Vote 2010: An election reflection

The general election of 2010 is the closest in a generation. Left Foot Forward sets out its reflections on a most extraordinary election campaign.

Left Foot Forward will be updating the website today with films from the campaign trail in London. And please join us from 10pm for our liveblog of election night.

The general election of 2010 is the closest in a generation. If UK Polling Report’s poll of polls is correct, we’re heading for a hung parliament with no clear winner. Unlike four in 10 British voters, we expect that most of our readers will know how they’re voting this morning. But since there’s little point bringing you a newspaper review on a day that the news stops and the country votes, we thought you might like to know our reflections on the election campaign.

Britain is emerging from an economic crisis, may well wake up tomorrow in a constitutional crisis, and will face an environmental crisis unless swift action is taken. Sadly the election campaign has focused more on process than policy, more on style than substance, and more on fears than hopes for the future. Some of this has been inevitable. The bankruptcy of the electoral system and tightness of the race has necessitated speculation about what would happen in a hung parliament as well as strategies for tactical voting. The three TV debates have encouraged endless slow motion replays of hand gestures and gaffes. But both main parties have been guilty for running negative campaigns.

Labour’s campaign has shown moments of inspiration such as Gordon Brown’s speech to Citizens UK and Eddie Izzard’s “Brilliant Britain” video but much of the last month has focused on the legitimate (but negative) fears of what a Tory government would do. Labour has largely failed to defend its record or paint a positive vision of the future, despite excellent material in its largely progressive manifesto. That said, the Tories have been far worse. Their description of “Broken Britain” was torn apart earlier this year by The Economist but they continue to peddle lies and half truths about violent crime, Labour’s poverty record, youth unemployment, and comparisons with Greece’s public finances. The fears stoked about the risk of a hung parliament have been dubbed “irresponsible” by the normally favourable Institute of Directors. Worst of all they have been complicit in the disgraceful Murdoch-inspired right-wing attacks on Nick Clegg, which may well backfire. Their vacuous idea of a “Big Society” has done little to offset the negativity. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have brought a breath of fresh air to the election and they deserve to increase their share of the vote. We have supported their approach to Trident and climate change. But much of their policy – particularly on tax, banking reform, and immigration – requires further scrutiny.

On policy, the economy should have been the big issue of the election with questions answered about how Britain will grow in the future, where jobs will come from, how the fiscal consolidation will be achieved, and how another banking crisis will be prevented. None of the parties have risen to this challenge. The debate has been largely devoid of any focus on a green new deal or other strategies to bolster Britain’s industries of the future. Although Labour deserves much praise for its Future Jobs Fund, which the Tories oppose, a wider discussion of unemployment has been noticeably absent during this campaign. As widely reported, the three parties have left more unsaid than said on the fiscal deficit leaving voters largely in the dark on where the axe will fall. Finally, only the Liberal Democrats have set out a radical vision for banking reform, but their policies still fall short of what is needed.

Instead of an intelligent debate about the economy, immigration has become the surprise issue of the election. It has been a concern for at least one-in-three voters for some time and was the only issue raised in each of the three leaders’ debates. Labour is deeply unpopular on the issue and spent much of its time in office with its head in the sand. “Bigot-gate” hardly helped. Nonetheless, its policies are the most coherent and all three parties accept Labour’s building blocks including free movement within the EU; a points-based system for work and study; and a much improved (if not perfect) asylum system. The Conservatives, by contrast, have failed to clarify details of their proposed immigration cap and the numbers don’t stack up. The Liberal Democrats’ proposed amnesty for illegal immigrations is a brave policy and has been well received by progressives but questions remain about how it would work in practice while their regional points-based system won’t provide a real solution.

On the environment, the Liberal Democrats clearly “get” the importance of tackling climate change and Labour has set out its own green appeal. The Tories, meanwhile, refuse to back up their positive rhetoric: their candidates reject onshore wind development, won’t pledge action to cut greenhouse emissions, many question whether climate change is man made, and they rank the issue bottom of a list of 19. Their frontbenchers cannot explain the party’s climate scepticism and it is little wonder when they are planning to open up offshore drilling. There is a similar story on constitutional reform. Labour and Lib Dems are both committed to reform of the electoral system and House of Lords, two of five key public demands. But the Tories have blocked removal of hereditary peers and ruled out changes to the electoral system.

