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Time for ministers to stand up and fight

Posted on 25 September 2009 | 9:09am

I cannot say I agree with everything Roy Hattersley says in The Times today, but I agree with a lot of it.

‘Fight for our beliefs. It is the only way to win.’ That is the headline on his opinion piece. The key word for me is ‘fight’. And he is right too that this is not just about Gordon Brown, but ministers and MPs at every level, and the Party as a whole.


As I have highlighted in recent days, the media has gone into one of its ‘everything Gordon does is wrong’ phases. He cannnot be expected to push back on this wave of negativity alone.


Ministers need to be out there making the case with conviction – not just that Gordon is a better Prime Minister than David Cameron would ever be. But that Labour has the right values for today and the right policies for tomorrow. They are the thoughts and the words. How you get that over to the public is what appears to be missing.


Of course the media environment makes it difficult. But not impossible.   Of course it gets harder the longer you’re in power. Of course the polls are bad. Of course the Tories are getting more energy and more money flowing into their operation. All reasons to fight harder.


As Roy says ‘Conservative support is fragile – based more on dislike of the Government than on admiration for the Opposition. David Cameron lacks substance and the more he is forced to describe his policies, the less attractive they appear.’


He argues too that many ordinary Party supporters do not see the coming battle as having been lost. But too many of the senior figures in government now talk and behave as though the game is over.


Roy rightly points out how rarely we hear or read ministers making effective attacks on the Tories, or setting out in a way that arrests the media and the public what divides us from the Tories.


They can make speeches all day long but if nobody is listening, they cannot blame the listener, or simply say the media has lost the plot. At the coming party conference, the 24 hour news merchants will blather away about Gordon’s prospects and Gordon’s character and find innumerable ways not to focus on the real substance of politics and the choices facing Britain and the world. Let them. But while the downside of our media may be its size, scale, volume and negativity, the upside is its size and scale and the fact that if you have something interesting to say, you can get a hearing for it.


I am among the party supporters who genuinely believe that because of our record, our values, the public’s indifference to the Tories, and the fact that only Labour really wrestles with the big policy challenges of the future, the election can still be won ….. Provided ministers en masse start to make the case properly, with conviction and confidence, without constantly appearing to be cowed by the media and on the back foot.


The next few days are pretty vital in showing they are still up for it.

  • @jlocke13

    “Gordon is a better Prime Minister than David Cameron would ever be……” On what evidence? You know that oppositions do not win elections, governments lose them. The tipping point has passed and no amount of fighting is going to save this lot from meltdown at the next election.

  • olli issakainen

    Labour should borrow Owen Coyle´s recipe: HARD WORK+TEAM SPIRIT+BELIEF=SUCCESS.

    P.S. If you are going to White Hart Lane to see us beat the old enemy Spurs, remember to take the ticket with you this time!

  • londonstatto

    The problem is that nobody from Labour is making the case for voting Labour.

    Making the case for not voting Tory is insufficient. If you want my vote, you need to give me a reason *to vote for you*.

  • Sandra

    The public have lost interest in Labour as a Government its time for a change they’ve let the party down. Where is the inward investment and the opportunities for employment . We need jobs and council houses not bonuses for bankers and Middle class rescue packages for the greedy Home owners that bought houses for investment rather than a place to … Read morelive. I have all my sons and their famillies living at home because there are no houses including my grandchildren. I cant see them ever being able to afford housing. Wages are too low ,jobs are too scarce and we are expected to pay more for the costs of living financial ends dont meet for the younger generation and my boys work they are the lucky ones!Its time for Labour to go they let us all down.

  • barbar of Oz

    I think the major problem is that most of the electorate is not even giving the Labour Govt a second thought. Hasn’t done so for some time. That’s the strong impression I get from being here in London for the last six weeks.

    When did it make up its mind? I suspect that by-election ages ago when Labour ran a class-based attack on David Cameron, (in marked contrast to the New Labour approach during 10 years of TB) and got absolutely trounced.

    The punters seem to like David Cameron, and why shouldn’t they? He presents himself as being reasonable and moderate. Furthermore, this time two years ago, they registered the impression that the Labour government was scared of David Cameron. That caused them to take a good look at the guy, after which they seemed to have decided Labour’s time has past. It is very, very hard to break through when the electorate has tuned out on you.

