No More Local Heroes

I’m sure the morning after the local council elections was the time that Ed Miliband finally put the order in for Labour leaders business cards and changed his job title on his LinkedIn profile. After 18 months in the role, this is the first time he has appeared safe; not election-winning safe, but moving away from the hushed calls for him to return from whence he came.

But is Labour a viable alternative again or were they just there? WIth confidence in the establishment at an all-time low, with politicians at  the nadir of a very downward facing bunch, no mainstream party can claim they have caught the public’s imagination. Labour in particular have repeatedly failed to learn lessons laid out very clearly on the table by the misdeeds of the Brown and the Coalition Governments. There were even big neon signs and an instructional video to help them find their way.

Blindfolded, Labour have waddled on, blithely ignoring opportunities like they were mirages in the desert. Whilst they were gaining favourable press, their message has not been translated to the public at large. Take the pasty debacle as an example, Labour had a clear run to broaden the debate beyond petty pasty politics, but instead pranced straight to Greggs and paraded in front of cameras brandishing their Cornishes like local fundraisers holding an oversized cheque. If I was a Labour Party activist, I would be embarrassed.

Ed and the Pasties

Labour now need to translate speech in to action. Move beyond rhetorical scoring points, and actually change the face of politics, lest they be stuck in the public’s apathy for a generation. And with the Conservative  and Lib Dems doing their best to distance themselves from public support , it is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss out on.

Now is a time, that more ‘ordinary’ (a word with such beige connotations, it makes Coldplay seem exciting) people to get involved with politics. To realise that the world is not what it is but what you choose to make it. Any party worth it’s upkeep should be recruiting more people off the street that broadly share their ideals to be the rising star’s in the party, and not just the sweaty fisted careerists that adjust their tie every time a camera and a baby are in the same room.

The reason that people are getting increasingly frustrated with politics is that it is always a competition,, but one with a very infrequent winner (if it can be called that at all). Citizens don’t care about who is right about the economy; anyone with half a brain stuck to the top of their skull can see that both sides of the debate are crossing their fingers when they proclaim they know the answer. Instead we just want action, a true understanding that Government is made for not against us.

Democracy at a local and national level is now more like the end of a night at a club; only the groping drunks are left and we have to decide which one we want to go home with, if any at all. In a clear sign, this time around the voters chose abstinence. Which is a first for  Britain.

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Respect-able Turn Out

With George Galloway winning the Bradford West by-election, the BBC left a rather sneering comment: ‘Turnout in the by-election was just over 50%, compared with 64.9% in the General Election’.

Whilst it is easy to compare 50 to 65 and found it wanting, any serious journalist would also look to previous by-elections. Take Feltham and Heston for instance in December, only 28.8% of the population managed to struggle out to the polls to vote. In the article, no comparison to the 2010 Election.

With a sense of perspective, a 50% turn-out is massively respectable. Shame about Galloway but he deserved it.

Cash for Crapsticks

I found Peter Cruddas outside the Palace of Westminster two weeks ago in a withlong trench coat. We made eye contact and he knew what I wanted: ‘Get your access, buy your Cameron here. Two dinners for £300,000’. Sadly, I only had my Oyster Card and £2.70 in my wallet so had to pass, but with such brazen tactics, it was only a matter of time before he was rumbled.

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Cruddy Cruddas

Thanks to a Sunday Times investigation, Cruddas is now out on his ear and the Tory Party has run from him quicker than Georgie O from a poor person. The former Party Treasurer was recorded selling access to the Prime Minister in a rather unConservative manner: using a football analogy. A £250,000 donation was said to be in the ‘Premier League’ thus guaranteeing access to DC & GO.

Now Number 10 have slowly but ever so surely realised the level of public (or media) dissatisfaction with this and issued a carousel of u-turns culminating in the publishing of a list of all of Cameron’s meetings with Party donors. Alongside this, is an assertion that no donor was given exclusive access to policy chiefs, which if I had just given a man promising just that, a large bundle of cash, I would be wondering who to speak to regarding a refund.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Labour have gone on the attack, rounding on this practice. But whilst trade unions offer a more democratic voice than single donors, they must realise a full blown attack on ‘cash for Cameron’ leaves them open to cries of hypocrisy. A meeting with a donor is a meeting with a donor regardless of whether it is a rich man or a trade union. That is why Labour should focus less on the act of meeting with the donors and start placing the individual donors on the proverbial (alas) racks, asking why they are donating. Even a monk taking a vow of silence could make the case for supporting a body with the intention of protecting the individual rights of workers to a man who probably owns half a county. And to beat the punch, Labour should have shown their transparency by publishing their meetings before this issue turns to taint them. The Lib Dems could do the same if they had donors to begin with.

This corrupt practice is awful but are people too naive to think that people will donate huge sums of money just because they like the Conservative Party logo. We shouldn’t be focusing on these knucklehead issues, but instead take a few steps back and see that lobbyists are embroiled in the same mess (in fact it was a Labour lobbyist that helped to start this). As are newspaper proprietors…isn’t that correct Sunday Times owner Rupert Murdoch? There has to be a greater concerted effort to exclude money from the echelons of power. Or alternatively, you can give it to me. I can give you all the access you want.

From Ed the Red to Milibland

I can imagine Labour High Command sitting round dissecting Cameron’s rise to PM and isolating the themes he employed so (unfortunately) successfully; invoking the vapid and lazy ‘Change’, launching initiatives that sound industrious but are mere exercises in branding and also the attempt to appeal to the ‘squeezed middle-class’.

Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it does show that the party is striving for the ever illusive middle ground, rather than providing a viable alternative. It is this top-down model than can alienate rather than enfranchise people. If he is questing to be the ‘people’s party’ then his aim should be broader than the well trodden ground of the middle classes and refocus on the oft mentioned yet forgotten working class.

And with Cameron   the appeal of the Tories to those who don’t own a county, Ed is in danger of preaching the same message albeit with acres more credibility.