Britain’s needs are clear: an approach to deficit reduction that protects the most vulnerable, a renewed focus on reducing carbon emissions, and a constitutional settlement involving meaningful electoral reform. The risk to Britain of a Conservative victory could not be clearer. Although it has run a lacklustre campaign and will need a new approach to its politics, Labour is still top on policy. But with virtually no chance of an outright Labour majority, the only hope for a progressive future is a hung parliament and a Lib-Lab coalition. Getting there is not straightforward. Unless you live in a Lib Dem – Conservative marginal, a vote for the Lib Dems will be largely wasted. The Lib Dems cannot win in 70 per cent of the Tories’ target seats and taking seats from Labour means less chance of a progressive future, not more.

In the midst of all this uncertainty one thing is abundantly clear: whatever you do today, vote. And make sure that your claim on the future enables real progress, rather than a back door route for Mr Cameron to enter No. 10.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

23 Responses to “Vote 2010: An election reflection”

  1. Les Crompton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Vote 2010: An election reflection http://bit.ly/aepxYM

  2. Anon E Mouse

    Will – Thirteen years and Brown doesn’t even know how to win an election.

    Where was the team? OK I can understand trying to keep the cameras off Harriet Harman and her ilk but surely the whole cabinet should have been involved.

    Brown seemed to find his voice at the end but the message was obviously the wrong one – to justify a hike in employment taxes from next year, in the face of both common sense and business leaders’ opinion was madness – and yes business leaders would say that and rightly so.

    Reading and participating in the blog over the last few months leads me to believe that (yourself excepted) progressives are in fact anything but and may I suggest a more measured approach on your blog may increase support for your cause, which in many ways does have merit.

    Traditionally the Brits are centre left which is how Blair tapped the electorate so successfully – Brown doesn’t get it and seemingly neither do progressives.

    As a (now) ex-Labour voter I do wish your dad good luck – he may drone on a bit but whose dad doesn’t and good luck yourself dude in the future of your blog / cause.

    I’ll be here to annoy you Will at every opportunity but I don’t suppose you expected anything less!

    Oh tell Shamik to bugger off from me when you see him…

  3. Leon Paternoster

    RT @leftfootfwd: Whatever you do today, vote. @leftfootfwd reflects on an extraordinary election campaign http://bit.ly/aepxYM

  4. Robert

    Poverty record, I’ver just gone from IB to ESA, and yes they said i was disabled which came as a shock, but I lost £12 a week in the change over, so yes I think the Tories are right, labour has not protected the poor. I live on £86 a week, thats poverty mate…

  5. Samantha Frost

    RT @leftfootfwd: Whatever you do today, vote. @leftfootfwd reflects on an extraordinary election campaign http://bit.ly/aepxYM

  6. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Anon …

    I would suggest that you are not an ex-labour voter, you are a Blairite glory hunter out looking for another bandwagon to follow.

    Your admiration for “business”, is one I don’t share, M+S pays £15mill for a new CEO to allow the chairman more time to build up his outside interests and that is good business, a £10mill bill for higher NI charges and the future of middle class knickers retailing is in grave danger?

    I really do think not, hidden agendas at play.

    Therefore your emphasis on the NI changes in 2011 suggest that you are neither progressive, understand economics or you are dog boiling wind up merchant. We are currently suffering from a lack of demand not high taxation.

    GB / AD have kept the Credit Crunch in check with a little fiscal stimulus and a lot of the in built stabilisers of the tax and benefit system. The GDP fall in this recession has been higher than Thatch-1 in 1980/81 yet the effects have been much reduced and we look to be making progress to rebuild and re-balance the economy.

    Consequently to parrot the CBI line about the NI changes suggests that you are not very progressive and are easily swayed by new economic orthodoxy of dog boiling.

    Thatch1 — 4.7% drop in GDP — longer view has it at nearer 6% — North Sea Oil money comes on flow big time — 2 years in, riots on the streets — affects UK worse than any other major industrial nation.

    Credit Crunch — 6.2% drop in GDP — Very steep decline — Banks in meltdown, sector needs government money to survive — Half way through, things picking up — Too early to tell how the UK has fared compared to the rest of the world, some aspects good, some bad.

    We have to grow the economy out of the downturn, thrifting / cutting our way to salvation will not work. State spending needs to slow down / stagnate and it needs to be re-prioritised. The main thing has to be that we do not slip back into another bout of recession.

    We are half way there, low pound — import substitution / export led growth — 5 years of hard slog will see us right.

    Dave the Rave suggests we cut early, we cut often and we keep on cutting till the poor have paid for the bank’s profligacy — Aye right as they say in G1.

