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Game on, and if Tories think this is about communications, the game is definitely winnable for Labour

Posted on 4 May 2012 | 9:05am

I hope someone at Tory Central Office is minting a medal for Michael Fallon, the MP who so gamely trots from studio to studio defending whatever Cameron-Osborne shambles happens to be trending at the time.

But last night, as he sat with others waiting for election results to come in, there came a little sign that the pressure is beginning to show. He was on Newsnight, and as he was asked what the Tories now need to do to get back on track, he said they needed to do a better job of ‘communicating our achievements.’

And I thought no, no, no … Michael, I am a fellow warrior who can spot the kindred spirit who always wants to defend his own side, always wants to swim against the tide of lazy conventional wisdom, always wants to show there is a long-term game and the game can still be won … but ‘communicating our achievements…’ Bad, bad, bad. This is akin to saying ‘one day the ungrateful bastards who make up the British public will realise what’s good for them, and what’s good for them is two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk presiding over them from a modern day Downtown Abbey.’

The problem is that people do not have a sense of achievement; not because of poor communications (that is the one thing Cameron is actually quite good at); but because of poor achievement.

Let’s wind back a couple of years. There was one big goal … dealing with the deficit, wiping it out in a term, shedding thousands and thousands of jobs in the public sector, making billions and billions of cuts, because the private sector was going to fill the jobs gap, and brave new reforms were going to drive up standards in public services … and it has not happened. You can communicate all you want, but you can’t say that black is white.

So in this week, 15 years on from Labour’s first win under Tony Blair, let’s remember what was the big economic goal of the time … stability, low inflation and interest rates, a fall in unemployment, a rise in spending on public services … and within two years it was clear we were delivering, and the public had a sense of that happening.

Yes, three terms later, it ended badly on the economic front, and it is one of the reasons we lost. But the memory of ten years of relatively good growth and stability is one of the reasons the Tories didn’t win. And when they came in, instead of having an economic strategy as big and as bold as the one TB and GB put together, they had a political strategy alone … to blame Labour ‘for the mess we inherited.’

I’ll tell you when I knew the Tories were in for a bad night. Wednesday evening, at the Sport Industry Awards, 1700 people there so plenty from all political persuasions but in terms of the last election, probably more who voted Tory than voted Labour. The business people were almost uniform in their view that the Tories were not up to it, that competence was a real issue, the Budget a political disaster, the queues at Heathrow a symbol, that there was no real sense of a plan that was working, and they were sick to the back teeth of the ‘all Labour’s fault’ line.

There were quite a few top sports people there as well and one – from the world of rugby – said to me ‘can you imagine a football manager or a rugby coach who was still blaming his predecessor two seasons after he took over?’ Mmmm, good point I thought.

So the failures being rejected at the ballot box are not failures of communication, but failures of policy and leadership, and the good news for Labour is that there seems this morning to be very little sign that these are going to be addressed.

Indeed, they are now sitting hoping for a Boris Johnson win to point to as a sign that all can be retrieved. But if Johnson wins, it will be despite the Tories in Westminster not because of them, and he will use the win to undermine Cameron and Osborne rather than support them.

For Labour, a great opportunity now beckons. Ed Milband has shown a lot of resilience through a difficult start. He has shown Labour can oppose. The Labour view on the economy and austerity, once derided by the conventional wisdom, is now getting traction. So the first two years of Opposition have not been wasted. The next two years have to be about continuing to show we can oppose, but also now developing the forward policy agenda in a way that shows that whereas the government appears to have no answers to continuing problems, Labour does.

It is most definitely game on, and if the Tory response is that they need to do a better job of communicating their achievements, the game can most certainly be won.

  • It’s true – even if senior Tories genuinely believe that the recession is “all Labour’s fault” (and they don’t, they know larger market forces had rather a large impact), they shouldn’t keep SAYING it. 

    It just makes them look weak and whiny – it’s the tactic of a party too long suited to opposition, frankly; instead of coming up with solutions, they’re busy blaming Labour for “not doing enough” – well you’re in power now guys, fix it.It’s becoming increasingly apparent that they can’t fix it; that their plan for the economy isn’t working and that they don’t have a backup. 

