Sunday, 5 August 2012

Labour need to learn that it is policies not poll ratings that win elections.

A poll conducted for ConservativeHome shows that a majority of Tory voters (53%) believe their party will not win the next election. Only 19% believe they will be able to secure a majority whilst 22% see a Lib/Lab coalition taking power in 2012.

David Cameron can take some comfort from the fact that 49% of the respondents thought he should lead the party into the next election, his nearest rival, Boris Johnson polled only 18% and William Hague just 12%, despite nearly two years of frantic positioning Michael Gove didn’t even make the starting grid; poor lamb. In the longer term though Boris Johnson is seen as being the favourite to take over as leader of the Conservative Party if, or when, the position becomes vacant, quite what impact his absurd antics at the Olympic Park this week have had on his standing isn’t clear, but you suspect the Tories will put up with any amount of foolishness from BoJo just to see what he does next.

The news that less than half the people questioned saw the Tories winning the next election should be something to put a spring in the step of Labour leader Ed Milliband, but only a very small one. There is still a long hard pull ahead until the next election and plenty of pitfalls for an unwary opposition leader to fall into.

Anyway, things aren’t quite as rosy as they at first appear; only 20% of the people questioned see Labour winning a majority. A fair enough assessment, public trust in politicians is so low coalition governments could be the order of the day for the foreseeable future.

There is no question that the Liberal Democrats would feel far more comfortable building a coalition with Labour, but there is no guarantee such a situation will come to pass. Many senior Lib Dems currently tainted by their party’s ‘betrayal’ of its principles could survive due to the number of candidates opposing them diluting the protest vote and if UKIP do as well as some people suggest they might, largely by hovering up Tory seats lost thanks to HS2 a three, rather than two way coalition my be a possibility.

To forestall such an eventuality and make itself an attractive partner in the probably post election cotillion Labour must do something at which it has so far failed; produce a distinctive slate of policies. Ones that are sensitive to the underlying concerns of the British people that give a realistic vision of how a Labour government would work with its coalition partners to create a fairer society.

The party’s experiences during the 1980’s, when it regularly led an unpopular Conservative government in the opinion polls, as it does again now, but consistently lost elections, show there is no substitute for strong policies.

Not sitting comfortably; not sitting at all.

The rows and rows of empty seats at Olympic venues is an embarrassment that refuses to go away. Things have become so serious that David Cameron even called a meeting of COBRA, it stands for ‘Cabinet Office Briefing Room’ with the A added to make it sound more ‘exciting’ because inside every middle aged politician is a twelve year old boy struggling to get out, to discuss the issue earlier this week.

Being given a free seat at a premier sporting event speaks of privilege; leaving that seat empty though screams of arrogance. It is a problem that extends way beyond the Olympic Village, go to any major sports event and you will see good seats left empty by prawn sandwich munching corporate types whilst genuine supporters are turned away.

The extent to which sport in this country has sold its collective soul to the corporate hospitality industry is a scandal and one that will do long term harm. Corporate hospitality is fickle, executives soon want something new to ignore as they hog the free bar; taking its grubby pound may cost the sports that do so dearly in the longer term.

Britain needs more social housing.

If there is such a thing as a good time to bury bad news then the Olympics must provide the ultimate opportunity for such spadework. That is why the government will be glad the latest figure on homelessness came out this week rather then last.

Figures released by marketing agency SSentif this week show homelessness has risen by 25% in just three years, during the same period the funding to tackle the problem has dropped from £213.7million in 2009 to £199.8million in 2011/12.

Labour have attributed the rise in homelessness to a ‘perfect storm’ of a fall in house building and the double dip recession, the government have hit back by saying they plan to spend £400million tackling homelessness over the next four years and have pledged another £70million in additional funding.

Both sides can bat statistics and accusations around like tennis balls, but it does nothing to disguise their joint culpability. The Tories carry a little more immediate guilt thanks to Iain Duncan Smith’s hasty and cruel changes to housing benefit, but Labour cannot dodge the blame for failing to get councils building social housing during their thirteen years in government.

Now they are in opposition and still desperately seeking a sense of direction Labour could win themselves much popular support by pledging to reverse the foolishness of the past three decades and get councils building good quality housing again.

And finally:

Two comments about the Olympics stood out for me this week. In the first ‘eccentric’ former sports commentator David Icyke described the opening ceremony as being ‘satanic.’

Another David, our own dear PM this time, said that the success of Bradley Wiggins et al was down to his having sat in the magic wishing chair and, er, wished for it, whilst on a recent visit to Ireland.

The worrying thing is it was David Icyke who was joking.

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