    His £6bill of current year efficiency savings is pure political spite, the figure is a made up sham to cover his complete lack of understanding of the crisis itself and the best way to get us out of it.

    It fails at the most basic level, is the figure net or gross?

    Net figure and you will need to take £10-12bill out of state spending.
    If it is gross then the real savings will not cover the amount needed to stop the NI changes in April 2011.
    Why the difference, cut state spending and taxes receipts will go down, benefit spending will go up and public services will decline.

    It is the reverse multiplier effect in action, in a hospital or school near you.

    Specifics include £2bill removed from the public sector wage bill will mean an increase in unemployment of at least 60K.
    The £2bill of contract negotiation savings is all wishful thinking and the £2bill cit in discretionary spending will hurt the economy and public services.

    Consequently an NI rise will hurt and it will take 2 months of employment growth out the economy, 23K jobs delayed according to Dave the Rave’s numbers man when he was free to write the truth.

    However in all of this timing is everything, April 2011 should see the recovery underway and jobs being created in meaningful numbers, May / June 2010 with Greece in meltdown and the EU under pressure is not the time to “fire up the chainsaw lets slash and burn”.

    Be very wary of the new rabid right wing mentalist, economic orthodoxy as spouted by the Tories and the media, the deficit is important but it is a symptom of the state we are in not the cause.

    THE current public sector deficit is a mirror image of the current private sector surplus.

    2008 — State was the lender of last resort.
    2009 — State was the spender of last resort.

    Consequently Have Faith Brothers — 11 hours to save the recovery.
    We do not live in the country of the blind — the dog boilers will not win.
    And we do not live in the country of blind self interest.

    For the record — what is a dog boiler?

    A dog boiler is a member of the upper middle class establishment or one of their media / gullible fellow travellers who if asked, would rather have the poor and the unemployed consume their family pet for sustenance than have the state offer a decent level of support in economically troubled times.

    Viewpoint was very popular in the Great Depression and has been revived by a desperate Tory Party all at see after the complete failure of Casino Capitalism and its hedge fund equivalent, Coin Clipping.

  7. Laura Dagg

    RT @leftfootfwd: Whatever you do today, vote. @leftfootfwd reflects on an extraordinary election campaign http://bit.ly/aepxYM

  8. Anon E Mouse

    Fat Bloke on Tour – Wow.

    OK – my whole family have been lifelong Labour voters, grandfather a Labour councillor, missus a social worker – every member is in public service except myself but I am ex armed forces and have done my bit.

    Yes I liked Blair – he was a winner and clearly Brown is not. I went off Labour when they tried to force a woman into Peter Law’s old stomping ground – luckily the people wouldn’t put up with that and rightly so.

    Your tribal socialist loyalty must have suffered a blow when you discovered Brown scrapped the 10p tax and all the other things I presume you thought the disgraceful removal of Blair would achieve.

    Unlucky dude. It’s over.

    The fact is Labour MP’s lied to the electorate, stole our money and deceived us with as much spin as any other party but they claimed they were acting on behalf of the weak and poor. This lot are not the Labour Party my dad delivered leaflets for in the 70’s.

    Anthony Charles Linton Blair with his privileged upbringing and John Major from a council flat in Peckham. You don’t see the irony there?

    On the financial front Darling told us he had identified £14 billion of *waste* – waste and he doesn’t want to cut it yet? Waste not cut and what happened to the PBR?

    And the taxes on fuel using the smokescreen of climate change nonsense to impose it whilst approving a third runway at Heathrow. You don’t see the hypocrisy in that?

    I’ll stop now, could go on all day on boom and bust, gold reserves and on and on…

    Finally you confuse the economy (which is basically generated exclusively by the private sector who employ people to generate taxes) and the public sector which is all big socialist drivel and needs rapid culling.

    A Guardian job:- “five-a-day outreach coordinator” what the f*#k is that? Do you really believe the planet would stop spinning if that job didn’t exist?

    And by the way if the banks shares had collapsed they would have just been bought by larger banks it’s (normally) the way it works and please don’t give me this “I saved the world” stuff… it’s over. good.

  9. Election 2010: use your vote « Connected Research

    […] a comment » Will Straw at Left Foot Forward has a fair review of the campaign. And his conclusion is impossible to […]

  10. sarah

    Hi Will

    When you upload videos could you please include Jonathan Bartley’s confrontation with Cameron? Thanks!

  11. Kadri

    The thought of waking up tomorrow with David Cameron in power is making me shudder…

  12. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Anon …

    Give some people enough rope and they will hang themselves.
    You were never of the progressive persuasion, you were a Blair glory hunter desperate to have your cake and eat it.

