They have also frozen the Council Tax.

These should be Labour Party policies but, of course, it was Blair who pushed through loans for students, removing the right to free university education. The SNP have wisely campaigned against all of the least favourite Brown/Blair policies and, in doing so, have cut right into Labour's heartland.
Labour now find themselves facing a problem of their own making.

If Brown continues to govern by operating a policy of Tory-lite, then Scotland is gone and with it the chance of Labour ever again forming a majority government.
Where I agree wholeheartedly with Simpson is that, barring some bold new moves, the next election is lost already.

Because of that, Brown literally has nothing to lose.

It's time to remind working class voters that it is Labour who represent their interests. And that a Tory government in Westminster would be terrible for the most vulnerable amongst us.

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