Coffee House

Labour’s campaign pickle

21 March 2014

Douglas Alexander has given an interesting interview to the Independent in which he reveals that Labour has set up a team to monitor Ukip. It will go some way to reassuring those at the top of the party who, as I report in my Telegraph column this morning, are growing increasingly nervous about the party’s chances in the European elections. There have been awkward confrontations in Shadow Cabinet meetings about the party’s election strategy, and demands for something a little more tangible on the doorstep from shadow ministers from all wings of the party, and from candidates.

It’s interesting that Labour is taking Ukip seriously, as some party chiefs initially read the result of the Wythenshawe by-election as a sign that Nigel Farage’s attempt to nick Labour voters wasn’t working. But what’s also interesting is what Alexander has to say about Labour’s message:

‘Of course we need to show we are a genuine alternative to an unpopular, Conservative-led government. But we need to set ourselves a higher standard than a party offering anger like Ukip. We need to offer answers. Our offer is going to be inherently different to a party of protest because we are an alternative party of power. Our policies, outlook and messaging need to reflect the experiences of people in communities right across the country.’

The question, though, is whether Labour has time to tell voters that it is the solution to all the problems that it is pointing out at the moment. Insiders worry that Alexander’s expertise lies in campaigns which manage the decline of the vote of a party in government, adopting attack lines that focus on the Tories’ weaknesses rather than Labour’s own promises. Hence the debate in the party about whether it is wise to ‘shrink’ the offer in the manifesto. It was something former campaign chief Tom Watson warned of in a blog for LabourList, arguing that ‘one more heave will make everyone feel sick’ and ‘running the 2015 election campaign as if its 2010 would be a doomed approach’. Today’s interview suggests that Alexander is fighting back against the other internal party critics who continue to sit at the Shadow Cabinet table with him.

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Show comments
  • Ooh!MePurse!

    Whatever the problem, Labour is never the solution.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …none of LibLabCon is the solution.

  • Two Bob

    Shire Tories and the working class have a common goal – to get our country back and control our own destiny. It is about identity. It is about English nationalism. Scotland has the SNP, Wales has Plyd Cymru, England has UKIP. I love a rough and ready working mans club in Newcastle just as much as I love a cosy country pub in the Cotswolds, both float my boat, the elite think it is either one or the other (I mean that as a metaphor and literally).

    Neither the Tory party nor the Labour party (or the Lib Dems for that matter) know what makes a rural pub or a working mans club tick.

    • saffrin

      A sense of community, something not known in Britain since pre-Thatchers day.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      I agree completely. We share a vision. You got UKIP and you guarantee the destruction of that special and desirable vision.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …spoken like a true socialist Camerluvvie .

  • Conway

    If they think UKIP is offering anger, they are mistaken. Some supporters may be angered by what the main parties have done to the country, but UKIP offers to fix the education system (selective education has been shown to help children from poor backgrounds while comprehensive education doesn’t), keep the lights on and above all, free us from the dead hand of Brussels so we can run our own lives again. It’s interesting that Labour is not really concerned with doing things to help either the country or the working classes – they are only interested in neutralising the UKIP threat. Party before country as usual.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      UKIP offer nothing but a Labour government. More tax, more control, more destruction of the English identity.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …actually, that description fits all of the LibLabCon clones.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Well clearly if Labour think that all UKIP offer is anger then Labour have no chance of offering the right answers because the core answers UKIP provide are paramount to putting this country back on the right track…..

  • Wessex Man

    For heavens sake, this is such old news I told anyone who listen that they had set this Unit up weeks ago and so did the Lib/dums and Tories.

    They will tell you, especially through useful idots like Hooky that they are absolutely not worried about us but are in fact terrified!

    • David Lindsay.

      No one with an ounce of intelligence is even phased by you, let alone terrified.
      I love your puffed up sense of self importance.
      Everyone of course needs self esteem.
      It is cheaper than counselling.

      • Ooh!MePurse!