    Yes you know that life is unfair and something needs to be done to make it easier for the majority but please don’t let it cost me anything.

    More representative parliament, yes please but no woman MP for me in my backyard.

    You mention the private sector is where the the real economy is but cannot at any level work out the importance of the public sector. Given that you are ex Forces suggests that you have just added a new level to the concept of irony.

    Taxes = MOD / Forces = Equipment = British Waste of Space = some jobs and lots of private sector profit.

    All the other gripes suggest that the Forger’s Gazette looms large in your world view, kitchen sink job that suggests you are heavily critical of the person concerned even before the facts can be introduced to your opinion.

    Consequently I add you to the list of Mrs Duffys out there who cannot understand that as you and your family get on in life through the good offices of the Welfare State and the somewhat patchy I grant you, post 45 progressive consensus you cannot always just take you have to give back in return.

    If you need, you get — if you have, you give!

    That was the message in the 1970’s as well just a pity that you and those like you cannot keep up with the pace of change in politics never mind the change of pace in society.

    Finally best of luck with your political journey, there will always be a public school educated soft soap merchant somewhere on the political landscape for you to hitch your steady as she goes / don’t upset the status quo worldview to.

    However it will be a while before you find someone as progressive and capable as TB comes on the scene so beware all those spouting the new orthodoxy of rabid right wing mentalist dog boiling.

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Fat Bloke on Tour – Considering my whole family works in the public sector, college lecturer, school librarian, social worker, (soon to be)nurse, (soon to be)teacher,council office receptionist and dental technician (NHS primarily) and I was on Polaris subs in teh RN – I really think you don’t get it fella. Shout as loud as you can but it’s over.

    Wondered how long it would be before Mrs Duffy got smeared (indirectly granted) rather than complaining about a deceitful two faced public servant – you must be the only person in the country who thinks Browns action there shouldn’t be criticised or that she isn’t entitled to hold a view.

    Regarding all woman short lists I believe people should be rewarded on merit irrespective of their sex or colour – whatever. A hard concept for a person of your “progressive” views it seems.

    The world owes me nothing and as a working class, state school educated Labour voting individual I resent how the the party has been hijacked by dishonest hypocrites who seem only out to shaft the very same people they claim to represent. Judging by the polling of Gordon Brown more people share my view than yours.

    Remind me again what the Milibands did before they were MP’s? I expect bad behaviour from Tory MP’s – they’re Tories. I have always voted Labour (almost) but not this time.

    I cannot think of anyone more right wing than Tony Blair or the current incarnation of Labour with their wars, ID cards, 90 days and the like and Trish Law won the AM seat after Peter Law died so a woman was elected in my backyard…

  14. Charlie Beckett

    Will Straw says #GE10 campaign was about process not policy – I disagree – see my comment to his blog http://is.gd/bX2vg

  15. Liberal Conspiracy » Majority Government – or tabloid rule?

    […] Rebuilding a sustainable economy and the public finances and reforming our politics is hard and responsible work, and we need everyone […]

  16. Charlie Beckett

    Dear Will,
    You say that “Sadly the election campaign has focused more on process than policy, more on style than substance”. Where’s your evidence? I just don’t believe this is true. There has been more policy information and discussion than ever before, partly thanks to the Internet. It may not go down to the mind-numbing detail you might like (although a lot of it does) but to say that real issues have not been picked over is simply not true – compared to previous elections. Look at the growth of Fact Check services, look at the constant critical oversight of social media, look at blogs and websites like your own. And then consider whether people should actually make their mind up on character, values and vision rather than just policy.
    cheers
    Charlie Beckett
    (Polis/LSE)

  17. Confused of Croydon

    In terms of the parties’ vote share, this will not be the “closest election in a generation”. Unless the polls are very wrong, it will be more decisive than the last one- i.e. the Tories will win by more than Labour won by last time. It’s only the pro-Labour bias of the voting system that means that it may be close in terms of seats.

    In one sense, that suits me as I vote Labour. But it still makes me feel rather queasy as a democrat.

  18. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Anon …

    Given the range of jobs that your extended family is involved in I fear you are about as worldly wise as Chicken Licken when he met Foxy Loxy.

    Regarding your range of opinions, well the only thing consistent with them is their inconsistency. TB, do you like him or not?

    Regarding GB, he is poor politician and in this election he has been both unlucky and ill served by a progressive media that has decided to be loyal to their class and not their principles. The editor and management of the Guardian should hang their heads in shame regarding their coverage and their constant desire to make GB pay for TB’s mistakes.

