Moving away from the centre

Mike Hedges says Jeremy Corbyn offers hope.

Jeremy gives hope to both the party and the country.

I have always wondered how the First World War generals could have been so stupid trying the same tactic time after time. Yet more of what failed in 2010 and 2015 a form of austerity light is considered by some the solution next time. If it fails in 2020 we can always try it again in 2025.

You win elections when you give the electorate hope. When they think you are on their side. Labour lost in 1959 and in 2015 because we were not prepared to differentiate ourselves from the Tories. We are the party that stands up for the poor, the down trodden and exploited. We are the party of the ordinary workers and their families not of the casino capitalists of the city of London.

I want to debunk two myths. Firstly is that you keep the last election vote and add to it.

Remember the last election, the experts, the leadership, the planners had it all worked out. All we need to do to win is add the disillusioned Liberal Democrat to our 2010 voters and we would win. According to electoral calculus 7 % of the electorate who voted Lib Dem in 2010 voted Labour in 2015 so we should have won or at least come a close second..

But 2% of 2010 Labour voters voted SNP, 1% voted UKIP, 2% voted Tory and 1% voted Green. If we had held on to that vote we would have polled 36.4% of the vote to the Conservatives 36.9%.

We cannot take our voters for granted and try and gain some conservative ones by moving to the right. Some people have said we lost due to lazy Labour voters not voting. It is my view we lost because too many ex Labour voters could not see how we would make their lives better. Why voting Labour would make a difference.

The second myth is that you win elections from the centre ground. If that was true the Lib Dems would win every election Although the Liberal Democrats most successful elections have been when they moved to the left.

Was the Attlee government in 1945 in the centre ground?

Were the Wilson Governments in the centre ground?

Was Thatcher in the centre ground?

Is Cameron in the centre ground?

We in Wales, when led by Rhodri Morgan, set clear red water between us and the Labour Party in London and we won.

What are my constituents telling me?

Statements on my Facebook feed from my constituents include

“If he (Jeremy)  gets elected as leader of the Labour Party I will come back from the Greens the only other party that leans to the left and in support of the people.”

“I believe it needs to change people’s minds and lead rather than take the populist view. That’s what it was good at back when it started. Make fairness, caring and looking after the worker and the disadvantaged an electable ticket rather than trying to be a less conservative Tory party”

“I feel the Labour Party has forgotten its roots and those who started it. It was from trade unionists we came!! For a Labour Party to abstain from voting on welfare rights is completely diabolical.”

Finally we win when we offer the electorate hope, when we appear economically competent, when we appear a party of principle and that is why  I am supporting Jeremy Corbyn for leader.

Mike Hedges is the Assembly Member for Swansea East.

13 thoughts on “Moving away from the centre

  1. Mike is right Labour’s ethos & values were hijacked by Blair and his spin doctors for a different agenda and the party became indistinguishable from Tories.

    Those who oppose Jeremy are using scaremongering and in my view irrelevant analogy to Michael Foot’s era.

    Michael was an idealist and he got carried away with the thoughts of power and in the process forgot that any major change to our small c conservative nation can only be done by referenda and never imposed (Nuclear disarmament and some other badly thought out policies).

    Whilst Jeremy to some extent shares some of Michael’s vision he’s above all he is a pragmatist and unlikely to repeat MF’s mistakes.

    UK is in a desperate need of Social Justice and Tories are not delivering fairness and support to the low income families and those out of work.

    As Mike says Jeremy offers HOPE and we must support him.

    In the Welsh context the Welsh Labour Party is not the party Welsh electorate deserves as like the Blairites it has been hijacked by people with an agenda and in our case by Welsh nationalists for their own ends and benefits of the few and this must change!

  2. Nice one Mr.Hedges you seem to be starting to ‘get it’.The other phrase that keeps cropping up endlessly in Labour navel gazing is ‘lessons of history’. Now I certainly believe that we should know (and be taught) our history and that it should inform our actions however I also believe that we should be more focused on behavioural psychology and plain old common sense.
    I also believe in the phrase ‘ cometh the time, cometh the man (or woman)’. This could be for ill or good change in politics and religion and cuts both ways however somebody does appear and it is often from an unexpected or left field direction.
    Politics is not predictable it is ‘fractal’. This is why political ‘advisors’ and their calculations are usually useless. Just listen to your heart.

