Tag Archives: General election 2015

An obituary from the year 2025 for a Labour party that abandoned its roots


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “An obituary from the year 2025 for a Labour party that abandoned its roots” was written by Aditya Chakrabortty, for The Guardian on Monday 11th May 2015 20.00 UTC

Throughout its long and volatile life, Labour had heard many predictions of imminent demise. Yet mass shock still greeted the party’s passing away in its sleep early yesterday morning, 9 May 2025, just shy of its 120th birthday. The proximate cause of death given was the trauma suffered after one election defeat too many.

This was a party that had long been accused of harbouring a death wish. Who could forget the epithet hurled at Michael Foot’s 1983 manifesto? “The longest suicide note in history.” In 2015 – just weeks before the humiliation of Ed Miliband – Labour’s roving philosopher, Jon Cruddas, had predicted that his side could simply “disintegrate in real time”. Back then, he’d been called foolish; only later was he hailed as prescient.

The hindsight of the 2020s is a marvellous thing; at the time, Labour’s steady decline was obscured by its own fidgetiness. It swerved left, then squirmed right. It wanted free markets but controlled immigration; it sought to be business-friendly, to a big business class only interested in ripping off the public. Many circles were apparently squared in that tumultuous quarter-century.Meanwhile, the myth that Gordon Brown had spent all the money became unshakeable, shaping the next generation of politics – just as the jibe about the winter of discontent had reverberated through the 80s and early 90s.

Perhaps mirroring the party’s diminishing patience, the people in charge sported ever-shorter names: Tristram, Stella, Dan.Throughout, the diminishing membership displayed their traditional contemptuous loyalty to whoever happened to be in charge. By Labour’s last election of May 2025, its much-trumpeteddifference with the Tory perma-government came down to this: our PPE graduates are smarter than your PPE graduates.

All this provided gallows humour and column fodder. Yet Labour could survive numerous defeats, as Ed Miliband’s own propaganda acknowledged: “Labour has only been in government for four short periods of the 20th century.” Even David Cameron’s boundary reform, which holed Labour below the 250-seat watermark, could be endured. What the movement couldn’t afford to let slip, however, was its role as the natural conduit for the discontents of wider society. That was what distinguished it from the natural party of government, the Conservatives. Fatally, that was the part it stopped playing.

From Arthur Henderson onwards, the party’s central demand had always been fair shares. That goal was defined by the father of the NHS, Nye Bevan, as “where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and farm labourer all lived on the same street – the living tapestry of a mixed community”. Some hope of enacting that in today’s property market. In a society growing apart as fast as Britain’s, it was becoming impossible to agree what “fair” meant. Vast inequality had bred political polarisation. Labour, the party of collective politics, now represented a collection of niche electorates.

That one fact glared out of the results of the 2015 election. Multicultural London became more Labour, even while university towns and Guardianista strongholds began flirting with the Greens– a trend which was only to continue over the next two general elections. Meanwhile, across the de-industrialised north, Nigel Farage robbed votes from Miliband. “It suddenly became clear that Labour no longer had just one enemy – the Tories,” remembers Glen O’Hara, professor of history at Oxford Brookes university. “It had a whole kaleidoscope of enemies – from UKIP to the SNP.”

Economics commentators had long warned that the very idea of a national economy had become untenable. London was now a city-state for bankers and hipsters, supported by immigrant service workers the guff sold to the north and Wales about becoming a knowledge economy was just lies.

Now Ed Balls and other Labour big beasts were discovering what that meant for them: wipe-out. Economic and political polarisation were to be the central facts of the 2020s. Labour had faced this problem before in the 1930s – this time, however, it had neither electoral hiding place nor the regular inflow of political talent.

No political party can speak three different languages at the same time, especially not one that has got out of the habit of listening to its own base. Faced with an impossible task, the elite that now ruled the people’s party – the Kinnocks and Goulds and Straws – crumbled. While the Tories were also reduced to a regional party, its voter base was, at least, in largely one place. Now that Nicola Sturgeon had won Scotland, Cameron and George Osborne were much better than their Labour opposite numbers at playing the English vote. Not only that, the Tories used their decade alone in power to tame any dissenting parts of civil society. The BBC, the non-governmental organisations, the universities: all saw their funding regimes tightened up and responded by buttoning up on any unhelpful criticisms.

