What is the point of the Labour party? Ctd

We continue the series about what is the point of the Labour party using as a source for our discussion an article from The Telegraph talking about labour in the UK.

The issues are eerily the same for both parties. Today we look at who potential Labour voters are now?

Who are the potential Labour voters now? We know some things for sure. The old hereditary heartland support – what used to be called the respectable working class – has fragmented and effectively disappeared. Much of it became aspirational in the New Labour sense: property-owning, car-driving, computer-using and, for all intents and purposes, middle class even if it was not professional by qualification or conditions of employment. These ex-working class voters were the ones who defected to the Tories in the 1980s and whom New Labour was designed to win back. (In the United States, such people are always referred to as middle class meaning “ordinary working people”, which leads to some confusion in Britain. When American politicians advocate “middle-class tax cuts”, they do not mean reducing taxes for the higher paid.) The repudiation of Blairism by Labour’s current leadership puts the party in a hopelessly unclear relationship to this hugely important constituency. Mr Miliband talking about the “squeezed middle” does not help: he defines this as the lowest end of what could conceivably be called “middle income” and makes it clear that anyone escaping that narrow range deserves no sympathy. What signal, as they say, does this send to the truly “aspirational” who were once happy to vote New Labour?

Then there are those who were left behind in the old communities which the more affluent had fled. They became an underclass for whom welfare-dependency replaced work as a way of life. Sometimes called “the disadvantaged” or “the deprived”, these were (or might have been in earlier generations) Labour supporters. But as often as not now they vote for no one, believing that they have little stake in the political process.

So the party may appeal to the country on their behalf but there is little to be gained (in the callous electoral sense) from soliciting active support from them directly. To make “fighting poverty” (or even the more unexceptionable “eliminating child poverty”) Labour’s raison d’etre would be a formula for attracting middle-class intellectuals but not a solution to the problem of reconstructing a natural constituency which trusted Labour to speak for its interests.

Phil Goff has borrowed “the squeezed middle” from Ed Miliband, and it appears that it resonates about as much as it does for Miliband. Basically like the UK, Labour in New Zealand has isolated themselves to the indigent, the ne’er-do-wells and the middle-class intellectuals with a smattering of wedge groups like gays. No wonder they are polling at 25%.


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  • diabolos

    Perhaps the growing and deepening economic crisis could assist in defining the Labour Party. Watching the very tanned head of the IMF and her fellow panelists on BBC world this morning … i think that could possibly happen.

    I think the inherent confusion for labour still dates back to the 1984 election. At that point the left ceased to exist and centrist politics (read as trademarked and copyrighted limpwristed compromise) reared its ugly head.

    I wonder whether the age of compromise and concensus is about to end (again) … it reminds me of what i have read about the late 1920’s and the 1930’s.

    It makes you wonder whether war is coming again. Too many significant issues seem to be converging and coming to a head on all fronts to ignore. All our debates and fine thinking may well be rendered redundant by a gathering storm.

  • Chris

    We just don’t need Labour any more. They’ve painted themselves out of the picture. You easily pick a party for each one of them, from Libertarianz through to the World Peace Party, and they’d all look quite at home. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but Labour really has become irrelevant.

  • alex

    One might also wonder why the National party exists though, they don’t really stand for anything except the pursuit of power. In fact, they were formed as a coalition of farmers and businessmen precisely to keep Labour out of office. Nowadays they seem to stand mainly for the interests of the very wealthy, who must be about 0.5% of the population at most?

    • diabolos

      In my view Alex – the point you make is very very valid. There is a power and ideology vacuum left lying around yet to be claimed by someone. To use the analogy of Napoleon … On arrival in Paris, as Napoleon himself put it; he “found the Crown of France just lying in the gutter”. He “picked it up with the tip of his sword”

      I dont think National or Act can ever claim the mandate due to their particular peccadilloes – despite saying they are centre-right – but i think its ripe for the picking by someone with a leftist approach. The public have proved they want a populist (and its a dangerous game to govern with) – it just remains for a suitable person to morph into that from the left perhaps. Who knows.

  • thor42

    Labour has big problems. They just don’t have the relevance anymore (if indeed they ever did). Tinkering with benefits, increasing benefits or whatever – that will solve **nothing** and will simply stack up the country’s debt.
    Removing GST from fruit and veg – that is laughable.
    The whole nature of the conversation needs to be turned upside-down. Dependency needs to be seen as bad. Self-reliance and independence need to be seen as good. Too many people think the opposite, having been very successfully brainwashed by Labour.
    This country faces a grim future if people can’t get it into their heads that welfare is unsustainable as it is. There is just too large a segment of the population who are Labour morons and who think the world owes them a living. If Labour’s vote ever dropped to 15% or less, that would be true cause for celebration, suggesting that people were at last getting the message.

  • Apolonia

    Of course we have a Labour party only now it’s Blue.It supports ;the emissions trading scam, the anti-smacking law, excessive public spending, uncontrolled borrowing and ignoring the democratic will of the people as expressed in referendums.They also support jobs for their mates and relatives,the removal of the foreshore and seabed from public ownership to be dispensed to political cronies in a Mugabe type fashion.