Cruddas’ report finds anti austerity POPULISM is NOT very popular

So, a quick break from holidays, to share this from Jon Cruddas on why Labour lost the last election:

The first hard truth is that the Tories didn’t win despite austerity, they won because of it. Voters did not reject Labour because they saw it as austerity lite. Voters rejected Labour because they perceived the Party as anti-austerity lite. 58% agree that, ‘we must live within our means so cutting the deficit is the top priority’. Just 16% disagree. Almost all Tories and a majority of Lib Dems and Ukip voters agree.
Amongst working class C2DE voters 54% agree and 15% disagree. Labour voters are evenly divided; 32% agree compared to 34% who disagree.

He goes on to demonstrate that belief in ‘sound money’ policies does not mean being against redistributive tax and welfare policies. (Although I could produce dozens of macro economists who would be more than prepared to argue otherwise).

The electorate voted for fiscal responsibility. But as the statement on wealth distribution reveals the electorate also holds radical opinions on the economy. 60 per cent agree with the statement, ‘the economic system in this country unfairly favours powerful interests’. This rises to 73%t amongst UKIP voters and 78% amongst Labour voters.

He goes on to deal with an idea that’s been animating some excitement in some quarters:

The idea of an anti-austerity alliance with the SNP is unacceptable to a majority of English and Welsh voters. 60% agree that they ‘would be very concerned if the SNP were ever in government’ compared to 15% who disagree.’ A majority of Conservative, Lib Dem and Ukip voters agree, as do 40% of Labour voters. 

Labour’s defeat in Scotland does not set a precedent for its leftward shift in England. The SNPs anti-austerity politics simply increased the risk that Labour represented to English voters.

The response to the SNP amongst Welsh and English voters reflects the increasingly federal nature of the UK, and the growing political salience of a politics of identity and belonging. 63% say that their English or Welsh identity is important to them.

Scotland poses a dilemma for Labour. It has a different political tradition and its voters are more progressive and collectivist minded than in England. The English tend to be more individualistic and have a more ‘small c’ conservative disposition. Labour will need to develop a more federal politics to accommodate the paradoxes of radical and conservative dispositions and our national cultural differences.

Paradox is the key terminology. Slapping hastily gathered scraps of anti austerity wallpaper and slapping it all over the deepening cracks between English and Scottish political cultures won’t work.

For one it would be to ignore the fact the SNP’s ‘agenda’ (no sign of anti austerity means or measures in Holyrood btw) scared the bejesus out enough English voters to drive the Conservatives over the line to their first outright victory in twenty years.

One of Ed Miliband’s (several) resolute failures was to continue to ignore the pervasive nature of this growing problem.

Polling is a useful but limited tool. Handy if you are clear what questions to ask. What it cannot give you are the kinds of new of policy ideas that Labour desparately needs in order to bridge the gap between being party of protest and the putative party of government.

That involves understanding what went wrong, and learning to listen to what the voters are telling you needs changing, and finding a way to do it that doesn’t leave the country destitute. In traditional British leftist terms that involves finding a way to tackle the disengagement between the party’s diggers and its dreamers.

  • Megatron

    Wow talk about a loaded question!

    Do you think we should live within our means! Why no we should spend the countries resources on a trip to las vagas Mr Pollster.

    Joke.

    What is actually needed is a someone to start a proper debate about stuff that is never talked about but important. There are reasonable arguments on both sides around exiting the euro, central bank independence, further wealth redistribution, taxing corporations efficiently etc. Not to mention foreign policy / trident etc.

    A great recent example is corbyns point about central bank independence. Predictably attacked by the establishment the reality is much more nuanced.

    Having a consensus about policy and elections about competency is not good in my opinion.

  • 23×7

    First of all I would take with a pinch of salt what the polls say after the May polling fiasco.

    Secondly Labour one of the reasons Labour failed was because they were also making an austerity pitch. They weren’t offering the electorate anything much different from what the tories were offering. No wonder the polls indicate a support for austerity when all three major English parties were supporting it. Labour need to move back to an anti-austerity, pro-growth, low inequality message.

    Labour also failed not just because of austerity but because of their strategic failure during the Scottish referendum and their failure to deal with UKIP and the EU question.

    Labour will return to power once the electorate have had enough of the tories and really start to feel the impact of their attack on public services.

  • Dan

    Exiting the euro?