  • Marymot

    Bravo!  Not for the first time I say listen to Alistair Darling. 

  • ZintinW4

    Spot on AC. The Downtown boys are in bigger trouble than they realise. At least when Labour win in 2015 the Tories can blame Labour for their defeat. Also the London result in the mayorality election is irrelevant. Ed M had no control over candidate selection and Boris, as Ken predicted, will ditch London for a seat in Parliament. His ambitions are about him, not for the city I love and live in.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Communicating “achievements”.
    About what? Double-dip recession made in Downing Street?
    David Cameron and his partner-in-crime George Osborne have nothing to show except failure and U-turns.
    Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are a team of losers.
    Cameron has no strategic sense of direction.
    Osborne is only watching from the sidelines as Britain is on the road to ruin. And the UK is not even travelling in the first class!
    George Osborne is a rightwing supply-sider who wants to cut employment protection.
    Keynesians like to stimulate growth. Like Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. And M. Hollande.
    The plan A of the Treasury supported by the “independent” Bank of England has totally failed as it is based on neoliberalism which collapsed in 2008.
    2009 Gordon Brown introduced Keynesian consensus at the G20 meeting which saved the world.
    But banks soon wanted to return to austerity which is now destroying economies across Europe.
    But the European consensus is now breaking down. There will be European Spring!
    People will be liberated from the tyranny of bankers.
    Greece, Britain, Portugal, Spain etc. are in recession.
    Austerity is a destructive economic doctrine.
    Textbooks on economics tell to spend more to offset falling PRIVATE DEMAND.
    Ed Miliband must now seize the moment and call time on failed consensus.
    In 1974 Britain was heading for a double-dip.
    Downturn was symptom of deeper malaise: postwar Butskellite consensus.
    The new Thatcher consensus based on deregulation and privatisation promised much, but only delivered lower GROWTH, depressed INCOMES, more DEBT and redistribution of WEALTH to the super-rich.
    Free market Conservatives, Orange Book Liberals and New Labourites are now out of touch.
    Ed Miliband´s new capitalism must be based on FAIRNESS.
    In crisis centre-ground is an empty construct.
    We need greater economic security and social responsibility.
    If newspapers are to be believed, Tony Blair is about to make a political comeback at the Olympics.
    Since leaving the office in 2007 Mr Blair has worked for JP Morgan as a senior adviser earning about £500,000-2.5m a year.
    He has advised Swiss insurance firm Zurich Financial Services on climate change for about £1m a year.
    Mr Blair has also consulted Bernard Arnault´s LVMH.
    The £5m+ he received from Random House for his memoirs he donated to charity.
    Mr Blair gets £84,000 a year to run a private office. His pension is £63,468.
    He has property portfolio worth £15m.
    Consulting firm Tony Blair Associates advises countries and businesses.
    The Office of Tony Blair consists of Tony Blair Faith Foundation, Quartet Representation, African Governance and climate change.
    Speeches Mr Blair has made have given him £5m.
    Tony Blair recently hired a new comms director Rachel Grant.
    The motto of the Olympics is Citius, Altius, Fortius.
    2012 Olympics medal has occult symbols.
    London Olympics mascots Wenlock and Mandeville have the Illuminati All-Seeing Eye.
    London 2012 logo spells ZION – not by accident.
    Olympics stadium in London has Illuminati pyramids with lighted capstones.
    The head of LOCOG, Seb Coe, is a worldwide ambassador of Rothschilds´ Nike.
    LOCOG´s CE Paul Deighton was previously COO of Rothschilds´ Goldman Sachs Europe.
    Board members of LOCOG come from Rothschild-controlled companies ITV, Goldman Sachs, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Deutsche Bank and BT.
    Worldwide Olympics partners include Rothschild-controlled Coca-Cola, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical, McDonald´s, Panasonic and Visa.   

  • reaguns

    Re Boris, Ken and Paddick.