  • Jane

    I am not sure I am listening anymore and indeed am embarrassed at the state of the Party that I have supported for 42 years. I want to hear a message but all I get from many Ministers ( David Miliband and Hillary Benn are exceptions) is a bash at the Tories. Every policy question asked by an interviewer results in a Minister getting a negative comment in about the Tories. That is what they seek to achieve too rather than engaging with the audience. It seems apparent to me that those being interviewed on Radio or Television, are getting a crib sheet from No 10 on what to say. It is boring hearing the same message and totally unsophisticated. What a poor lot in No 10 in not seeing the many errors in recent months! I know what the Tories are up to and what they support. Ministers should be confident in answering questions and explaining their policies. Many are alienating me by not doing this.

    I am not sure that Ministers are cowed by the Media although I am sure you are in a better position to judge this. I feel they are cowed by No 10.

    It follows that I disagree totally with what Roy Hattersley (I am not a fan of his) wrote in the Times today. I do not want constant attacks on opposition parties – I see this as a weakness and it offends me. It also insults my intelligence. The previous PM had the necessary skills to attack in an acceptable and subtle manner – not many of the current Cabinet have these skills. Yes debate the differences on policy but not at the expense of getting your own message on policy and vision (sadly lacking) across.

    I have never recovered from how TB was ousted and note many of those involved hold posts in the government. I am of the mind to join the millions of non voters for the first time as I do not at the present time share your optimism.

  • Patsy H

    Spot on – they should stop apoloigising, stop agreeing with the notions that the government has achieved nothing, or is no different to the tories, and show a bit of fight. I hear lots of moans about the government but very few cries for the Tories. That means people are still there to be won over. But they have to hear something clearer and better than what they hear now

  • Alan Quinn

    Alastair, you’re bang on yet again. This election can be won.
    Cameron and Osborne were wrong on how to deal with the global economic crisis whilst Brown was spot on, every measure from making sure the banks didn’t collapse, spending money to make sure the slunmp didn’t turn into recession was opposed by those two jokers.
    Cameron’s naivety in putting his MEP’s into an alliance with the far right loons in Europe and Osborne’s gaffs on defence spending show them up for what they are.
    Haman’s views on the NHS… “a 60 yr mistake” are the real feelings of the tories on the NHS, they are happy for now for Dave to be the cuddly feely man who loves the NHS as long as he gets them elected.
    On another matter Ally, I’m helping to organise a charity evening in Manchester on Friday 23rd Oct where myself and other colleagues will be raising money for a young lady who has lock down syndrome and for Mac House at Alder Hey Children’s hospital in Scouseland (Alder Hey has the largest intensive care unit in England and helps kids from Cumbria down to N Wales.)
    Any chance of a signed book for the raffle?

  • Ian Eastwood

    Of course the media are incorrect that everything GB does is wrong; he just has a habit of doing the right things badly. When a good policy decision is made it must be right first time and not give the media a chance to pick up on some negative point that distracts from the main thrust of that policy. I sight the Gurkha fiasco as a typical example of getting it right eventually………….

  • Em

    Time to look forward and win this. The choice for the voters is clear: do they want a man of substance and experience at the helm, or a cheerleader? People hate the media. A good sales pitch should include the notion that DC’s success with journos only points to him being the wrong man. GB was not packaged to be media-friendly. His individuality is part of his strength.

    I agree about Tory support being soft. As I wrote elsewhere yesterday, this isn’t 1997. The media is alone is excited about DC. Twelve years ago, the British people were alight with hope and eager to build a new Britain with TB. Nothing even remotely resembling this kind of spirit surrounding DC.

  • Marcus Dillistone

    The best form of defense is attack.

    Force the Tories out into the open before they are ready… frankly there’s noting to lose and everything to gain. Just make sure there’s plenty of ammunition.

  • Gary Enefer


    I have been doing my own polling by throwing out the fact that I will be voting for Gordon Brown. I say my reason for this is that he has done a great job on saving the economy and there would be tons of For Sale signs everywhere if interest rates were high. i also clarify my convictions by saying I believe the
    Conservatives would wreck the recovery. People are responding to me with a nod and saying I am probably right and the tories appear ”half-baked”.

    I did say way back in April and early August ON THIS MAGNIFICENT BLOG that Labour would win but it is nice to get some positive feedback from the electorate too.



  • Charlie

    @Em: “Twelve years ago, the British people were alight with hope and eager to build a new Britain with TB. Nothing even remotely resembling this kind of spirit surrounding DC.”

    It is possible that the British people are being a little more cautious before revealing their hands this time round, having had their hopes of a ‘New Britain’ so cruelly dashed by TB and his hapless successor.

    Whilst I am not yet 100% convinced by DC and the Tories who are as yet unproven, I am 100% convinced that they cannot possibly be worse than Brown and the current Labour leadership.