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Defend record with pride, attack Tories with gusto

Posted on 10 September 2009 | 11:09am

Well, we got a right old debate going yesterday, when I picked over the parody that was Dave’s performance on the BBC News, and the uber-parody of a piece in the Telegraph on so-called Tory Cool.

I’m not pretending all comments, whether on the blog, Facebook or Twitter, were supportive of my view, and there is no doubt there is a strand of opinion out there that simply says Labour have had it, and nobody is terribly bothered whether Cameron is up to it or not. Depressing in a way, but also a sign that he is there to be beaten, because the public has nothing like the enthusiasm for the Tories in 2009 that they had for Labour in 1997.

There are also regular voices on here and on my Facebook page, who have genuinely switched from Labour to Tory, though I can’t help thinking for some of them this is more a case of going where they think the wind blows, so that past Labour associations will not harm them too much, socially and politically, if a new lot comes in. Others will hold a genuine belief that Cameron has geuinely changed his party … but even when I try really, really hard to be objective, I find it difficult to see how.

But of all the comments that came in, the one I want to draw attention to was on Facebook, from Barbara Cannon, arguing with Tory convert Nic Careem. ‘I just have to look around my town,’ she says. ‘Two new road by passes, one new hospital, a new University, a new FE College, new police station, new build in a new town centre, major  investment in endless community facilities, minimum wage, tax credits, Sure Start Centre, Children’s Centre, we are still enjoying the lowest rate of unemployment in the last thirty years!!! also lowest interest rates. None of this would have been possible with the Tories.’

There are three main strands to an election campaign for a party of government – defence of the record, attacks on your opponents, and setting out a forward policy agenda. The last of these is the most important, but you need the other two just as much.

What Barbara is showing is that even after the economic crisis, there is a great record to be defended, and we need to do a much better job of defending it. With so much media negativity, and with the Tories so keen to run the country down, if you’re not careful, people simply forget the progress there has been. It then gets taken for granted, like it would have happened anyway, and people overlook the fact that many of these changes happened because Labour were in power, and the Tories were out of power. The defence of the record is directly linked to the attack on the Tories.

It requires people at every level of the party, with ministers and MPs at the front of it, never tiring of setting out the changes that have been made, and the Tory efforts to stop them. It also increases the legitimacy of the foward policy agenda being put forward.

People vote for the future, rather than on the past. But the past is often the best way of signalling what that future holds. This is a country changed for the better, however much media and political opponents say otherwise, and a bit of Barbara’s fight at every level would help get that message across whilst Dave faces up to another series of tough choices looming in his in-tray …

Tie or no tie for lunch at The Guardian?

Vogue or House and Garden for my next big ‘policy’ interview?

Congrats letter to Fabio Capello now, or wait till all qualifiers over?

Good luck message to England women’s team ahead of tonight’s Euros final, or shall we wait to see if they win?

Commiserations with Scotland manager George Burley, or does that risk associating us with defeat?

Find out if Mercury prize winner would like to sit on music task force team.

Should we have a music task force?

Get new Beatles box set. Have them next to CD player next time Nick Robinson pops in for breakfast shots with Sam and kids. Get Tara Hamilton-Miller to do piece of my love for Beatles.

Could we get Paul McCartney onto music task force? Ringo?

Can we blame Brown for SBS/Taliban/kidnap/death story without offending troops or media?

Send flowers to Tara H-M for her lovely piece in Telegraph on how cool I am. Roses or lilies?

  • Owen Meredith

    “we are still enjoying the lowest rate of unemployment in the last thirty years!!!”?

    This is why Labour will lose, they have no ability to accept it has all gone wrong – on thier watch, and through (at leats in part) thier actions.

  • markmembers

    do grow up; this is a pathetic attempt at satire or perhaps you really believe that DC is so vapid that these are his major concerns. Perhaps you should consider taking a refreshing break for a while

  • Jo

    All this Dave and the media stuff – surely you can see you did exactly -exactly – the same thing. This makes it so frustrating to listen to Labour, who I have always supported, whining on about things they did. Like the old chestnut that the press do not take politics seriously. They cover personalities not policies. They belittle the hard work of politicians. All very true. But you gave John Major a terrible time. You ripped him to shreds and were incredibly nasty in the Mirror. Underpants? Not very serious journalism that. It is all so hypocritical. I wonder why I care so much.