    Paddick wants to make fixing crime his priority.
    Boris doesn’t, and his record sucks,but at least he wants to talk about it.
    Ken wants to sweep crime under the carpet.

    Therefore I would hit Ken in the skull with a baseball bat, whereas I would merely break Boris legs with it.
    Paddick would receive an appointment 1 year from now and the level of baseball bat attack he would get would depend on what he had done to criminals in that 1 year period.

    Crazy talk eh? Actually no, whatever its flaws, there are parts of the UK where criminals are dealt with using baseball bats, oh yes there are, and the crime is lower in those areas, oh yes it is. I don’t want this model rolled out all over the UK but to pretend we can learn nothing from it is crazy. Deterrents and punishment work.

  • Chris lancashire

    Three years to the next General Election Mr Campbell; and you know as well as I do that Labour should be doing a lot better than this. Despite the “expectation mamagement” what the local elections showed was the usual mid term kicking for the coalition in power and, equally, a total lack of belief in Labour’s economic competence and strategy.

  • Michele

     It’s all very well Dave saying this will be a fixed term parliament.

    I hope that doesn’t it make it so.
    We don’t want yet more shambolic years like those of the 80s when the only route for some councils was to disobey govt (but who could blame those doing so?).

  • Michele

     Can’t you go talk to yourself in a mirror and not need to do it with an audience?

  • Mark Wright

    Let’s hope they do sharpen their communcation as the more people hear their ‘message’ the less they like what they hear.

  • Steve E.

    Two great comments made on last night’s coverage on the Beeb  – both, incidentally, missed by Dumblebore – how does that buffoon manage to hold onto his job(s). Anyway, I digress…

    Point one. The Tory Party chairman correlating the rise in UKIP candidates exactly equivalent to the decline in those for the BNP.

    If Warsi isn’t shuffled out of her post after this, I’d be amazed.

    Point two. Tim Montgomerie pointing out that no PM since Harold Wilson has actually increased his or her popularity in office, a coded message to Cameron telling him that the Long Knives may soon be pulled from their scabards.

    The game, as you say, is most definitely on.

  • reaguns

    Would your mirror say “Right back at ya!”

    A simple point, the evidence shows that criminals respond to incentive, just like everyone else does. So lets give them some incentives.

  • Richard

    “……..can you imagine a football manager or a rugby coach who was still blaming his predecessor two seasons after he took over?” Yes, Al compare with the situation of Glasgow Rangers. Their past accrued debts will shape their future for years. Geddit?
    But of course in the minds of Labour economists those accrued debts are investments and you borrow more money to buy new players to get out of the debt. There will always be a white knight to charge to the rescue, won’t there Al? Your football analogy does not work.
    Total debt of £1 trillion and rising, Al. It will take  a lot longer than two years for your legacy to be forgotten by either your opponents or the electorate. Your legacy will be your achilles for a  decade.

    PS Your ranting mate Olli seems to be in need of less of your encouragement as he says today that the London Olympic logo, rubbish as many think it is, spells ZION, “not by accident”.  Please condemn his rascism, which is rampant and should not be tolerated or encouraged.

  • Dave Simons

    Actually Labour has done a lot better than I expected, and I doubt if I’m alone in thinking that. But the swing should not be taken as a feather in Ed’s cap – it’s probably been more of a swing away from the two Coalition parties rather than a swing towards Labour under Ed’s leadership. ‘Mid-term blues’ always gets trotted out when a government gets a bad result, and I hope the Conservatives in particular keep trotting it out and believing it. But I hope Labour stays serious and doesn’t get too exultant and self-congratulatory. The Tory strategy will be to maintain the austerity programme for a couple more years and then engineer a pre-election easing before 2015, whatever the short-term expense. Labour has a lot of self-definition and analysis to go through before it’s ready to counter what’s ahead.

