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The record needs a better hearing – Labour and Tory

Posted on 11 March 2010 | 8:03am

Due to a scheduling balls-up, I was last night at a Labour fundraiser in Greenwhich when I would rather have been at Burnley’s re-arranged home match against Stoke.

Of the fundraiser, more later, but it meant for one night only I was like Bob and Terry from that brilliant episode of The Likely Lads, when they were trying to avoid knowing the result of a match because the highlights were on telly later. Ours was the only Premier League match on last night so we were guaranteed to be the main game for once on Sky’s half ten football special.

It is harder to avoid results in the modern age with mobile phones, blackberries and omnipresent TV sets. I turned off all my contraptions to avoid the ‘what a goal’ ‘oh no’ ‘here we go again’ ‘never a penalty’ type texts that are part of the modern football experience. 

Someone came to the fundraiser with a shiny new iphone telling me they could get me minute by minute updates as I spoke. I had to begin my speech with a genuine plea not to tell me any news from Turf Moor, should it filter through. My son, at the match, was similarly under silence instructions. The only tricky moment was at a pub by a set of traffic lights on the way home, when I could see our manager Brian Laws being interviewed on Sky Sports News. I looked away quickly in case smile or grimace gave the game away.

Anyway, I made it, and was home just in time to see the kick-off followed by a one all draw.

As for the fundraiser, as with other recent such events, definitely a change of mood to report, with a sense of hope that people are turning against the Tories and starting to look more favourably on Labour.

Two interesting points from the floor during the q and a. One, which I echoed whole-heartedly, that we need to talk up the record more as a way of pushing back on the negativity in the media and showing how politics has delivered real change. Local MP Nick Raynsford pointed out that even after all the problems of the global economic crisis, unemployment in his area was 40 per cent down on 1997.

Going on about the record is not about getting pats on the back. It is the means by which you make real the prospect that changes planned for the future can and will happen. 

The second point concerned the economy, and the insight that campaigning in times of economic difficulty is not as straightforward as campaigning in times of economic strength. The issue then becomes which party can best be trusted to secure the recovery. One  speaker from the floor rightly said that he would like to see and hear more from the many economists who reject the Tories’ plans to choke the investment going in to help secure that recovery.

Again, the record is important here – ours and the Tories. I think one of the reasons the polls are narrowing is that GB and Alistair Darling are getting some of the respect they deserve for their handling of the economic crisis when it erupted. The Tories would have let things take their course, with potentially catastrophic consequences, because their instinct is always to see government as the problem not the solution. We cannot let them forget they made the wrong calls then, because it indicates to the public they would make the wrong calls now. With the date for the Budget now set, Alistair Darling’s calm and ability to tell it as it is will come in handy up against George Osborne. 

*** Buy The Blair Years here and raise money for Labour

  • Hilary Course

    I was also at a Labour event last night, in Birmingham, where I made exactly the same point – that because the media says everything is terrible, we have become too defensive about the record of the government. People need to be reminded of how things were and shown that a lot of the change for the better was because the people changed from Tory to Labour.

  • Tom Johnstone

    Can anyone remember the score in The Likely Lads match? And were they Sunderland or Newcastle fans? My memory says Sunderland and the game was off but I cannot be sure

  • Jeremy Parker

    It was not the greatest of matches but at least getting a poiht stops the rot a bit. Wolves the big one now. Sorry you missed it but well done for all the money you raise

  • Nancy

    This is exactly what I have been thinking of late. I think Labour will return for another term in office simply because voters (and the media) recognise the calm and steady hand that has steered us through the recession. If the Tories had been at the helm then we would have faced much hardship, spending cuts and the resulting wastelands we witnessed in the last recession. Cameron and Osborne don’t appear to have a clue and I think its coming across loud and clear!

  • pete berry

    Absolutely right. The polls tell the story, Cons have never polled really well – just over 40% in their good patches. This is all about Labour who were down in the teens at some stages. That was understandable because people were frightened and couldn’t understand what the cause of the recession was. Many still can’t and we’re losing the argument because the Tories are getting across the message that it was all due to Labour spending too much. Absolute bollocks of course – but please, please can we start telling the truth about how close we came to bank meltdowns and another depression and compare unemployment now with what it was under Tory recessions. And yes talk about the minimum wage, crime etc.
    And also remember voters much under 30 didn’t really experience how bad things were under the Tories.



  • Martin Dean

    The likely lads story was about an England game. It was a bet – they could get to MOTD without knowing the score. After lots of near misses they sit down at the TV. One confesses to the other he had seen a headline “England F” they speculate what it means until they turn the TV on to find that the football has been replaced with Ice skating from Nottingham after the game was cancelled due to a water logged pitch. ENGLAND FLOODED OUT they say in unison! classic
    How can I remember that ?

  • olli issakainen

    The Tories are nowadays so liberal and progressive that Robert Mugabe is endorsing them. And Carol Vorderman. Even Samantha Cameron is seriously considering to vote for the Tories this time!
    In fact, David Cameron has been outed as a traditional right-wing Tory. If elected, David Hood, Little George, William Scarlet and the rest of Merry Men of Notting Hill will rob from the poor and give to the rich.
    As for the economy, I cannot believe that according to some polls the voters think that David Cameron is more likely to get the recovery right than Gordon Brown. This kind on confidence in the Conservatives is hardly based on any facts as the Tories have only called wrong shots on the economy since 2008.