Labourism had emerged from an industrial culture: you could be born in a co-op hospital and be buried by the co-op funeral service. Most of those civil institutions had collapsed after Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s response had been to create a new client base of public sector workers across de-industrialised Britain. By 2020 Cameron and Osborne had put paid to that. What they left instead was an insider-outsider economy: those on a good wage with a house might still be tempted to vote Labour, those struggling on three temporary jobs a day had no such line to the movement.

Labour leaves behind an estimable legacy. As prime minister, George Osborne is still able to rely on those private finance initiative  schools and hospitals, while Brown’s knot of tax credits proved impossible to cut while maintaining a low-wage workforce. The party is succeeded by two offspring. First is Fabian and Fabian, a small publishing house producing glossy proposals for ever more taxes. Then there is WWP, short for the White Working-Class party: a grouplet of cultural studies graduates who hold regular tours of defunct factories and monthly meat raffles.

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The Tories’ £12bn of welfare cuts could come back to haunt them

Now they can get on with the really nasty stuff unopposed I guess.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Tories’ £12bn of welfare cuts could come back to haunt them” was written by Patrick Butler, for theguardian.com on Friday 8th May 2015 13.08 UTC

By the autumn we will find out how the Tories will make welfare cuts of £12bn a year by 2018. If they go ahead – and there are difficult political choices to be made here – these cuts will amount to one of the defining social policy decisions of the next five years.

The Tories were curiously loathe to explain how they would make these cuts during the election campaign. Either they knew, but were not telling because the truth would scare voters; or they didn’t know, but it didn’t matter because this was only ever a coalition bargaining chip to trade with the Lib Dems.

Ironically, a Conservative majority government may now find itself having to take unpopular choices it perhaps never really expected to have to make.

As we know from this week’s leaked Whitehall documents, when it comes to cuts there is no longer any “low-hanging fruit”. What’s left are in large part harsh cuts hitting middle-income working families: or, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies politely puts it, the “less palatable options”.

What we do know is that the Tories will freeze the level of working-age benefits for two years from next April, disqualify most 18- to 21-year-olds from claiming housing benefit, and reduce the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000. Those three policies, the IFS calculates, will find the Tories about £1.5bn a year.

So where will the remaining £10.5bn come from?

The Tory line throughout the campaign has been: trust us on our track record. We made the cuts before, and we’ll make them again. The coalition did indeed make about £18bn of welfare cuts over the last parliament – but importantly, in view of what they need to achieve over the next five years, very little in the way of savings.

The bulk of the cuts – roughly two thirds – came from below-inflation uprating of benefits; the rest from restricting child benefit for wealthier families and some cuts to child tax credit. The cuts made here were more or less cancelled out by massive overspending on disability benefits and housing benefit.

According to social researcher Declan Gaffney, the net savings from five years of supposed welfare “revolution”, measured against the savings expected in 2010, were about £2bn. Contrary to Tory rhetoric, the coalition track record on finding welfare savings was dismal.

To reach £12bn by 2018, the Tories will not only have to massively increase the pace of welfare cuts made over the past five years, but achieve net savings. They will have to focus on the five big ticket items: tax credits (currently about £30bn a year); housing benefit (£21bn); disability living allowance and personal independence payments (£15bn); incapacity benefits (£14bn); and child benefit (£12bn).

One key area will be incapacity benefit spending. Previous attempts to cut this failed (spending rose at least £3bn above anticipated levels under the coalition): the high number of successful appeals against the notoriously unpopular fit-for-work tests revealed that there were simply not, as the coalition passionately believed, millions of people fraudulently claiming the benefit.

The Department for Work and Pensions believes there is scope for reform, however, and we can expect more drastic measures to try to reduce the numbers claiming employment and support allowance, by moving as many as possible on to the less-well remunerated jobseeker’s allowance.

This will be controversial, and Whitehall has concerns over the ability of the outsourced service (formerly run by Atos, now Maximus) to do this. Savings here will be painful, in human terms, and are far from guaranteed.

Housing benefit will be another target area, but the anticipated increase in spending (up £3bn a year from 2020) will be difficult to reverse given the growth in working households on low or static incomes forced to draw on housing support to meet high rents, particularly in London and the south.

Tax credits and child benefit cuts would appear to be necessary but they will take hundreds if not thousands of pounds a year out of the pockets of many of the middle-England voters that delivered David Cameron the premiership. Cuts to smaller budget items, such as carer’s allowance and statutory maternity pay may deliver marginal savings but at the cost of alienating the same demographic.