  • Christine E Brand

    Alastair you must be jumping for joy!!! Labour gaining seats and Tories & Libs, finding the difficulties you faced in government! Fiona will be pleased others now left to sorting it out – in the opposite parties, and it not falling on you!!!! Just finished your 3rd diary. Would you want to be back in No:10 if labour got in power next time? No don’t go their! Just celebrate knowing the situation their now, shoes on the other sides don’t fit!!!! Hope your well yourself. Guess your phone very busy…… Take Care Christine Brand

  • Segold

    Please use a  darker font as your blog is difficult to read.

  • Christine Ebrand

    Mandleson on T.V. is this diddling!!!!! You should be! Are you on Newsnight tonight? Has the media learnt anythink? ….
    Christine Brand

  • Hairy_Goldfish

     “The evidence shows criminals respond to incientives” Yes incentives such as a possibility of a future and a way out of breaking the law to survive/ feed a habit.

    Corporal punishment has been shown not to work the world over.

  • Richard

    In some states they still cut off limbs as punishment. It is so much cheaper than court cases and since there is no social security it is cost neutral. No baseball bats necessary. No gaols. Why not go and live there amongst your intellectual equals.

  • Richard

    Much fantasy fact about TB wealth, Olli. Which cereal packet box do you read to get such certain knowledge?  Is it written by some Fantasy Finnish Fiction Flogger, or is it all you own work?

  • Libdem

    Do you agree with capital punishment reaguns?

  • Michele

     You don’t catch much do you?
    I’m not the one talking to myself in m y posts.
    ………..Crazy talk eh? Actually no,……….
    ……oh yes there are,…………………
    ………… oh yes it is……………..

    It’s presuming too much about what readers’ responses might be being.
    Want to do both sides of the convo?  I think using a mirror was a helpful suggestion 🙂
    You might even find someone agreeing with you; they’ll look a bit familiar …..

  • Michele

    ……………” London 2012 logo spells ZION – not by accident”  …………

    Thud; perhaps it would to someone with three heads :-s

  • Michele

     Oh dear …… yet more re …..

    ……….”London 2012 logo spells ZION – not by accident” ……

    The Daily Mail reckon it looks like a sex act! 
    Can’t imagine which one/s they mean.

  • Ehtch

    So, Boris got back in for London Mayor, but I think a more humble Boris has got back in, which is something, I suppose. He will watch his p’s and q’s more in the future, I think. Have a pack of the finest Richmond sausages on me Boris, more tastier than Walls, I think.

    But Cameron will be pinker, and Osborne more paler, after the last couple of days. There will be some close by who will be thinking of setting the fox and hounds on them, which is not a bad thing, for the rest of us that is. They will be even more confused what to do now, feeling as if they are even more being pulled in two totally different ideological directions. Should be fun, for the rest us, that is.

  • mightymark

    Great day for Labour. Gains across the country including London.

    Defeats for extremists BNP, respedct and faux Labour Livingstone. lets hope Ed Milliband learns the lessons. Tony Blair’s wish to get back to UK politics can’t come too soon.

  • Boris Johnson’s PR man has been offered a job with News International. No wonder Tory MPs’ refused to condemn Murdoch. 
    Mayor’s media aide Guto Harri considers role
    with Murdoch newspapers
    Leveson should be investigating Boris Johnson’s
    links with the Murdoch EmpireBoth Johnson and Kit Malthouse have repeatedly
    criticised and attempted to undermine the investigation over the last year.
    Labour could have won if they had skipped a
    generation and went with someone like Stella Creasy or that highly impressive
    young Labour MP Chukka Umunna. Livingsone is yesterday’s man and had too much

    So much for the Evening Standard’s ‘Sorry’
    Campaign a couple of years back.Sarah Sands is direct from Tory Central office
    and is an obedient Boris lackey and tool.Lebedev is fortunate that the
    Standard is a free rag as the appointment of Sands as Editor would drive all non
    Tories running for Tube.Boris doesn’t own the Evening Standard. He merely
    demanded that the owner appoint his old girlfriend and cheerleader, Sarah Sands,
    as Editor and his campaign only told Standard hacks what to write ( to make him
    look good).

  • reaguns

    This column is spot on Alastair. Exactly like you say, its not that they are bad at communicating, its that there is nothing to communicate.
    If they had anything decent they could communicate it like a mofo.

