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January 26, 2016



There appears to be a logical jump in the interpretations of Mattinson's findings. Her finding is that many people think Labour was responsible for the 2008 crash, therefore it was, therefore Labour should atone for it and move to the centre.

The only way that Labour was responsible for the 2008 crash was by not regulating the banks.

Luis Enrique

"Nor is it because centrist policies are necessarily better"

I agree with necessarily, but what about more *likely* to be?

gastro george

There are two aspects of Mattinson's report that I find interesting. Firstly, all of the initial media coverage (Peston is an exception) failed to report any detailed content of the report - in fact is mainly revolved about how the report had been ignored by Beckett, and Mattinson's annoyance. This was naturally used as another stick with which to beat Corbyn. The point being that the report content was irrelevant, and those media reporters would have come to the same conclusion almost no matter what it had said.

Secondly, about the report:

"All the interviewees were 30 to 50, in the C1/C2 class of lower management and skilled manual workers, and - importantly - in England they were Tory voters who backed Labour in 2005 ..."

So all English focus group members were former Tory voters, so are presumably receptive to Tory messages, and liable to give a different set of answers from a truly representative panel. It's important for Labour to attract swing voters, of course, but they are only a section of the vote - and this group selection by the report has largely been ignored by other commentators.

Deviation From The Mean

Tony Blair simply took politics to the right and shifted the centre accordingly. If we view the centre at 1970 index it would look something like this:


So the whole basis of this article is fundamentally flawed, and Blair was not some great triangulator but the man who made the hideous and odious politics of Ian Duncan Smith and George Osbourne part of the centre and not the far right where it really belongs.


If you have no policies worth a damn, and no vision, I guess you have to fall back on manipulation and personality.

Much as Tony Blair did.

Donald Trump pitches his speeches at a very low educational level.


"It’s obvious that Trump’s verbal deficit, as grating as it may be on the ears of the educated class, has not caused him much political pain. The media has noted the opposite: Trump’s overreliance on sports and war metaphors in his public utterances, his reductionist, one-dimensional policy prescriptions—including nuanced geopolitical arguments such as get tough with China and Mexico, which are killing us!—inspire trust in many rather than distrust."


"The Republican party is just one of many right-of-centre institutions that appears to have forgotten this centuries-old truth. Millions of its traditional supporters are currently providing the ‘Grand Old Party’ with a painful re-education in a basic point: what’s good for Wall Street isn’t always good for Main Street. This time, they’d like the lesson to sink in — and their vehicle for this lesson is Donald Trump."


""We had the wrong policies." In fact our individual polices polled well, the issue was the difficulty in creating a cohesive, consistent narrative and communicating this clearly and simply"

You don't need to occupy the centre. You do need to provide the electorate with purpose and direction.

(And stop mangling my policies)



'The Right to Own'


I am not a fan, how much progress is John MacDonald really prepared to make?

"Right to Own" sounds more right wing than the Tories, which is not the right mood music. "Right to Buy" is an imbecilic policy and should be attacked as such, not mimicked, even in poetry.

While I have no problem with John Lewis Partnerships, or Waitrose, they do seem very much like conventional businesses, as do the Cooperative shops/bank/funeral palours and the 'divy' died a long time ago, if favour of lower prices.

How about restoring and revitalising the building society's demutualised by Thatcher? (owned by their customers)

I am sorry, but I just can't see the change happening, on any significant scale, so as to make a difference to the public, and therefore be of significance, to the man on the clapham omnibus.


"That MacDonnell has apparently stated in his "workers co-op" talk that he doesn’t see state ownership on a large scale as part of the UK future, could be I fear, just an early precursor to an endless watering down of the radical Left policy proposals that powered the huge groundswell of support for Jeremy’s leadership victory."


McConnell is obsessed with investment.

Businesses only turn up when there is money to be made. And that only happens when people have money in their pockets to spend.

'Investment' spending can of course help, but the question is what are you going to build and why?

The Humber Bridge didn't really help Hull in the long run did it.

The problem is that the premise is incorrect. To get businesses to turn up and stay you need long term sustained *current* spending in an area. And that means spending money on improvements in public services in those areas - things like elderly care and education.

Once businesses see that the flow of money in an area is sustained, then they pop up to take advantage of it and a virtuous cycle can begin.


Hmm, in my previous comment I seem to have suggested the turtle in charge of the US Senate is Shadow Chancellor :D

“We reject the mindless austerity of Osborne but also the spending-for-spending sake of the old left. Instead, we should borrow in invest where there are payoffs to doing so – for example in flood defences, broadband and transport.”

That's dumb. You are not framing the debate in real terms. Government needs to engage all idle resources, regardless of whether some accountant calls it 'investment' or not.

(i) £100 of government spending always creates £100 of taxation for any positive tax rate. Each time, every time.

That is a very simple mathematic progression that is definitely true. You’ll note that I don’t say over what time frame. Inevitably that invites the retort of ‘why is there a deficit then’, to which you can respond ‘because somebody didn’t spend all their income in the budget period – in other words they saved some. Are you against saving?’.