  • Peter Robertson

    The likely Lads were Newcastle fans! I’m from Sunderland and the two don’t mix very well. It was actually an England international they were trying to avoid the score of but there was no score in the match, it was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch, if I remember rightly. Spot on about Labour’s record and the, other likely lads’ (Dave and George) record. They’ve been wromg on all the big economic issues. Sock it to em!

  • Peter Farley

    As you have linked them in this blog, it would be great to see both Brown and Burnley judged on their records come early May. Defeat for Labour on May 6 can then be followed by Spurs’ win at Turf Moor on the 9th clinching our place in Europe and Burnley’s back in the Championship. A perfect start to the summer…..

  • Steven Fletcher

    Your point about the record is absolutely right. I think there is a sense in some way that we are terrified of talking about the record because people won’t vote for what they already have.

    I think talk about our record gives us credibility, is a definite plus because it is a good record, plays into fears about Tory inexperience and most importantly of all lifts our troops and gives them something positive to talk about on the doorstep.

    Pride is an emotion not associated with politics recently – I think we should claim it back. I am proud to be Labour and proud of what Labour has achieved in the last 13 years. I will be even prouder to see these achievements continue.

  • Jacquie R

    Labour may win the arguement in terms of competency and fairness, but this won’t necessarily attract enough votes after 13 years in office. It’s vital for the Labour leadership to both look and be refreshed. Why not resurrect and upgrade the post of Deputy Prime Minister and give it to the bright and charismatic Ed Milliband? He is the future, he is hope and he makes David Cameron look rather tired and old hat.

  • H Henderson

    We have all got too apologetic. This is a better country than it was under the Tories and Cameron’s Tories are unchanged. Let’s shout it out and stop accepting all the attacks on the record. If you want my opinion, the polls are turning a bit because people think Cameron and crew are lightweights. And they’re right

  • Patrick James

    I think there has been a non-stop attack on the nature of our society by the Conservative supporting press for years.

    It is time to talk about the great successes over the last 13 years.

  • Simon Gittins

    ‘As for the economy, I cannot believe that according to some polls the voters think that David Cameron is more likely to get the recovery right than Gordon Brown. This kind on confidence in the Conservatives is hardly based on any facts’

    Maybe voters are basing their opinions on the FACTS that we were the last major economy to emerge (sorry, limp out) of the recession and our finaces are now in a worse state than any other major economy. The FACT that Gordon Brown has lied consistently during his time as PM hardly inspires any confidence either.

  • Robert Jackson

    You are right that the record needs a better hearing.

    The Conservatives need to be aware that their record in local government will also be under scrutiny, especially if the election coincides with local elections.

    By 1997 voters had lived under Labour councils for many years and their good governance helped the Labour brand.

    How now the Tories in local government?

    How now the LibDems in local government?

    How now the Tories and LibDems propping each other up in local government?

    By recent reports disastrous.

  • Charlie Reynolds

    You talk about telling it as it is and yet there was no comprehensive spending review last autumn. Just how bad are the actual figures? Where is the PFI stuff too?

    The recession has not yet unfolded. As usual there is the initial crash in lending and the markets, this is then followed with a delay in the real economy. What will make it worse than ever this time is 1) our high level of borrowing during the best of the economic cycle and 2) our failure to start addressing the deficit early enough.

    Let’s be clear – there has not been a stimulus (other than to the banks for their own good only!!). There has simply been an avoidance of taking the difficult decsions necessary for the future success of our country. In this case a stitch in time will definitely save at least nine. To say otherwise is disingenuous.

    Our manufacturing output is not recovering despite a colossal devaluation of the pound. Not only have Labour’s recent policies failed us but policies which have led to the fastest decline in manufacturing in our history over the last 13 years are a disaster. If I were you guys the last thing I would want to do is talk about my record. Economically has there ever been a worse one?

    By the way – which cuts are you going to be making? The fundamental problem is that no one believes you guys have the balls to take tough decisions. Brown reannounces a freeze on top paid civil servants again as if it is a big deal. All part of the lie that the cuts will not affect us ordinary folks. There are going to have to be bigger cuts than ever managed before. I know Brown is a big fan of Margaret Thatcher but even she never dreamed of cuts this big. All because he failed to be prudent – which would have taken difficult decisions instead of massive giveaways which have produced little or nothing. It is a tragedy. Gordon Brown is principally to blame.

  • Chris lancashire

    It is a bit difficult to campaign in times of economic difficulty when this government is largely responsible for the mess – entering a recession with a record structural defecit, selling gold at an all time low, wasting public money on ineffecient IT projects, piling NI increases on hard pressed manufactuers, allowing gross overpayment of public sector salaries (£250k for a Town Clerk??) The list is almost endless.

  • Robert Jackson

    Again Mr Lancashire has hit the nail on the head – Conservative controlled Kent County Council really takes the biscuit paying its CE over £250k.

    The Conservative local government record will be open to scrutiny at the election.