    Ronnie Reagan said:
    “I won the nickname the great communicator. But I never thought it was my style that made a difference—it was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.”

    Cameron/Osborne have it arse about face.

  • reaguns

    No it has not. That is not based on fact, it is based on what you would like the facts to be.

    There are streets in Belfast (which should be the roughest in the UK according to socio-economic factors) where you can leave your house and car unlocked, and where mugging is unheard of. Why? Because paramilitaries deal severely with criminality. Like I said I wouldn’t want to live under such conditions, but it does disprove a lot of theories.

    Malaysia and China will give you two examples of corporal punishment working. They kill drug dealers in both countries and both countries have less drugs. It is that simple.

  • reaguns

    Unfortunately for you Michele there are a couple of other responders above who prove that my assumptions are entirely correct. You don’t think I ever discuss my opinions with friends, and therefore have a fair idea what the hippies will say to them?

  • reaguns

    This is overly simplistic – so I either have a choice of the most liberal country in the world (the UK) or superstitious medieval barbarism?

    That is a primary school level argument. We could get a lot tougher on crime without going to those extremes.

  • reaguns

    As an ideal yes, but in practice its less clearcut.

    Meaning, if someone murders someone, or rapes someone then I believe they deserve to die. But proving this is not so clearcut. Also, you must retain a scale of punishment. There have been incidents in UK, USA and Ireland where a criminal has taken hostages and killed one person in an armed robbery, but then gave themselves up deciding to face life in jail rather than be killed by a swat team. If we executed everyone who murdered, then those same criminals would have killed more. So in practice, I’m in favour yes, but there are very few times when I would use it. However if we can shoot men in Iraq and Afghanistan whose only crime was being born in the wrong part of the world, then I don’t see why vile murders and sex offenders can’t be taken care of here.

    People like Myra Hindley and Ian Brady would certainly get executed if it were up to me.

  • Ehtch

    Off topic, slightly, west wales us “provincials” are going up against our new Labour-controlled capital city Cardiff this Saturday evening, in our own homie town of Llanelli. should be interesting Alastair,

    7:30 BST PM kick off, available online at rugger BBC Sport webshite, sorry, site (never be too polite to Shepherd Bush beeb, I have found, ey, North of England?, makes them feel too comfortable I have found…)
    : )

  • Ehtch

    More spooking, just been speaking to people from Utah, describing them on Jimmy and brothers Osmond visiting the local Tescos, all the way from there. Heart in same place, ey Katherine? Boris, pop your eyes back in, you seem to have a Bullingdon problem with them, ey pal?

    Boris, Dave and Georgie Irish Porgie together,
    Young cants in synch, dis-guided.

  • Dave Simons

    I think she means the other Dave, the one who there’s always a ‘Camera-On’ – not me I hope!

  • BatgirlW4

    Spot on AC, but I do think Labour needed to remind the general public of all the good policy’s and change they implemented whilst in government at the last General Election. Independence for the Bank of England, minimum wage, reduction in class sizes etc, I even remember the weather being better under Labour (although I don’t think the party can take credit for that). If Labour is going to win it needs you as Leader!

  • Michele

     Will you be volunteering to be a vengeful (as opposed to thieving) baseball bat swinger or will that be left to others?

  • Michele


    Right DS 😉

  • Michele

     Smashing ID 🙂

  • Michele

    So you know where to go to, there’s really no need for you to stay in a progressive society where we recently saw the saddest example of revenge (the three young men mown down in Birmingham and their devastated families).

  • Michele

     I’m not disputing that people will disagree with you at times; that desn’t take away their right to say it before you do you ‘shut it’ response.  It’s so bloddy knowall.

    I merely thought your debate with yourself would have been better out of sight (and still do, so off to the bathroom).

    Mrs Bucket

  • Michele

    ” ……………..then gave themselves up deciding to face life in jail rather than be killed by a swat team. ………………”

    Have any your books suggested they gave themselves up rather than need to keep on killing?