The Conservatives will look to a relatively buoyant employment market to reduce spending on unemployment benefit. But this relatively small budget line will do nothing to get them close to the £12bn target. Universal credit will be heralded as a technological fix to benefits spending by increasing the incentives for people on a range of in- and out-of-work benefits to come off the dole or work more hours. But the troubled programme is way off schedule (it may not be working fully until 2017 at the earliest) and there is no hard evidence it will deliver savings.

There will be much emphasis on so-called behavioural change policies, even though they will deliver barely any savings (and may not work even on their own terms). The benefit cap will continue, and there will be the threat of benefit sanctions for alcohol or drug addicted,​ mentally ill, or obese claimants who refuse treatment programmes.

The decision for​ the Tories is how many of these cuts they want to deliver and what the political costs of this will be. There is no coalition partner to blame if they don’t offer up £12bn; but if they take their foot off the welfare cuts pedal the imperatives of ​​deficit reduction mean savings will have to be found from other departmental budgets.

Cameron spoke this morning of a “one nation” Toryism but he will know his £12bn of cuts will disproportionately hit the poor, young sick and​ disabled. The cuts will deliver more pain, fear and instability to those they affect. We can expect a rise in child poverty, a further decline in living standards for all but the most well-off, and more stupendous rises in productivity in the food bank sector.

A majority gives the Tories a mandate to begin seriously dismantling the welfare state, but Cameron – if not all of his party – will know this carries a political cost. Deliver social security cuts on this scale and many of those who voted for him yesterday may be surprised to find that it is they, and not the mythical scroungers and shirkers of Tory demagoguery, who will lose out.

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Meet the invisibles – the wealthy and powerful at the heart of the Tory party

These are the people that assume that my life and others like me is worthless. I am getting a bit rusty and creaking due to the passage of time. There is not much I can say or do about anything that will have an effect,  but when people are pushed to extremes, something snaps in the end. People still believe the lie that hanging on their coat tales will somehow lift us out of the myre. The notion that people can work hard to improve their lot in life is shown to be in most cases a fallacy. Its very difficult to make money if you don’t have it it in the first place. Its more profitable even now for banks to asset strip companies rather than support small business. The so called growth is very little to do with any real productivity and far to many people are classed as employed statistically when they are on zero hours contracts or on part-time minimum wage jobs fighting to survive with in work benefits.

Understand the simple truth about the nature of these people, they wouldn’t piss on you if your were on fire.

If you are going to vote then think  about what you want the UK to look like in future.

We have become accustomed to the most extreme inequality. Its doesn’t have to be like that. Yet we still put up with it. 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Meet the invisibles – the wealthy and powerful at the heart of the Tory party” was written by Polly Toynbee, for The Guardian on Tuesday 5th May 2015 05.00 UTC

It’s a networking event in one of the City’s great glass towers. The room is filled mostly with company directors, hedge funders, bankers and lawyers. Would they vote Labour? “An unmitigated disaster. You can’t be serious? Have you any idea what would happen? Half the clients of people in this room would be off, gone, anyone who can.”

The editor of Spears Wealth Management Magazine has kindly brought me with him to breathe in the thin air of the upper stratosphere. In the election I have travelled everywhere from Glasgow to the Isle of Wight, Bristol to Ely, Somerset to Gateshead, Chipping Norton to Wakefield, talking to people of all politics and none. But these are the invisibles, the echelons of money and power not seen on Newsnight or Question Time, who never apologise, never explain.

Their world is the beating heart of the modern Tory party, its financial backers, its influencers who whisper to David Cameron’s people in private gatherings, country suppers and the secret salons of Westminster restaurants; the world where Lord Chadlington, lobbying supremo, chats over the stone wall between his estate and Cameron’s in Witney. Murmuring what? We never know. Cameras pry into benefits street but none invade this private life of the nation.

I had forgotten that frank look of baffled incredulity. No one they meet votes Labour. “You mean just as we are repairing the frightful damage done by Labour, you want to put them back in? Good God!” “What, piss it all up the wall again? Pardon my French – but you want all those people back on welfare?” “I don’t think you realise what this government’s done to get the country back on its feet – and you want to give it back to the people who bankrupted us?”