        I always love your puffed up sense of self importance. It always makes my day. You’ve been a tad quiet recently which is a shame; your nonsense spouting is hugely entertaining.

  • Mynydd

    During a campaign it’s only sensible to monitor the opposition. All parties do it so why pick on Labour and UKIP. Today Isabel Hardman has written two negative, but weak, Labour articles, I wonder if these are a counterweight to Fraser Nelson’s article “Tory Wars” An update on this, there are now five known rats in the bag fighting over the leadership; Cameron, Johnson, Osborne, May, and Davis, of course there are many a back bencher just waiting for a slip up by the main contenders. What a way to run the government.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “Our offer is going to be inherently different to a party of protest because we are an alternative party of power.”

    He forgets that at one time his own party was no more than a party of protest, both derided and demonised by the established parties in their attempts to maintain their entrenched duopoly of power.

    • HookesLaw

      His party were created by the trade unions.

      • Denis_Cooper


        You do know that you don’t have to reply to any comment if you have nothing of value or interest to add?

        • Raddiy

          Don’t stop him Dennis, every vacuous comment is worth votes for UKIP.

  • Blakenburg

    A one time Labour leader (to remain nameless) once said,”His three priorities were Education, Education, Education ! Well, the electorate have realize the education comes by watching how the political elite of the old three parties are taking note of what UKIP is doing to the political landscape. Knowledge is there to show, how the Lib Lab Con failed over the years in many aspects of the peoples lives with their policies. For a party to come on the scene, who were called, Fruit Cakes, Gadflies, and more recently ‘Clowns’ by the establishment parties, may have at last broken the mold. The electorate are gradually seeing the cartel that is running Westminster over the last several decades!

    • HookesLaw

      I see that Hitachi are moving its entire global train manufacturing business to the UK.
      Fat chance if that if we were outside the EU.
      Its opening a factory at Newton Aycliffe – so yet another reason why the North East would be mad to leave the EU. They are not mad in the North East.

      • sarahsmith232

        What utter claptrap luvie. Last time I looked America wasn’t doing too badly on A) maintaining it’s manufacturing base B) exporting to Europe. Now why on earth do you think they can but we couldn’t while outside the EU?

      • Wessex Man

        You are a naughty little person sometimes, the Boss who said Britain would struggle to attract investment if we didn’t join the Euro in 2000? Step forward Sir Steophen Gomersall, CEO of Hitachi!

        You couldn’t make it up unless you are Hooky, who frequently does, mostly daily!

      • Raddiy


        NIssan said their operation at Sunderland and future investment there would be at risk if we didn’t join the Euro. We didn’t join and Sunderland have poured a huge amount of money and several new models into the Washington plant since that threat.

        Why you might ask?. Simply because they acknowledge that the Sunderland plant is their most productive across the business.

        HItachi are moving the headquarters of their train manufacturing business to the UK, because they need to be seen as a ‘British’ company in the same way the Canadian Bombardier in Derby is. The UK market is an important market for Hitachi, and they know that if they don’t build here and identity with being from here, then they will go the same way as Siemens when it comes to British contracts.

  • crosscop

    “some party chiefs initially read the result of the Wythenshawe by-election as a sign that Nigel Farage’s attempt to nick Labour voters wasn’t working.”
    It’s hard for UKIP to nick Labour’s votes when most of them arrive in thousands of envelopes. Farage would have to mug the postman.

    • sarahsmith232

      LOL, good comment.

  • Tony_E

    If UKIP are a party that supposedly offers ‘anger’ – then Labour must be the party that only offers ‘Envy’.

    The current government is indeed unpopular – as any government reducing state spending (even if not by much) is bound to be with the recipients of state aid. But a party offering more to the population will become unpopular even more quickly when their voters find out they’ve been duped, and that there’s really no way to provide what was offered.

    • Wessex Man

      We’re not angry, quite laid back and relaxed in fact knowing all the smears seem to push us ever upwards in the polls.

      • Ooh!MePurse!

        From 9 to 10 per cent.

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