  • Harry H

    Same picture where I live … new schools, new hospital,old schools done up, new sure start, children’s centre … the Tories will tell you they’d have all happened anyway. Rubbish. Cameron is hoping short memories

  • Christine Earby

    Love the way the Tories yelp when someone gives them a reminder of their shallowness. Everyone knows Tony and you could do the populism, and manage the media, but what I as a Labour supporter know is that there was a serious policy agenda being taken forward all the time. With Cameron and today’s Tories, there is nothing beyond the gimmicks and the populism. Keep up the good work exposing him as he is. The squeals show you are hitting a mark. Wish there was more of it

  • Steven Nash

    Too many ministers seem unwilling to aggressively defend the record. We’re being attacked again and again on a variety of policy areas but why are senior ministers so… invisible? The only time some of them pop up is when there’s speculation about the leadership.

  • Margaret Joseph

    Some of the previous comments make me cringe! Obviously Tory shallowness has worked its magic! I look at Cameron & Osborne, I listen to their words and feel dismay! Beware the ‘hollow men’! Unfortunately there seems to be a national deafness and an inability to see that, whilst Labour has some major failings, there have been some great achievements in health, welfare and social issues. With the Tories in power so much will change and, believe me, it will not be for the benefit of the nation as a whole especially those who are vulnerable or under-privileged.

  • Carl Gardner

    I’m a depressed Labour supporter, Alastair. I agree completely about the record – we don’t hear enough about it, and it does us good to remind ourselves of all the achievements. We also know that, whatever the fiscal constraints over the next few years, getting back to growth and fiscal balance under Labour will be a much more socially pleasant business than the scorched earth dash for public squalor we’d get from Cameron.

    But crucially, you mention a forward programme. What is Labour’s forward programme? I can say to friends what Labour has done, and I can argue that Gordon has taken the right decisions to mitigate the recession. I can say what I’ve just said about Tory cuts. But I can’t say anything about the next stage of social policy and reform Gordon plans – because there seems to be no such plan. I have to make up for myself what a Labour government should be planning for 2010-2014.

    Gordon’s had two years to develop this, and he’s failed abysmally. You’re right – the Tories should be easy to take on, but our own leaders can’t do it, except perhaps for Peter Mandelson, whose underdog strategy doesn’t seem to consist of much except mentioning cross-dressing, however. That’s what makes me so bloody depressed, and that’s why I’m now in the Polly Toynbee camp. I suppose I’ll have to shut up about the leadership and get on with backing Gordon in the sodden trenches – the chance to replace him was missed. But I fear that was an easy, lazy, cowardly and defeatist choice by the party, and that if we really had fight left in us, we’d have chosen a braver and riskier path a couple of months ago.

    What did you think of Jon Cruddas’s speech?

  • @jlocke13

    I do believe you must actually believe the government spin…try defending,after 12 years of Labour in government:
    One in six households without a wage earner
    The poorest 10 per cent now have a disposable income of £87 a week, down from £96 a week eight years ago
    Child poverty actually increasing
    10p tax rate fiasco
    Biggest debt of any G20 country (do not forget PFI and unfunded public sector pensions which stand at £1.2 trillion!!))
    Unemployment rising towards 3 million, with youth unemployment at over 19%
    Breaking promise on Treaty referendum
    Invading Iraq
    University fees
    millions trapped in a culture of poverty, benefit dependency and social immobility, over one million have never worked under labour …
    I could go on but I am losing the will to live… By any measure the labour government has been an abject failure…and even worse it has failed the poorest in the land whilst rewarding the well off…

  • Paul

    I’ve decided to vote Conservative in the election.. but I’d much rather do so knowing Labour put up a good fight and made me really think about my vote. Right now I question if they can even do that.

  • Simon Gittins

    ‘we are still enjoying the lowest rate of unemployment in the last thirty years’

    Really, it’s not the highest it’s been for 14 years and still rising rapidly then ?

    It’s all getting a bit desperate isn’t it ? you try to write a serious blog and end it with the only thing Labour have left to fight the election with; pathetic jibes at Cameron.

  • Nick


    Not sure why you ‘appear’ to have this loathing of BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson ? Did you feel the same about the two previous holders of that post, both of whom were raving Lefties ? [Marr and Cole].

    Sooner or later, and knowing Labour under Brown it will be later, you will all have to examine just why the “Labour Project” has so utterly fallen apart.

    Giving a fatuous coronation to a leader you all knew could not lead, or communicate, might be a starting point. Why else did you so heavily edit your diaries ?