The general trick here is to always start with government spending, and linearise the spending cycle based on that starting point. Because when you do that, you always end the linearisation at saving or taxation.

(ii) The Job Alternative Guarantee is a permanent job offer to everybody, by the state, at the living wage, *fitted* to the person near where they live, working for the public good.

Then bullshit jobs are eliminated and 'no deal' is an option.

‘Everybody should have a JAG’ is the tag line, which works here in the UK because a Jag is also a desirable car.

The trick is to sell a Job Guarantee that will actually work in practice. The JG is just a job like any other job. Like any other job if you don't work you don't get paid by the JG. At that point you're back to relying on other social security measures, charities or your own savings - just as with any other situation where you don't work. The expectation is that people who are unable to get work with the JG will be picked up by social care provision - because they are long term ill, disabled or retired.

The key benefit is that if you want to work then you will be able to. No more pointless job searches. No more disillusionment about the lack of positions for your skills and experience. There will be options there. You will be able to work. You will be able to obtain a living wage that will house, feed and clothe your family, doing work you love for the public good.

(iii) when anybody asks how you are going to ‘afford it’, respond by saying ‘by spending the money. Government spending funds itself.’


– Government spending always pays for itself.
– Everybody deserves a JAG
- Spending is limited by real resources not money
- What are you planning on doing with the X you sacked, George? 'The rest of us via unemployment benefit' isn't good enough thanks to you.


Peston knows as much about politics as he does about economics, namely zip.

It would help if as per Bob some one in the Labour Party explained about economics being about real resources as it would help dispel the ignorance spread by Peston and Osborne. The inane confusion between Finance and economics is embarrassing for any one who knows about either.

The nub of the problem is that British politicians have given up trying to control or manage finance capital and until they do decide to plan the economy even in a mild form they will get no where. Quoting focus groups of ignorant tory voters is merely a way of playing back propaganda from the marks as justification for the game of deception.

The centre party myth beguiles the well off as it is a way to avoid class reality; but it always fails when the voters discover it is an excuse to apply policies that suit the wealthy rather than the rest.


starts from a flawed viewpoint that politics is about positioning. Democratic politics is about representation. Corbyn represents a small group of society who as Janesh Ganesh says regard left wing politics as a hobby. Labour needs to speak for the mass of people in the country, not worry about where on a line is the optimum place to sit.

Dave Timoney

Re Bob's comment: "The Humber Bridge didn't really help Hull in the long run did it?".

This was because the problem - the constraint of the Humber ferry on traffic between Hull and Scunthrope - was largely alleviated by the building of the M62, which improved road transport via Goole.

The bridge was a classic case of over-capacity, prompted by the government's need to win the 1966 Hull North by-election. In other words, the competition for public funds created by representative (i.e. constituency) democracy.

Political parties may speak *to* the mass of the people, but they never speak *for* them. They always speak for a combination of constituencies. One goal of political debate is to identify those particular interests. The "middle ground" is a rhetorical trope intended to obscure them.

Deviation From The Mean

"Corbyn represents a small group of society who as Janesh Ganesh says regard left wing politics as a hobby"

I guess we could say that all politics is an hobby, left, right and centre. Why assume the just the left? I would say politics has become a career choice, it is no longer a class or group of people sending people to parliament to represent them. I think it is easy to see the ones who are not careerists but conviction politicians. George Galloway is clearly a conviction politician because by standing by his principles he has damaged his career, so for Galloway politics is more than an hobby. Corbyn decided to stay in labour even when they slaughtered tens of thousands in Iraq and beyond. So the jury is still out on him.

"Labour needs to speak for the mass of people in the country, not worry about where on a line is the optimum place to sit."

But this is NOT what the Tories have ever done. They plough on regardless and say fuck the public if it contradicts their central themes. yes they have moved on social issues but they will not buckle on rail privitisation even though the majority of the public support it, the majority of the public want increases taxes for the richest, yet the Tores tell the public to take a hike and reduce the taxes on the rich.

Politics has to be about rallying people to your cause.

If the majority of the public want anti immigrant and anti welfare (and why wouldn't they given decades of tabloid brainwashing?) then they have the Tories.

What Corbyn offers is genuine choice and a genuine opening up of the debate. If you support New Labour you may as well support the Tories, if you support New Labour you certainly support a narrowing of the debate.

"Government needs to engage all idle resources"

Define an idle resource Bob!


«invest where there are payoffs to doing so – for example in flood defences, broadband and transport.»

Flood defences are public money financed tricks to boost the price of property built as a speculation on known flood plains.

The speculation is to buy for a low price land known to be on a flood swamp, build it densely, and then use the distress of the next flood on the dense dwellings to make those who have not speculated on flood plain land pay for making it into dry land with very expensive dykes and their ongoing maintenance.

But electorally it could make all the difference if the flood plain speculators were swing voters in marginal seats.

After all making huge property capital gains at the expense of others is the very essence of what UK politics is about.