  3. J Protic is correct. People within the Welsh Labour Party seem to spend most of their time talking about Wales. How annoying is that?

  4. I have to confess to being somewhat stunned by what is happening to the Labour Party in England. It would appear that the party is voting on the basis on what is good for Labour supporters rather than what will win an election.

    Mke Hedges’ analysis is somewhat selective. He makes the point that Rhodri Morgan set clear red water between Wales and London and Welsh Labour won. What he fails to add is that New Labour led by Tony Blair won three successive UK general elections, its best ever performance. The message that certain Labour supporters find impossible to acknowledge is that there is no longer one political message that will resonate contemporaneously in Scotland, Wales, the North of England and the Home Counties. It seems to me that Tony Blair’s achievements have become almost totally obscured by having led his party and his country into an illegal war. It is right that people feel outraged that he abused the trust he had won from the UK electorate in order to show that a Labour Prime Minister could stand on the international stage with a Republican President of the US. But forgotten is the Good Friday agreement which finally brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of violence. And forgotten is the fact that he understood how to communicate with Middle England, a constituency vital to winning power at Westminster.

    I am no fan of Tony Blair but the record speaks for itself. If you want to win in England, you will have to look at the political position he adopted and that proved so successful. It is not, however, a message that will resonate in Scotland, as is evidenced by the social democratic stance adopted by the SNP, nor in Wales where Labour remains the dominant power with the constitutional authority to reject Conservative policies (eg sale of social housing).

    It would appear that the Labour membership wish to reconnect with their principles and that Jeremy Corbyn is the man to do that. Even if that happens, they will still need to face the question of how they can win over the voters of Middle England if they are serious about returning to power. In my view, clear red water will not resonate in the Home Counties as it has been able to in Wales.

  5. Mike Hedges sees ‘hope’ in Jeremy Corbyn: he knows the Labour party – I don’t (only from the outside).

    Could the analysis equally be that many in England saw that the Labour ‘old boy’ hegemony was not irreducible, when it was swept aside by the electorate in Scotland, and now seek something similar? (I don’t hold my breath for our little corner of the Empire).

    Jeremy Corbyn may be the leader that you want, but is Labour the party that you need it to be to make his vision work? Discuss.

    (@ Ken Thompson – shocking isn’t it)

  6. I generally agree with Rhobat`s arguments but I don’t agree that the evidence exists to show that Wales votes in a very different way to similar areas in England. Rhobat and Mike Hedges cite the electoral success of the clear red water strategy as evidence. Rhobat thinks its a Welsh phenomenon and less reasonably Mike suggests it would work across the UK. In 1997, 74% of the Welsh electorate turned out and 55% voted for new labour. In 2003, 38% of the electorate turned out to vote in the Assembly elections and 40% voted for red water. How is that an endorsement of the Red Water strategy?

  7. There is one good thing about Jeremy Corbyn – he has a much wiser brother! But he really needs to talk to him more before he starts re-nationalising the UK’s broken energy industry. In the unlikely event he gets that right I would even be in favour of it! And the railways, and gas, and water, and the telecom backbone, and a few other essentials that should be run in the national interest…

    But, in reality, I’m pretty sure he would turn the UK into another Greece but without the sunshine…

  8. The question is do parties stand for something and persuade the electorate they’re right or do they follow the electorate?

    Gordon Brown argues the second. He completely denies the fact that all polics is protest. A party that is not a party of protest is dead. The Labour party has long argued that the act on its values it must first win power. But if you turn your back on your values you have no values lef. It turned its back on Scotish an Welsh freedom because England didn’t aprove. Currently it’s a Republican party that dares not even mention it. Utterly hypocritical.

    That’s why Corbyn is a breath of political air.

  9. @joj

    I don’t deny that similar voting patterns and attitudes can be found elsewhere in the UK and no doubt beyond. But the essential difference between Wales and, say, the North-East of England is that Wales has a National Assembly and the North-East, or any other English region for that matter, does not. In Wales we have a Labour First Minister and Government, the North East does not. The North East will now have to follow Conservative education policies, despite not voting for them, Wales will not, and so on.

