Lord Falconer: People are fed up with the Government. We need to make changes

Comment

Share
Related Topics

Will Lord Mandelson leave the Lords and be a candidate for the Commons at the next general election? In truth, I have no idea. His dominance in the Lords over all comers makes it understandable that the House in which most major events in politics happen would like to have him. And it is understandable some would like to see him back in the Commons.

But there are a number of more important things for Labour to be thinking about before we get to this point. The message of the polls and the recent Norwich by-election is that we have to change, if we want to escape the fatalism that grips the party. And if we do change, the Tories are vulnerable.

The current opinion polling over the last month or so produces a result of Tories 40 per cent, Labour 25 per cent and Liberal Democrats 19 per cent. A year ago the Tories were on 45 per cent and we were on 26 per cent. So we remain dismally unpopular – but doubts grow about the Tories.

These figures match the mood in the country. People are fed up and impatient with what they perceive to be a disconnected government, so they are thinking they might as well try the alternative, although it looks rather uninviting.

But if we are beaten, then so are the people who depend on us: the poorest in our society, and those who seek a progressive alternative to the stifling conservatism of David Cameron.

The public are right to want us to change, so that we have direction and definition. Are we tough on crime, or are we liberal? Are we in favour of reform of the public services? Are we supportive of the Afghanistan intervention, or do we want to get out? Do we accept the need for serious public expenditure cuts, or do we intend to continue spending as before?

We must remember that the poor are the worst hit by the recession. They want change and understanding. They will be hard to convince without change which is seen or felt. Words are not enough.

And for those doubtful middle classes to return to the fold, we need to reflect both their values and their concerns. Their values are decent and fair. Their concerns are a faltering economy and unreliable public services. We need to identify our priorities on public services – but we are losing the debate over cuts.

We must show that we remain committed to our core supporters and to the middle-class voters, whether skilled workers or the professional classes. And to do this, we must change.

Firstly, we must conduct a review of public expenditure in which we identify our priorities (jobs, health, education, properly equipped armed forces) and we identify in some detail how we deliver on those priorities. Make no mistake: this will involve cuts in some places. And the losers could coalesce against us. But we must restore the sense that we understand the harsh reality of public finances, and remain committed to progressive causes.

Secondly, we must show we understand that it is the poorest who suffer most from the recession. We should use central government help to reduce social housing rents. Housing association rents will probably go down anyway from April next year, and there would be savings in housing benefit across the board. This help impacts most on those on who the recession impacts most.

We have to change or our voice will not be heard in the forthcoming election. And we need to be heard. The voters must see the Tories' failure to develop a green agenda beyond David Cameron being photographed on a sledge, their fevered desire to shrink the state and, most crucially, their lack of focus on the real losers in the economic downturn and failing to take steps to avoid the creation of long-term unemployment, particularly among the young.

If we don't listen and change, then we will lose the next election. We might lose it even if we do listen and change, but we will at least be in a position to keep the argument for progressive politics strong and alive, and influence the direction of British politics for the next generation.

Lord Falconer is the former Lord Chancellor

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links