    The public may not ‘love’ the Conservatives, but many people I speak to now really ‘hate’ Labour.

  • Barbara Cannon

    Clearly some of you don’t like being reminded of what a tremendous change we have seen for the better and point to some of the negatives with great gusto. For the record unemployment is the lowest we have had for thirty years in the area that I live in. The economic downturn was caused by those banking blighters in America in the first instance and it is Brown who has shown what needs to be done to get the economy moving again. Green shoots of recovery are there although still a long way to go.

    As for Labour Party policy it is about what it has always been about – helping families and the vulnerable, education, decent health and social care for all, decent homes for people to live in, decent jobs with a decent wage, growing the economy. Creating a fair and just society.

  • David Kingston

    Thanks, Simon Gittings, for reminding me that unemployment is at its highest for 14 years. That means that unemployment was higher under the Tories. In fact they regularly took us into recession taking dole queues over 3 million.I was fascinated that one of your regular anonymous Tory scribes even has the nerve to cricise PFI – a flagship Tory policy that failed to deliver projects under their administration.

    The Labour record over the last 12 years is one to shout about. As I write there are two new hospitals and just this year a brand new secondary school less than 10 miles away.

  • Bernie


    It IS fun on here isn’t it? Soooo many Tory Trolls. What ARE you doing here I wonder? 🙂
    Caulfield has been VERY busy. Have you got his mobile number by any chance AC? I’d like to send him a congratulatory text.

    Clearly with so many pots and kettles in attendance this forum could turn out to be quite an interesting place between now and…THEN. 🙂

  • Bernie

    “The public may not ‘love’ the Conservatives.”

    🙂 …and there’s your problem right there pal.

    And this is at your peak?
    All downhill for you from here on in.

    It’s a right flippin’ pain bein’ in Opposition innit?

  • Jane A

    Charisma in politics is important.

    Obama has it, in spades, as does his wife. Dave doesn’t have it, but thinks he does. Problem there. George Osborne couldn’t even spell charisma but probably thinks its the name of a yacht he once stayed on.

    People with an interest – a real deep seated knowledge and interest – in politics, they buy policies, and that’s what they vote on. The rest – is that 70%, 80% – more? – they buy people. Hence Dave’s anxious foothopping into the features pages trying to get people to buy him. He’s hoping therefore to get in without the policy stuff.

    He probably thinks its uncool.

  • Thomas Rossetti

    Barbara Cannon’s description of her town may be true, but I doubt they are typical. I’m sure that many other people from many other towns could paint a far worse picture.

    The truth is that people have had enough of Gordon Brown. He’s a dreadful communicator and, as others here have said, it’s difficult to tell what his vision for the future is. Unless the polls are spectacularly wrong, Labour is heading for a dreadful defeat in the next General Election.

    What I can’t understand is why Labour MPs don’t step up, organise themselves and plan a leadership challenge. They must *know* they can’t win the next election, and yet they silently carry on.

    I can just see it now: Alan Johnson, Leader of the Labour Opposition in 2011, rises to ask Prime Minister Cameron a question about education. It is a brilliant question and neatly skewers the PM’s position. Cameron concedes the Opposition Leader has asked a bold and interesting question. Doesn’t he wish, though, he’d showed such courage when his predossesor was so far down in the polls? (Cue laughter from the Tory benches.)

  • sonofmuff

    Very good blog. I believe your right. There does seem to be a sense of defeatism amongst the Labour party & supporters.
    In fairness, you have an up hill battle as GB is losing public support and seems incapable of answering questions though.

  • Nick


    Absolute nonsense.

    Trite political cliche making, straight out of the Ed Balls handbook. I have worked for over 20 years in a large Govt department handling benefit claims. Ask any civil servant on the front line- unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, has got far worse in the last few years. Have a look around your average shopping centre on a week day afternoon- you will see vast swathes of Labour’s NEETs huddling around in their hoodies. Thats not to stereotype people-its a fact.

    Under Labour we allow people from Poland to cross 8 borders to serve us lattes for £5.50 an hour, yet pay our own population £60 a week to sit at home and watch Jeremy Kyle.

    And Labour won’t do anything about it for the simple reason that it needs their votes in return for their J.S.A.

  • Andy Walker

    You’re right to raise this Alastair but you, like me, must be wondering just when Labour will wake up and start attacking the Tories with the gusto you suggest.Of course, the party is not being helped by the media’s lack of scrutiny of the Tories (I wonder when and if that will change closer to an election?) but it really needs to give its collective head a shake soon or all will be lost.