  • Michele

    I think the Tories have proved the game is about mis-communication and I’m disappointed that this wasn’t given any prominence on TV :

    I also heard last night that due to neither BJ or KL’s first choice votes reaching the required 50%, the third-placed candidate – Jenny Jones’s votes would be spread between them.

    This morning I hear that what actually happened was that all voters’ 2nd choices for BJ or KL were added to their 1st choice totals.

    BJ had 971,931 1sts
    plus 82,880 2nds = 1,054,811

    KL had 889,918 1sts
    plus 102,355 2nds = 992,273

    Stats (or their weightings) are not exactly a science are they?

  • Libdem

    I guess you’re going down the 1st degree, 2nd degree, manslaughter route and probably you’d plump for execution for 1st degree.

    I just cannot agree with either capital or corporal punishment as we all know that the state is likely to make mistakes. Innocent people will either be executed or, baseball batted. We’ve had enough examples over the years of the state ‘fitting up’ individuals but at least they’ve benefitted from a life sentence rather than death. Then new technology has helped release a number of them.

    I don’t agree with the Iraq/Afghanistan wars but we’re there and if a local is threatening to blow you up up then I can understand shooting a local, it’s self-defence. This cannot be equated to capital punishment in any way.

    Just one mistake with capital punishment invalidates the whole process in my opinion so, Hindley and Brady would be incarcerated for the whole of their lives.

  • reaguns

    Sure, that might have happened in some cases Michele, but I’ve read accounts of people who decided that it was simply in their interests to stop.

    The main one I’m thinking of was in Dublin where armed robbery had gotten out of control a few years back. The gang had committed the then standard hostage scenario, thinking they would get away with it as all other gangs had. They didn’t know that the Garda had secretly formed an armed response unit, who totally surrounded them with assault weapons. Someone had died of a heart attack and the gang realised they were in enough trouble and that it was worth giving up before they got shot or ended up with worse sentences. The account was written by the guilty party and he said he ran through what kind of life he could have depending on whether he quit while he was ‘ahead’ so to speak.

  • reaguns

    The concept was very well explained by (spelling alert) Shami Chakrabati.

  • reaguns

    The 3 young men killed in the Birmingham riots last year? Where the father displayed incredible dignity and came on tv to appeal for calm and so forth? I am not aware of the revenge element of this… did this happen in revenge, or has there been a revenge incident relating to it since?

  • reaguns

    I have intervened a few times in the past in such situations as it happens. Bragging alert. Two neighbouring kids came to me a few years back because they were being bullied by a local adult. I believed them but went to get his side of the story, expecting him to know my reputation and to try and deny it (or possibly even convince me that the kids were wrong, exaggerating etc.) Instead his response was “What are you going to do about it.” He threw the first punch but I threw the last one… or two.

    He was not Mike Tyson and nor am I. In other circumstances, would I have been willing to use a baseball bat to get the same result? I’d prefer not to say. I would prefer that I lived in an area where the police could handle such things, or indeed where I could be in the police myself. You should be aware that this is not clearcut in certain parts of the UK.

  • Chris lancashire

    Excellent post. Mr Campbell would like to airbrush 13 years of high spending Labour out completely. As for Olli – I’ve long thought he’s not a well person – best ignored.

  • reaguns

    I’m not dogmatic about it. I really don’t know how I’d vote if we had a vote on this. (Though as far as I know the polls have always shown that the british public support capital punishment.)

  • Dave Simons

    Remember, among others,  Derek Bentley in 1953, now officially pardoned, and also remember that the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4 might have been hanged. Also remember that capital punishment does not deter suicide bombers and others seeking martyrdom at the expense of the state.

  • Michele

    Sorry I lost this one and couldn’t re-find it.  Yes, the runnings over were in revenge for something the father had done a couple of weeks earlier and has since been tried for.
    The killers got their revenge, I doubt they can put any other name or value judgement on it.

  • Michele

     Well said.

  • reaguns

    Didn’t know that.

  • reaguns

    I do, thats why I say I agree with it as an ideal, but in practice how can you be so sure of someone’s guilt to execute them.