I for one support it and i would hope all members of the Liberal Democrats do. Imagine if we had the seats to match the votes. Imagine if all members had the right to speak freely and offer a view. Not being feared to say what you believe was right. Having leaders who listened to members and worked actively within there communities, not using it as a stepping stone to other things, attending meetings to take in opposition comments, meeting with other opposition leaders to seek some form of working relationship. what i party that would be. A pipe dream ?
Patrick Barkham: I’ve visited six constituencies to see how the expenses scandal is playing. My conclusion: Labour is heading for electoral oblivion
Voters love to whinge about Westminster. On the streets the government will always get a good verbal kicking. But in the privacy of the voting booth, the electorate becomes more gentle.
Before the 2005 general election, I interviewed scores of ordinary voters around Britain and became convinced that the polls were not picking up the level of discontent, and Labour could lose the election. It didn’t.
So I am going to be more cautious this time: the Labour party is heading for electoral oblivion, a complete meltdown from which it could take a generation to recover. The political classes in parliament know they are in trouble, but I still don’t think they realise just how catastrophic the expenses scandal has been for Labour.
Last week, I travelled to six Labour and Conservative constituencies across Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Berkshire, and spoke to around 100 ordinary voters, some at great length. I was careful to ask them neutral questions and not to put words into their mouths, but very quickly a pattern emerged.
Conservative-inclined voters are furious with the Tory moats and manure, but most admired Cameron’s nimble response; and while a few will defect to Ukip in next month’s European elections, most said they would still vote Tory come the general election.
And Labour-inclined voters? I could not find a Labour voter.
I found plenty of people who had always voted Labour, or backed Blair’s government last time: pensioners, men in their 30s, mothers, grandmothers, small business people and those on benefits. All said they would not vote for this Labour government again.
The most disillusioned parts of Britain were the poorest, in Labour’s heartlands – Hazel Blears’s Salford constituency and Geoff Hoon’s Ashfield constituency, in Nottinghamshire. Here the expenses scandal is seen as the last straw, and the ultimate proof that the party Tony Blair modernised and centralised, and stuffed with professional politicians intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, no longer understands, let alone represents, the interests of the ordinary working person.
Kate Cooper, a Somerfield worker in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, was typical of the Labour voters I talked to. “I always said I’d never vote Conservative, but I would seriously consider it now,” she said. “When I was growing up it was the Conservatives who kept the rich rich and the poor poor. Everyone expected that with the Conservative party, but no one expected it with the Labour MPs – you expected them to be working alongside you.”
Over and over again, Labour supporters said the same thing: the party was no longer for the workers. Young people are often alienated from politics but pensioners – usually reliable voters – were particularly furious with Labour.
Most Labour voters said they would not vote. Of ex-Labour voters still intending to vote, many said they would back Ukip or the BNP, in a protest against the major parties. Labour can raise the alarm about the BNP all it likes, but, as one lifelong Labour voter said, Labour’s moral authority to suggest that the BNP is morally corrupt has evaporated with all those dodgy receipts.
Labour will not disappear. Yet. Some of its most diligent constituency MPs may survive. And it will still pick up some middle-class votes and the backing of public-sector professionals, for whom a £64,000 basic salary seems almost normal. But, as Labour activists have been warning for years now, the party’s working class support has disintegrated as the party’s centralised leadership has starved the grassroots of any dynamism, independence or ability to do things such as choose its own, local candidate.
So this disaster cannot be repaired from the top. Labour will need to do something far more radical than dump Gordon Brown and eject a few of the dodgiest of its MPs. In voters’ eyes, the party is rotten at its head and powerless at the bottom. The solution is not about turning left or right: reinvigorating local Labour democracy, re-energising its grassroots and returning as a credible force in local politics might be the best way repair the rift with the ordinary people it once counted as its supporters.
Easier said than done when there is almost no one to perform this Herculean task. For Labour, there is no new generation, apart from a privileged elite of special advisers and spin doctors who have grown up in the Westminster bubble. The only sons and daughters of Blairism are those, like Georgia Gould, who were quite literally born into New Labour. For all their reforms, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s legacy is a ghost party, without activists, energy or support.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009
As a local councillor i feel i must openly comment on what i believe to be the disgraceful growth industry within this city of Brothels. Many Swinton South residents will understand my feelings on this issue. We have seen over the past two years where Scottish political leaders come here to taste our wares if that is the correct term of reference.And that for me is one more serious indicator of shame.We have even had a channel 4 film crew come to film outside one establishment well known to all Swinton South residents. Would you as a parent like to have your home next to a facility where almost every week someone knocks on your door to see how much you charge? would you like to have it sited next door to your church where you child goes to dance classes. The sorry part is seeing the ineffective tools we have to seek closure,it is far to easy for people to use the issue as a football. It as been passed between the city and the police for far to long. I feel i must demand tougher action in relation to this issue.What concerns me are the people who run these cess pits.What i find more disturbing is when the police take action and make arrests, do their job the site is back open within days. I suggest something needs to be done by government to offer them assistance, to perform the tasks we ask of them.