“The point all this misses is that the Conservatives won…”

Ah, one more wee gem (literally) in the wake of the Corbyn effect as Simon Wren Lewis was finishing Can Labour Win?:

Perhaps part of the problem is that a great deal of this analysis comes from Labour party people who are, quite rightly, really interested in policy. So all the analysis is about which policies were wrong and which way policy should move as a result. We get into territory that these people are comfortable with: what policy should be.
The point all this misses is that the Conservatives won. It used to be said that governments, not oppositions, win or lose elections. Yet all of the comment is about Labour’s policies. A much better place to start is why voters voted for a Conservative government. That quickly leads you to the fact that voters saw the Conservatives as competent in economic terms. And that is where you should stop.
You should stop because, as I have argued many times, the raw data on the economy was terrible. If you had asked any pollster or political scientist whether a government could win on economic competence having presided over a huge fall in real wages they would have said no. True things began to look less gloomy as the election approached, but the position of the Conservatives in the polls well before that time was not nearly as bad as the economic position suggested it should be.
The Conservatives won because they reframed the economic debate. Competence became reducing the deficit, not increasing prosperity. Labour’s failure was a failure to challenge that reframing. Forget the details of Labour policy – it is of little importance compared to this crucial mistake. And that crucial mistake was a symptom of a more general problem.
He concludes:
Corbyn will have some advantages. He will not let Osborne’s deficit fetishism go unchallenged. But that challenge will only work if the alternative policy is solid and simple: I agree with the authors that this must involve balance on the current deficit (although within the context of a flexible rule). What he must not do is provide material for his opponents, which I’m afraid is exactly what Corbyns QE did.
Focusing on the current balance will allow for a large increase in public investment, which again can be spun very simply: Labour, unlike the Conservatives, invests in our future. (It is not afraid to borrow to do so, just like every successful firm.) Corbyn, and the team he selects, may not want to call it spin, but if they do not match their opponent’s ability in this area they will lose.
  • the rich get richer

    Didn’t somebody once say

    “A week is a long time in politics”

  • The policies had nothing to do with how the Conservatives won. It was their team working 80 marginal constituencies as explained in this Conservative Home article: The computers that crashed. And the campaign that didn’t. The story of the Tory stealth operation that outwitted Labour last month.

    Forget policy debates, it is on the ground campaigning that wins elections.

  • chrisjones2

    Yeah it wasn’t Labours economic incompetence or Eds image that did it. It was evil Tory Tactics. The Party is fine. Honest guv. We have no problems. Jez will fix it

  • chrisjones2

    ” it is on the ground campaigning that wins elections.”

    perhaps true in the 1920s where Labour is heading. The 21st Century needs a more sophisticated approach

  • 23×7

    If a PR man and a former towel folder can become viewed as being economically competent I think Corbyn shouldn’t have a problem.

  • mickfealty

    Nope. David is right, at least in part. Policies are mood music, not what wins. The increasing complexity of the electorate means representatives/parties need more rather than less presence on the ground. All these joiners are no use unless they are also workers.

    That’s why no one should take the Greens/UKIP surge for granted as they filter into local government.

  • chrisjones2

    I dont dispute that – the question is how much of the ground is physical and how much electronic these days , especially with young voters

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Chris, a bit more explanatory unpacking, please! Just what are you attempting to say with this repeated “the 1920s where Labour is heading” quip? Nationalisation was very much a post war phenomena, and some of what Corbyn is suggesting as policy actually flags serious Conservatism from Disraeli to Heath just as much as Socialism old Labour style.

    So why exactly the “1920s”?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Wren-Lewis is spot on again. Labour lost it in that period around 2013, when the economic indicators finally started showing signs of recovery. They needed to be right on top of that with a narrative. “Three lost years” wouldn’t have been a bad slogan to drum in. But they didn’t. Instead, they acted as if they had been proven wrong. They lost their nerve.

    They seemed to think they needed another narrative, which they then struggled to find. It had been staring them in the face the whole time: Tory economic incompetence that delayed and stunted the recovery; and all done because of Tory ideology about cutting the state, not because it was an economically sound thing to do.

    Someone in Labour decided they couldn’t challenge the Tories on the economy after 2013 when things were improving. But while GDP was improving overall because the South East was doing well, for most people things were still a struggle. So the calculation that the argument would fall flat was quite wrong. They just needed to make it firmly, consistently, with passion. It should not have been a shock to anyone to hear Ed M refusing to apologise for Labour spending in the election debate. Those Yorkshire gasps were the fruit of 5 years of media brain-washing among some not very inquisitive minds in the audience.

    Of course a lot of the damage was done in 2010 with the “Labour’s mess” nonsense. The public isn’t thick, but it can only decide on what is presented before it. Labour absented the stage on the one main issue of the day: “it’s the economy, stupid.”