Labour’s Challenges Ahead: Tougher Than They Appear.

Labour’s position is a lot more complicated than it looks. It lost the election big time, but with more votes than Milliband, Brown and even Blair, both in 2001 and 2005. But those votes did not translate into seats. Why? Because Labour is the party of working people and its bedrock base had three strong foundations, Scotland, Wales and the smaller industrial towns of the Midlands and the North. In Scotland Labour was wiped out in 2015,  on the Red Wall it crumbled to a disaster under the Boris onslaught, and in Wales they are a lot weaker. But in the South East they won Putney and held Canterbury.

The root of all this lies in New Labour, whose embrace of Thatcher’s economic verities and her destruction of the industrial heartlands, drove large numbers of Labour voters to become non-voters, as the voting figures for the period clearly demonstrate. So to scrabble about in the centre, which has moved left because of Corbyn, will risk putting the party on the right of Boris, leaving him in control of the Red Wall, while the SNP continues to dominate Scotland. Labour will never form a majority government by that route.

Labour is a party of reform. It only governs when voters en masse crave reform. In all its history only three leaders have ever won a majority and governed with their own mandate. Blair, Wilson and Attlee. So Labour has to work out how it can keep very many of the popular elements of its current policy portfolio and match it to a coherent plan of how they will finance an economic reboot with a huge expansion of rewarding well paid jobs for the many. Taxing the rich and robbing Peter to pay Paul was their 2019 undoing. People liked their programme, or most of it, but thought it completely undeliverable by Labour. Labour’s problem is not policy. It is credibility.

Internal splits, over Corbynism, Brexit and  the ongoing issue of anti-Semitism, presented a picture of a fractured party held together by duck tape for the general election, just at the moment when the Tory party, so recently split into countless factions and groupings, came together as one behind Boris. Individually many of Labour’s manifesto proposals had wide public support. Some ideas were clearly extravagant election bribes which should not have got past a coherent economic team able to add up, but there was more good than silly.

The problem was, and will remain, a complete absence of any really ground breaking ideas about how to finance the economic re-modelling of a modern state, in which the many are starved of resources, because the money supply needed to fund it is starved of liquidity. Meanwhile  the ever increasing value of assets without the creation of new wealth, continues to suck what cash there is from the bottom to the top. The rich grow richer at the expense of the poor. Government borrowing is falling, whilst personal debt is the highest in Europe. Interest rates are low, while rates for personal borrowing, even from traditional lenders, are extortionate.

The new leader of the Labour party has to demonstrate a grasp of not just the issue, but also the method behind a solution.That alone will unite behind it both the working class and the educated middle class in all parts of England, leaving Scotland in the hands of the SNP or maybe out of the UK altogether. Tinkering with taxes on the rich and borrowing the rest will not do, nor will it sell to voters. That is the challenge. Meet it and a Labour landslide mandating reform beckons. Fail, or worse if the Boris government solves it first, and it matters not who leads Labour. Because it will be on the road to the margins, far away from any prospect of power.

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