Comment: Labour’s poll lead over Tories proves austerity is more unpopular than the EU

Labour's increasing lead in the polls indicates that austerity is more unpopular than the EU.

Salman Shaheen is a freelance journalist and blogger

When David Cameron blindsided Ed Miliband with an in-out referendum on the EU last month, he hoped to deal a devastating blow to the opposition by painting the Conservatives as the party of democracy with its finger on the pulse of public opinion against an out of touch Labour Party afraid to give people a choice.

Today’s Guardian/ICM poll, which gives Labour a 12 point lead over the Tories for the first time in almost a decade, however, shows quite clearly that it is the Conservatives who are out of touch.

Fundamentally, it shows that it is not the EU that is chief among voters’ concerns, but austerity.

If the economy had picked up, it might have been a different story. But with the economy teetering on the brink of an historic triple dip recession, Tory policies have failed the poor and they’ve failed the country.

That’s not to say that the EU is an irrelevant concern, but with UKIP rising three points in the polls, Cameron’s sop to the right has played into their hands, not his.

And that’s also not to say that people are not right to find fault with the EU and its democratic deficit.

But when you weigh something as distant from people’s lives as a supranational body against their everyday struggle to put food on their plates, there’s no contest.

If Cameron stopped beating the drum so loudly on Europe, he might be able to hear voters’ concerns over cuts, pay freezes and the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, a policy so shockingly unfair it may yet prove to be his poll tax moment.

For Labour to gain such a strong lead with a relatively unpopular leader is a sign that the government is detached from reality and the electorate.

It’s time they started listening.

15 Responses to “Comment: Labour’s poll lead over Tories proves austerity is more unpopular than the EU”

  1. LB

    The silence on the killings by the NHS is deafening. Vested interests for you. Protecting your funders from criminal prosecutions.

    The problem is you come over like a little child. You have to have your money now, and bugger the consequences.

    7,000 bn plus of debts, 550 bn of taxation, 700 bn of spending.

    Its going to go all Greek.

    So what’s important? Keeping up with the Jones when it comes to subsidizer housing.

    You’re sense of priorities is all wrong.

  2. Brian S.

    The truly amazing thing is that Labour are also fans of crippling austerity – just in a slower more gradual way. They are just as stupid about the importance of monetary deficits and the national debt as the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

    Somehow, the government can print billions overnight to prop up the banks, but can’t print money for the real economy as mainstream economists think we would become Zimbabwe. Google ‘functional finance’ and ‘MMT’ for an alternative and more useful viewpoint.

  3. julian

    I agree with Brian. The current govt are the biggest incompetents (or worse) of my lifetime, but Labour are locked into neoliberalism too. I’ve been reading Another Angry Voice blog, which gives a brilliant analysis from the left of the current policies.

  4. Salman Shaheen

    Brian, Julian, I don’t disagree. In general I think people are defaulting to Labour in protest of Tory austerity and economic incompetence more than they are giving a ringing endorsement of Labour policies. There are some areas where I think Labour has it right, a VAT cut for example, and opposition to the bedroom tax. But I think now is the time for them to be bold and radical in presenting a genuine alternative to capitalise on the Conservatives’ disarray.

  5. Salman Shaheen

    LB, the problem is you’re right wing. Shame. But don’t assume I’m a card carrying Labour member just because I think the Tories are running this country into the ground.

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