Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rentoul replies

Most disconcertingly, instead of ignoring my rambling denunciations like any sensible journalist, John Rentoul took the time to leave a comment and then write a follow up piece. In turn, Sunder Katwala from the Fabians has responded to Rentoul, arguing that it is possible to separate the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' rich, and Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report has also joined in the fun.

All credit to John, Anthony and Sunder for a thoughtful and considered discussion - this is exactly the sort of good humoured analysis which we'll need in discussing Labour's future strategy.

Two things to add - John cites Harriet Harman as part of "Labour's core vote strategy". I don't think the equalities agenda which Harman is the most high profile advocate is part of a core vote strategy. If anything, it probably annoys many of Labour's core voters. It is more something that the government thinks is the right thing to do regardless of whether or not it is popular. It is therefore completely separate from the economically populist policies such as taxing the bankers (which they would not be doing if they did not think it would be popular).

It's also interesting to note that there are precedents for unpopular governing centre-left parties, trailing in the polls, to reap the benefits of adopting a more economically populist approach:

In 2000, Al Gore trailed George Bush by 7.5% in opinion polls taken over the summer. Gore made the theme of his Convention speech 'the people versus the powerful', and by September, had gained 25 points over Bush in terms of being chosen as best able to handle the economy, the largest gain on any of the policy areas surveyed, and had taken the lead in the polls.

In 2005, Gerhard Schroeder's SPD trailed Angela Merkels CDU by 11% just before their debate on 4th September, at which Merkel announced her support for the flat tax. After two weeks of SPD attacks on the CDU's economic policies favouring the rich, the CDU ended up less than 1% ahead of the SPD.

Of course, both Gore and Schroeder lost (Gore by 4 electoral college votes, Schroeder by 4 seats in the Parliament), but I suspect Labour strategists would consider finishing up 4 seats behind the Tories to be quite a success.


At 9:47 am , Anonymous tim f said...

We even made up 6 points during the short campaign in 1983. If we did that from a base of 11 behind and performed slightly better in marginals than elsewhere (as per 1997, 2001 and 2005) then we could even win.


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