The one non-Tory I met was an older banker from an ancient firm: “I’m a Christian. I’m appalled at migrants being left to drown in the Mediterranean.” Those nearby looked on him politely as an eccentric. A venture capitalist investing in start-ups shook his head: “The non-doms, they’ll go. Mansion tax, tax rates at 50%? Labour want to drive out wealth creators, don’t they?”

Would he go? Well no, but all the mobile global high net worths would be off like a flock of migratory birds. Look, the top London property market is already frozen, waiting for Thursday.

“You do realise,” said a woman on several boards, “it’s us middle classes who are the motor of the economy? Government has nothing if we don’t generate wealth for them to spend – spending it on people who create nothing.” (Middle class is a term of art, easier on the ear than plutocrat.) “Government wastes and wastes,” said a boardroom man. “Philanthropy does it so much better. Tax us less we’ll see that money well spent.”

We all live in our own silos – Guardian readers too. To understand the Cameron world, hear this drumbeat in their ears, their native noise. Forget the phoney “march of the makers”, the hard hats and hi-vis jackets of electioneering: when they leave politics, Tories return to this natural habitat.

English Conservatism’s rip-tide undercurrents break surface in the daily front-page vilification of Labour. The nation’s loudspeakers are an 85% rightwing press, owned by non-UK tax payers. Disappointingly, but no surprise, even the Financial Times with its City clientele calls for a Conservative win. Despite editorials regularly lambasting Cameron’s Euroscepticism, despite its chief commentator Martin Wolf’s devastating critiques of austerianism, it has reverted to its market. Its election editorial, “The compelling case for continuity”, is the authentic voice of unreasoning Conservatism, where being Tory is as natural as the English weather and Labour is always the interloping upsetter of apple carts.

Yet Cameron has run the most radical government of our lifetime – cutting the state, sweeping away support for the weak, denuding local government, gifting millions to their folk to set up free schools, selling the NHS to private firms, privatising Royal Mail, tripling fees to make universities effectively private, replacing a million lost public jobs with pre-unionised lump labour.

All this state-stripping turmoil is disguised as sober “continuity” Conservatism. Broadcasters in their questioning too are swayed by this sense that Toryism is the norm and everything else insurgent. Just wait for a foghorn blast against an “illegitimate” Labour government if a Cameron coalition fails to collect enough Commons votes – though convention is with whoever has a Commons majority.

Labour’s aim is to restore the postwar, pre-Thatcher consensus – an adequate welfare state, more housebuilding, decent work and a robust NHS, taxing the rich more fairly. That makes economic as well as social sense: on the same page as that FT leader, Wolf points out how inequality has risen since the late 1970s, calling Cameron’s regressive taxes “worrying”.

The theme of the Davos world economic forum was the danger of growing inequality, while the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, says inequality is the greatest threat to growth. Yet, says the FT leader, “the fundamental weakness in Labour’s plans” is that “Mr Miliband is preoccupied with inequality”. He’s not alone.

Modest measures “restoring the 50p level for high earners and imposing an ill-conceived mansion tax” outweigh everything else – even the “seismic” danger of Cameron taking the UK out of the EU, putting the “integrity of the UK at stake”. Few have been more eloquent than FT writers about the need to stay in the EU. Yet when the chips are down, antagonism to taxing the rich comes before the future of Britain.

Greed, selfishness, unimpeded inheritance, privilege cemented down the generations, cutting benefits while giving more to the wealthy – those are the Conservative passions. The FT praises Cameron for having the “political courage” to “shrink the state”, but look how their How to Spend It magazine in this same election week suggests squandering all that wealth. Forget public services when you can spend £1,250 on a bottle of A Goodnight Kiss perfume or £10,100 on a tulle shirt dress. Has the £10,540 per person “ultimate Nepal” by helicopter, plus private audience with the king, been disrupted at all by the earthquake?

Try taking City denizens to food banks and nothing changes their mind. “Let them eat lentils, why don’t they retrain, where’s their get-up-and-go?” Most of us are entrenched. I could no more vote Tory than they could back Labour. I think them boorishly selfish, they think me delusionally ignorant of their “real world”. The country is profoundly split between a tribe of revolutionary state-breakers and preservers of the public realm. A hung result doesn’t make Britain undecided, but divided by a chasm between the reds and the blues.

• Polly Toynbee is a panellist at Guardian Live: Election results special on Friday 8 May at 6pm in Kings Place. For full details and to book tickets, see here

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