    In your comments regarding GB where you seem to bundle him up with all the professional politicians that now inhabit all three parties is interesting as I would expect someone of your proclaimed background to know a little bit more about GB than you seem to do. Anyone who comes into parliamentary politics supporting Michael Foot in 1983 is not in it for the easy ride to a seat in a government limo.

    That then is GB, what about the alternative? The only question for me about Dave The Rave, will he be as two faced as “W” or as ineffectual as Grocer Heath? He is an accident waiting to happen, a political soufflé who has made the most of the intellectual train wreck of the post Major Tory party. He has made the most of his limited abilities aided and abetted by a pliant and subservient media. If you can’t see that then you either weren’t looking or you don’t care as it suits your current worldview?

    GB’s lack of luck is encapsulated in the Mrs Duffy incident, horrible remarks but done up like a kipper by a scavenging press pack. On this issue though, I am Spartacus, I have been in his situation and have made some choice comments after the event but who cares about a no-hoper council candidate in Sunny South Essex. You are naive to the point of incredulity if you think others in politics have not expressed similar sentiments on a daily basis.

    Mrs Duffy is important in this election because she highlights the duplicity of a lot of voters. She has taken from the welfare state but doesn’t like giving something back especially to people she thinks don’t deserve it. She and others like her want to have their cake and eat it.

    She talks about the deficit followed up by a shopping list of extra spending she would like and then finishes off with another gripe about the deficit. All this and for good measure a few cheap jibes about East Europeans flocking to her area. Surely an attitude like that deserves comment not agreement.

    Finally by all means take the view you seem to have but please don’t try and salve your conscience by suggesting it is the Labour Party that has moved away from you, you have moved away from the Labour party and the cause of progressive politics in the UK.

    Society may not owe you anything but you owe it to society to make sure the opportunities that were open to you are available to others.

    It is not too late, you have 3 hours to save the recovery.
    Keep the Faith Brothers — Don’t let the dog boilers win.

  19. Mr. Sensible

    MR Mouse, on the NI issue, would you rather see an increase in VAT?

    It seems the British Chambers of Commerce do. 1 problem, many of the signatories of that letter are retailers.

  20. Anon E Mouse

    Fat Bloke on Tour – There you go again! *sigh*

    My family consists of my sister and I having two children each – not that extended. Oh and after leaving the mob I worked in IT for the disabled for the local social services and my mother has an MBE for service to the Inland Revenue.

    Please don’t try to suggest I am not what I purport to be – that is a Labour voter, who like the majority of the electorate in this country do not want the unelected Gordon Brown as PM. Simple as that.

    Whether I like Blair or not is irrelevant – he was an elected winner and one can only affect peoples lives, with ideas such as yours by being in power.

    It simply isn’t luck to be so two faced over the Mrs Duffy affair – I was watching it live and thought he’d done well but then he not only back stabs a traditional elderly Labour voter when in the car he even looks for who he can blame. Luck is just a pat excuse – it’s his character I dislike.

    By essentially smearing Mrs Duffy over her views you simply drag labour down to a gutter level and the public do not like that and she is entitled to have her views on East Europeans robustly challenged, perhaps resulting in disagreement but to smear her is so Labour it hurts.

    And as for your progressive nonsense it just results in outright hypocrisy by politicians who say one thing then vote another way. Progressive to remove the 10p tax band? Where’s the progress in that? It’s as phoney as Bill Clinton’s ‘Third Way’. Grow up people please.

    Labour needs to flush out all the bad eggs that caused the defeat of Brown last night – tell them to go and form their own party, say the deceitful smearers brigade and get Labour back to being electable again.

    I was amazed that Labour got over 200 seats with Brown and I simply do not see how crushing the poor with excessive taxes to pay for Brown, the most useless chancellor in British history and his debts is making opportunities open to those who need them.

  21. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Anon …

    Three days late with my reply.
    Basic point in all this is the more you explain yourself the less I understand your position.

    Again you resort to a laundry list of Labour’s faults which reads like a Daily Mail editorial with nothing to suggest that you have any affinity with the party or understand anything about what it has achieved in the past 13 years.

    Consequently I stick with my point that you may have been a Labour voter in the past but you are not and probably never have been a Labour supporter.

    The test in all of this is what has Labour got right, specifically what has Labour got right in the past 13 years and what could it have done better?

    With that I will leave this issue and move on.

Leave a Reply