    My focus on Wales results from the fact that this is my home country and the one I am trying to understand politically. What we can see is that Wales is governed by Labour and the UK is governed by the Conservatives. The clear red water has delivered a Labour Government in Cardiff but not in Westminster and certainly not in England. It could also be argued that the SNPs success is in part due to its having taken the ‘clear red’ mantel from Scottish Labour who became more identified with Westminster Labour and its austerity-lite position, and then with the Conservatives by joining them in the No campaign.

    However you make a good point when you outline the gradual decline of support for Welsh Labour that has occurred down the years. Labour Party may be in Government for now but for how much longer? On current polling, it would appear that Labour will need a coalition partner come May next year which, in all likelihood, will be Plaid Cymru. There has been some talk on the media recently from politicians, including Plaid, of the need to break the ‘stranglehold’ of the Labour Party on Welsh politics. Our system demands that our political parties slug it out to become the government.

    But taking a step back, the most pressing political issue is the rise of the right that is likely to occur next May. Plaid and Labour can slug it out on the left/centre left all they like but both the Conservatives and UKIP are showing growing support to the extent that their representation will increase next time. This is not just an issue for Labour but for Plaid as well, who seem remarkably quiet on the issue. It would be foolish on their party to believe that this phenomenon is a matter for Labour only; but their current silence on the matter seems rather ominous to me.

    However I digress. Given the collapse in support for New Labour among its supporters in England and Scotland, perhaps the time for ‘clear red water’ is over. My argument would be that the left in Wales needs to get constitutional and start, not just arguing for but, actually building a social democratic state. There is no reason why that cannot come from a Welsh Labour Government but it is quite capable of being supported by a future Plaid coalition partner. If Wales waits for the English Labour Party to sort itself out, it could be waiting for a very long time. And as recent events have shown, to adopt an Asquithian wait-and-see policy would only result in the Conservatives and UKIP taking advantage of the political inertia.

  10. I have always wondered how the First World War generals could have been so stupid trying the same tactic time after time.

    A bit like the Red Lions Dart team from Kent, who call themselves the English Democrats so they sound like a proper political party. Every election they come here repeating the same old lies, that we were part of England (no we weren’t), that no one asked us if we wanted to be transferred to Wales (we were not transferred to Wales we were simply reaffirmed as a Welsh county and yes we were asked). While let facts get in the way of English nationalist fantasy when you can just make your own facts up.

  11. My understanding is that the ambiguity arose from the formation of Monmouthshire in the Laws in Wales Act 1536 as one of the seven counties of the March. However. the establishment of the courts of great sessions of Wales in the Laws in Wales Act 1542 referred to Brecon, Glamorgan and Radnor, but Monmouth was attached to the Oxford Circuit of the English Assizes. This led to the mistaken belief that Monmouth had become an English county. However in what little Welsh-only legislation that was passed between 1536 and 1830, the year the Courts of Great Session were abolished, Monmouthshire was always included.

  12. Monmouthshire was never removed from Wales and transferred to England. The Law of Wales Act did not annex Monmouthshire to England. Yes it was part of the Oxford Circuit, along with Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. The circuits were just a convenient grouping of countries that could be covered by judges, known as “justices of assize”, who were judges who travelled across the seven circuits of England and Wales. For convenience Monmouthshire was in the Oxford Circuit, also for convenience Cheshire was in the Welsh Circuit. The circuits were administrative areas that cut across national boundaries. That this is the only justification the Red Lions Dart Team (aka The English Democrats) have for claiming we were an English county and they are just clutching at straws

  13. I grow up in Monmouthshire in the 1960s. I went to school in Newport, at school we always supported Wales. The Welsh rugby team was often just the Pontypool back-row. For those who don’t know the geography of Monmouthshire, Pontypool and Newport are in Monmouthshire. According to the Red Lions Dart team we were quote “dumped into Wales”, and it’s an injustice that “English people were dumped into Wales against their will”??? What??? No one in Monmouthshire considered themselves English. At school being called English was an insult. We were also consulted on the reaffirmation of Monmouthshire as being Welsh. There was even a postal vote on this.

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy