How Labour could lose in 2015

Labour's reductive arguments could prove costly. They're better off sticking to 'hope' and 'change'

by on 9 January 2013 10:07

The Left has a certain penchant for oversimplification. Reductive fallacies such as, “tax more, accrue more” and “the rich should pay their fair share” may go someway to winning over intrinsically Left leaning people – but it does nothing for the educated middle classes who seek reason behind assertions.

This is why quick-fire slogans like the simple word, “change” tend to work at elections. This sort of rhetoric aims not at reducing an argument to a short and unsound analogy, nor does it appeal to the more intellectual minded. Instead it speaks to our basest of instincts – the nomadic obsession that has led humankind to populate the world, invent the wheel and take a trip to the moon. This is the very last vestige of the politician or party that has little more to offer.

But elections are not simply won, or at least, they should not simply be won, by preying on the desperate need the electorate displays for the destruction of the status quo ante. At some point, somewhere, I have to believe, someone is thinking about policies and manifestos. Please.

This is why David Miliband’s adoption of a ‘famous and iconic’ Labour movement poster from the 1930s will create more problems for Labour as the party heads towards a 2015 General Election. Almost as many problems as Miliband’s off the cuff remark in the House of Commons chamber yesterday when he told the nation, “I didn’t get good marks in maths.

Miliband said: "So this is not equality of sacrifice. The Chancellor reminds me of the man in the 1929 election poster, standing above others on a ladder. Water is up to the neck of the man on the bottom rung, while the man at the top shouts “Equality - let’s all go down one rung”."

This poster illustrates quite simply, that a fat cat standing halfway up the ladder (of earnings), is about to take a step down, in this week’s case, representing how the richest are no longer to receive as many state benefits.

But at the bottom of the ladder, what do we have? The poor man, whose head is apparently going to fall beneath the waterline if he has to go down a rung.

But since even the TUC’s latest polling shows that the British public is hostile to the culture of dependency that plagues us, perhaps people are already beginning to ask what the proverbial waterline in the poster actually represents.

In many cases, as we know, it represents an idea of ‘poverty’. Not a global or even a countrywide standard, but rather a standard which suits those whose need it remains to create a constituency of welfare dependents. Yes ok, big deal – a Labour poster spins Labour ideas – big whoop?

The reality thought, is that in being quite out of touch with the electorate, at least according to the aforementioned poll, the Labour Party (and David Miliband particularly) is positioning itself in the territory of oversimplification. This will hamper its chances of re-election quite drastically. Instead of harping on about ‘change’, the electorate are being drawn into making political and moral judgments, and the argument is one that Labour simply cannot win.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that despite all of the calls for ‘substance’ in our politics, Labour’s best strategy at this point in time would be to either engage with the issues on a sufficiently complicated level so as to bore the electorate, or shout “change” for two more years.

Heed Einstein’s words, Mr. Miliband, “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”. This is precisely where Labour will trip itself up.

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