So it’s silly season, the political heavyweights are on holiday, and the media are still playing the “All the news that fits” game. So of course, the party malcontents who normally struggle for the oxygen of publicity are getting their moment in the fresh air, without significant domestic competition.
Thus ’tis the traditional season for the combination of internal awkward squad and swivel eyed loons in the Labour Party to pop up and claim that the Party is directionless and on course to lose the next election, therefore Miliband Echo is failing and should reshuffle the Shadow Cabinet, and then probably resign.
Party Loyalists (Hi Duncan!) have been swift to point out that at 10 points up in the polls, it’s a strange kind of failing, and perhaps a bit more of it should be achieved.
However, this neglects a couple of key points:
Margin of Error
Experienced political psephologists know that any poll number is subject to an approx +/-3% margin of error. And comparing two figures doubles that to +/-6% (for more, see my previous article). So that 10 point lead could be as little as 4%. Or it could be as much as 16%. But if there’s a possibility of the lower figure, I wouldn’t be resting on any laurels if I were a strategist.
Now John McAllion has gone to town on this, noting that the marginal seats in the South of England that Labour need to win to form a Westminster Government aren’t following the +10% narrative. So that number isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in electoral terms. Now if we had a PR system of election to Westminster, that might be a little different, and we’ll leave discussing the extent of Labour’s own complicity in that situation for another day.
It Doesn’t Matter Anyway
Again, Labour “No” voting friends (again, Hi Duncan!) are quick to point out that Independence won’t save Scotland from Tory governments half as well as a Labour victory in 2015, so you should stop your petty discussions in the interests of helping in the main event. Such patronising guff assumes that a Labour victory will change the mean-minded policies that the Coalition Government have introduced.
But that won’t be the case. Yes, you can argue that in opposition, Labour doesn’t want to be held hostage on specific policies to what the situation may be in 2 years’ time. And that was more true when 2 years was 4 years. And you can argue that it wants to keep its campaigning powder dry. But that’s not how transformational elections are won.
Transformational elections such as our friends are promising happen when the mood of the country changes. When the nation’s collective political assumptions and analysis change. When the opposition of the day make the case that the fundamental strategy of the government is in the wrong direction.
But Labour haven’t made that case. Worse: they haven’t even argued that case. At best, they’ve quibbled about quite how much to screw the poor by. How aggressively to racially and gleefully target suspected illegal immigrants with demands for papers. How easily bankers should be let off any responsibility for the financial crisis. How condemnatory the rhetoric should be about benefits recipients.
What they haven’t done one bit of is provide a trenchant different political analysis, or challenge to the base narrative of austerity rather than growth. They’ve even that the current financial crisis was caused by Labour overspending to become generally accepted as truth.
So it’s no wonder they’re 10 points up in the polls. Those who already liked them are persuaded that they’ll be the shining knight on the white charger, rescuing us all from the Tories. Those who didn’t particularly like them don’t see them as a threat at all.
When all you’re concerned with is winning, not actually doing something different with it, who cares if you win?