«the mass of people in the country, not worry about where on a line is the optimum place to sit»

But the «mass of people in the country» is electorally irrelevant in first-past-the-post systems.

What matters to being elected and doing the interests of a party's stakeholder is to find the «optimum place to sit» in terms of coming just first in marginal seats by speaking to the interests of the voters in those seats.

Westminster Council in the past has designed the winning political strategy that works in the UK (and other FPTP systems) as the relevant Wikipedia entry describes it:

««the eight wards chosen had been the most marginal in the City Council elections of 1986.»
«In services as disparate as street cleaning, pavement repair and environmental improvements, marginal wards were given priority while safely Labour and safely Conservative parts of the city were neglected.»
«In 1990, the Conservatives were re-elected by a landslide victory in Westminster, increasing their majority from 4 to 38. They won all but one of the wards targeted by Building Stable Communities policy.»

And as to winning the marginal seats actually winnable nothing works as well as delivering large tax-free effort-free property capital gains to middle aged and older property owning voters.

They don't really care about austerity, or immigration, or jobs, or pensions, only about cashing in their large capital gains with very low interest rate remortgages.


«Tony Blair simply took politics to the right and shifted the centre accordingly.»

That quite a huge misdescription: he *recognized* that UK politics had turned hugely to the right, as previously low income, no property voters became middle income, small property owning voters, and later pensioners on good final salary pensions.

The first worry of these voters was to milk as much as possible their new found prosperity by demanding huge tax-free effort-free capital gains on their properties, and "pull up the ladder" by supporting and demanding cuts in the wage, employment, trade union protection, social insurance, pensions, for everybody else.

It was not T Blair's New Labour that betrayed the working class, it was the working class that betrayed Labour once their got into some safe jobs and pensions and small property ownership.

T Blair in an article he wrote in 1987 wrote:

«Post-war Britain has seen two big changes. First, and partly as a result of reforming Labour governments, there are many more healthy, wealthy and well-educated people than before. In addition, employment has switched from traditional manufacturing industries to a more white-collar, service-based economy. The inevitable result has been that class identity has fragmented. Only about a third of the population now regard themselves as ‘working-class’. Of course it is possible still to analyse Britain in terms of a strict Marxist definition of class: but it is not very helpful to our understanding of how the country thinks and votes. In fact, of that third, many are likely not to be ‘working’ at all: these are the unemployed, pensioners, single parents – in other words, the poor.
A party that restricts its appeal to the traditional working class will not win an election. That doesn’t entail a rejection of socialism’s traditional values: but it does mean that its appeal, and hence its policies, must address a much wider range of interests.»

As to Labour party and its delusional left, he wrote in the same 1987 article:

«The difficulty was that though the theory of greater democracy and increased accountability of MPs was fine, the practical context in which the theory was operating was fraught with danger. What was missing from the theory was any appreciation of the vital necessity of ensuring that, as well as MPs or leaders being accountable to the Party, the Party was accountable to the electorate. The one without the other was a recipe for disaster. Because the Party was small and did not encourage participation, it became prey to sectarian groups from the Ultra-Left. Moreover, the new situation allowed the Party to engage in the worst delusion of resolutionary socialism – the notion that resolutions passed at Conference have meaning or effect without real support in the wider community.»

Also from a true-blue conservative site my other usual quote:

«There were even prophetic council house sales by local Tories in the drive to create voters with a Conservative political mentality. As a Tory councillor in Leeds defiantly told Labour opponents in 1926, ‘it is a good thing for people to buy their own houses. They turn Tory directly. We shall go on making Tories and you will be wiped out.’ There is much of the Party history of the twentieth century in that remark.»

Indeed currently arguably greedy, mean, property speculating, "tories" with a lower case "t" are the majority of voters, and almost certainly a majority of voters in marginal seats that are vital to returning a parliamentary majority at election time.


«Political parties may speak *to* the mass of the people, but they never speak *for* them. They always speak for a combination of constituencies.»

Very well put. I like the "speak *to" and "speak *for*" terms, even if I usually use something like "constituency/audience" and "stakeholders/sponsors" respectively in the same sense.


«if the majority of the public want anti immigrant and anti welfare»

That's not what actually what the majority of voters who matter want, and those are myths.

What they want is:

* Lots of immigration to bring down wages *as long as immigrants live in ghettos paying high rent to slumlords and never show up in public except as deferential wallahs*. The great british middle classes love the reality of cheap hired help, from low-fee polish plumbers to low-wage romanian cleaners as long as they don't have to share their suburbs with them.

* Very high welfare for middle class middle aged and older southern voters, both as pensions and high NHS spending, and as Help-To-Buy and other ways to spend public money to push up property prices. They also are very happy with hundreds of billions of no-strings-attached welfare money donations to protect the jobs of a dozen thousand splendid people in the City who finance house speculation. They just hate any social insurance payouts however small on the those poorer than themselves or living further north than themselves or younger than themselves.

Put another way, the great british middle classes hate immigration and welfare *only* when they benefit someone else, and love them very much when they benefit the selfsame great british middle classes.

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