  • Megatron

    Exactly my point. People cant even contemplate the arguments here but there are obviously pros (less currency costs) and cons (lack of control of monetary policy etc) of being in currency union and there may be a point where cons outweigh the pros.

    Separate to exiting the euro, a country could start arguing for a controlled break-up of the currency union if they felt it wasnt working for them but individual exit was not desirable.

    But if a political party even dared discuss that at a party conference the sky would fall on them.

  • gendjinn

    Push polling at its finest.

  • Newton Emerson

    This isn’t the stupid public thinking the economy has to be run like a household budget. There’s no theory of deficit spending that lets you permanently exceed the growth rate, and no ‘investment’ we can hope to make that will get that growth rate up to the 8-10% we’d need to cover the deficits we’ve had.
    Nor is it ‘Keynsianism’ to run a huge deficit for years, let alone through a boom, a bust and a recovery.
    In the long run, the sound money instinct is sound (and we’re not all dead.)
    The left’s attempt to deny gravity has now gone beyond taking theory to extremes and graduated to tin-foil hattery about nationalised monetarism etc but as the OP points out, it’s all unnecessary when redistribution doesn’t actually require more money. It just requires a left that can say ‘cut’.

  • Megatron

    but presumably you agree the questions were nonsense for a poll? How are you convinced that the public who were asked didnt think the economy has to be run like a household budget?

    Good straw men arguments afterwards.

  • Reader

    Megatron: There are reasonable arguments on both sides around exiting the euro…
    It would have been foolish for Cruddas to ask a question about ‘exiting the euro’, though the answers might have been a useful pointer as to the poll respondents whose answers could have safely been ignored.

  • kensei

    There wasn’t a huge deficit through the boom, there was a minor one. If party X proposed less austerity than party Y, they can also paint the other party as spendthrift. Which they did.

    Labour said they’d half the deficit in 2010, the Tories said they’d eliminate it. Labour got hammered. The Tories halved the deficit with a notable pause when the economy went South.

    That long run budget balance – and given debt to GDP, perhaps a small surplus is needed does not say that right now we need toncut as hard and heavy as possible.

    Plenty of respectable economists say that the massive amount QE that was undertook didn’t have to go through the banks. Indeed the whole point was that it should have encouraged more lending! A mandate would have been perfectly possible, for example.

    Oh and by the by, the way the UK got it’s finances in lone post WW2 was via inflation. Unthinkable now.

    But repeat after me. Two legs bad, four legs good! There is no other option!

  • kensei

    This is an example of the type of public that gives confusing results – the public wants austerity, but it also wants redistribution and health spending increases and fairies and love.

    A coherent and consistent argument will always cut through these. The Tories, whatever else, have one. The broader left doesn’t and hasn’t been making one.

    There is benefit to laying out your beliefs repeatedly, even when they aren’t always popular. Eventually you’ll get an opening. If the Left had have stuck in regulation of banking instead of embracing Thatcherism, the crisis would have given a mandate for real change. Instead they are tainted by it. Similarly for the economy. Labour should have demonised the Tories for cutting too fast from the get go, and then hammered them at the election when they couldn’t maanage it. It wouldn’t have been a popular message for the entire 5 year term, butbitd have put them on a sounder footing come the election.

    There are some serious debates that need having about housing, spending and the appropriate inflation target, but the left is in complete disarray.

  • mickfealty

    What makes Labour open to Corbyn’s blandishments is their establishment’s acquiescence in the face of Osborne’s insistence that Labour’s singular responsibility for the crash. Larry Elliott’s take is less shrill than many of his economist colleagues, and he usefully broadens the definition of ‘sound money’ (http://goo.gl/wEiBeB):

    It has been a catastrophic political blunder not to challenge the myth that Brown’s government caused the crisis and the austerity that followed. The choice, correctly framed by the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, is whether to pretend Osborne’s version of events is true and own up to perceived past mistakes or to contest it.

    Pleading guilty seems the easier line to take, but it isn’t. The confession would be brandished by the government for the next five years as proof that Labour should never again be trusted with the public finances.

    Instead, Labour needs to start its fightback by rehabilitating the record of the Blair-Brown years, making the point that the purpose of the pre-crisis borrowing was to modernise and improve the NHS and shabby schools. It also needs to challenge the idea that all borrowing at all times is bad. If that were the case, individuals would have to save up the entire asking price for a house rather than buying it on a mortgage and there would be no startup capital to launch businesses.