  • Simon Gtiins

    You forgot the ‘rising rapidly’ part of the text Mr Kingston. There’s plenty of time yet for this government to ‘improve’ on the current total.
    Maybe I should of quoted the 5.8 million on benefits total(and rising) instead. A figure Labour can be truly proud of.

    For the record I am an ex-Labour party member and do not have any particular party affiliation anymore, just someone who wants to see the back of this incompentent and deceitful government.

  • Ron Gordon

    Fantastic stuff, Alastair. You are so right. More senior figures in the party should be following your example and that of John Prescott by going out and hitting the Tories hard! Their duplicity and shallowness becomes more evident with each day. If Cameron is really interested in tightening the belt he wouldn’t be going on about catering at Westminster but he would scrapped his inheritance tax plans. If he was really serious about the NHS he would have sacked Hannan for his outrageous attacks on the NHS instead of which he promotes him. We will draw our own conclusions. The point is though too many higher up in the party are being introspective and simply not defending our record sufficiently and attacking the Tories who are there to be taken.

  • Paul Hodges

    Absolutely agree with you AC. You (and Steve Bell and Private Eye, to be fair) have David Cameron nailed. He’s a nice enough posh multi-millionaire lad and I quite like the green (?greenwash) and vaguely centrist politics he’s brought to the Nasty Party. But we should never forget that is exactly what the majority of Tory MPs belong to wholeheartedly since Thatcher. Cut, slash and burn public services is their agenda – SureStart being the first to fall – one of the young Old Eltonian’s few commitments to escape the ‘wishy washy’ melange of vague wishes masquerading as policy.

    There are few hospitals and schools not to have benefited from 12 years of Labour. Most major hospitals and secondary schools have been transformed more than dramatically in fabric, technology, efficiency, numbers of staff and their skills. Do any Tories, new or old, have the confidence that this will be the case after 5 years of Dave?

    I am happy to offer odds on the late 2010 Cabinet being led by Brown, possibly with Clegg and Cable in. Labour is still an effective campaigning machine; just look at GoFourth and John’s sterling efforts (thanks for the book and signatures guys and girls BTW). The election campaign is a long way from starting…

  • steve kidd (WES)

    I see from the liverpool website that you think Burnley will get ‘something’ from the game on sat. Well, I suppose a nice cup of tea on the train and a day out constitutes ‘something’. Enjoy the day (as best you can). Might see you there. Best wishes.

  • olli issakainen

    Scientist Raymond Kurzweil has said that if you have the RIGHT IDEA you can beat any challenge. So if Labour wants to win the next election, the best strategy is to have RIGHT IDEAS and make RIGHT DECISIONS. What these ideas and decisions are, is another matter.

    P.S. As a Clarets supporter I have enjoyed reading your Fanhouse Burnley FC columns.

  • Michael

    I think Cameron is positioning himself with the media and the public like TB did in the mid 90s. Contrary to your bitchy trivia at the bottom of this post, I have read that the Tories have a war room in place to envisage post election scenarios. Whoever wins, the next decade looks pretty grim and public spending will have to reined in massively due to Gordo’s profligacy since 2001. Taxes will have to be raised massively which will cause the Tories major problems with their base or will make Labour more hated by the mondeo men they saught back in ’97. The effects all of this will have on the current economy will be horrific. I rather fear that rather than Sure Start centres and the like, this will be regarded by many as the legacy of the New Labour years.

  • CharlesM

    It is true that labour could put the case much stronger. However the leader is terrible and quite obviously a significant element are happy to pay lip service whilst waiting for the inevitable defeat

    However Alastair you have a short memory. I remember a certain Tony Blair commenting on Deidre Barlow going to prison, all the parties inviting minor celebrities for photos and tea at Downing Street. Cameron is no different in this respect for playing the media as you were

    Time will prove whether he has substance or not. You comment on some of the positive aspects of labour but you do not mention the negative

    The worst recession for 80 years
    Nearly 6 million people collecting well earned goverment wages for doing nothing
    A widening gap between rich and poor
    Record levels of goverment and personal debt

    It needs to be seen in the balance – personally speaking I think we cannot afford 5 more years of Brown

  • Simno Gtiins

    ‘I am happy to offer odds on the late 2010 Cabinet being led by Brown, possibly with Clegg and Cable in’

    What odds are you offering ?, I’d empty my savings accounts to take on a bet like that.