This week the Labour Party are in Brighton – that strange mix of families, old folks, holiday homes, nudists and a large gay population. And strangely it kind of sums up who the party are going to have to try to convince that they are the right people to take Britain forward after the next general election: Everyone.
The biggest problem Labour have is Ed Millibland a strange combination of face and nose – it’s almost as if someone had drawn a face on a paper plate and then added too much plastercine on his shnozz. He has the personality of a limp handshake and a command of power like a vicar’s wife at a Bring and Buy sale. His main issue is that he is still surrounded by the people that got us into so much trouble the last time they were in power, that it’s hard to see past Ed Balls and Harriet Harman and the pain they and Brown caused to get us into this financial pickle in the first place.
That is the huge elephant in the room – no not Millibland with his oversized nose – the economy stupid. While the Tory/Lib Dem coalition has been fairly ham-fisted with their austerity measures which have stagnated any potential growth, the opposition are in no position to question it. How can we trust Ed Balls with the economy when it was his input that caused the problem in the first place? It’d be like inviting Salmonella to a dinner party. We know that the economy and the growth, taxes and minimum wage are things that Labour could show their differences in previously but because of the recession they were partly to blame for no-one will listen.
Traditionally Labour is where my vote would go as many in the family were union men and were haters of the right and particularly Thatcher. Unfortunately I remember too clearly the euphoria of May 1997 when my generation went out and voted in Blair and co. We wanted to give them more time so voted for them again in 2001 only to be let down by decisions following 9/11 and the attacks on Iraq & Afghanistan. I was one of the people opposed to war but heard the arguments and “evidence” and decided to trust in those at the top of government – a problem that hasn’t happened since and has ultimately lead to the malaise about politicians and politics in general. Blair, Brown, Straw and Friends epitomise the lost opportunities of the Noughties. That’s the shadow that still hangs over the party now.
While some of the things they are discussing have a good core to them it is an issue of trust. They talk about repealing the Bedroom Tax but can’t find where the money will come from; the don’t believe in the proposed HS2 line from London to Birmingham; they want to get rid of ATOS the French company that has screwed up all the “fit for work” awards for the severely disabled and terminally ill; ending the public sector pay cap to allow workers to benefit; remove the automatic affiliation of Union members to the party – a brave and clever move; and the promise to look carefully at the minimum wage and try and get it closer to the “living wage” that people actually need.
The lack of trust, charisma and genuineness are the things stopping this party from regaining power in 2015. I would argue that Andy Burnham is someone who the party should consider to replace Millibland if they do – as I fear – fail to form the next government. While a little green at times he has a refreshing honesty and likeability that Ed M and Ed B don’t. He is honest enough to connect with the public, but not to the cost of his party or their policies. We all know that with David Milliband we would have had a fighting chance at the next election his brother offers nothing new, fresh or interesting – and worse he comes with Ed Balls as the Chancellor in waiting.
While they might be the ones with the most appealing policies to many, they still stand under the shadow of 1997 – 2010’s tenure. Something they might have to move away from even more to become elected again.