|You are in: Talking Point|
Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Has Labour lost touch with the voters?
The Labour Party has lost nearly 600 seats in the English council elections and has been humiliated into third place in the London mayoral election.
Labour's pain is the Conservative Party's gain, with the Tories clocking up an extra 590 council seats. But despite their successes they suffered an embarrassing defeat at the by-election in Romsey, where the Liberal Democrats grabbed a healthy majority.
So how worried should New Labour be about the future? Are they losing their touch with the voters? Are Conservative celebrations misplaced? Tell us what you think.
Henderson Bryan, England
Were they ever really in touch? The main reason they won the last general election was that we voters just had to have a change after so long with the Conservatives.
Terry Middlemiss, England
As a single parent who works full-time as a senior health professional in the community, I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with Tony Blair's government. The increase in taxation by my loss of the additional personal allowance and the rise in the cost of petrol has made me considerably worse off. The well publicised pay rise of so-called senior nurses, who are in reality junior staff nurses has not raised morale amongst the higher grades within the nursing profession who have dedicated years of service to the NHS. Furthermore, we see, at grassroots level, increasing social problems in relations to child poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable childcare provision for parents who wish to work, poor housing, crime, drug use, and poor physical and mental health as a result.
Labour have shown that they are all spin, and the country knows this. No matter what they say, Labour isn't doing many favours for its traditional voters and is taxing the rest of us increasingly. The brain drain is returning as more and more people realise that the UK is too expensive. Without our best scientists, engineers and businessmen what hope is there for
New Labour is positively dangerous, not so much in what it is doing to this country right or wrong, but in the way it is allowing the EU to increasingly regulate what democracy we have left. Tory or Labour, at least we can vote them out when dissatisfied, but should the EU be allowed to take over, neither main party will have much power left to woo the voters.
The reason Labour is losing it touch with the voters is because the only people discriminated against by this government, are the indigenous English population, who are increasingly ignored, marginalised and treated with utter contempt. Be warned Mr Blair we will get you out with our votes.
In the local paper of Stoke-on-Trent, one ousted Labour council leader was quoted as saying "I am disappointed. We just don't know what the public want."
Says it all doesn't it.
The Prime Minister should not underestimate the discriminating nature of the electorate - witness Livingstone's victory and Hague's Romsey defeat. Blair owes it to Britain to listen and be humble. The Conservative Party may also be out of touch, but the forces of bigotry and xenophobia should not be allowed to thrive. A Hague election victory would be unthinkable!
At least the Tories were more honest.
Labour is trying to hide its mistakes
under a blitz of PR. We aren't idiots -
we can see through it. If Tony
admitted where he's made a mistake,
we'd respect him a lot more for it, and
resultant votes would reflect that.
Wendy Alma, UK
"Lost the plot" would be a far better choice of words. New Labour, same old dross, minus the values of OLD LABOUR.
Tony Blair and his mob will lose the next election because the people discriminated against by this government are the indigenous English population who are increasingly ignored, marginalised and treated with utter contempt. We are at last making a stand and saying enough is enough Mr Blair
John S, UK
Jim Driver, UK
I think Labour would have a better time if they came out and reported what was going on to the people, advertised what proposals have been made, i.e. show us what they are actually doing other than trying to watch us constantly clamp down on our rights.
I have watched this government consistently playing mother to this country. I think that it is wrong for the state to dictate when a person can retire early. Surely if you wanted people to stay working longer offering a carrot rather than using a stick is preferable.
Politics is a ride on the roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. Churchill won the war for the British and was defeated in the subsequent Elections. Electorate needs constant actions and visible improvements. Party fortunes fluctuate on the hustings just as well as the ill-conceived policies that boomerang. Tactically, Labour may loose battle ONLY to win the WAR.
Labour has not lost touch with it's voter and the voters have lost touch with Labour.
Obviously Phil is a labour MP. Get off your soapbox and admit all political parties are hypocrites and do not deliver promises. On the subject of delivering promises.... What has happened to the 10 Labour points?
John B, UK
Look what Labour have achieved in Government. They have perfected a way to keep the poor populace from harm by banning handguns (even though gun crime has risen steeply since). The tax burden has increased by about 5p in the pound. We have no police officers, because we ask them to do a job and then tie their arms behind their backs with red tape and political correctness and to cap it all the government is going to read all your E-mails..... For your own good of course
Why are we even having this debate? These elections should have been about local issues. About such things as how well our local areas are being maintained. My voting for a local councillor to represent me in my local council has nothing to do with how well or badly the Labour party is running the country.
Do not underestimate what has happened in London. Despite the most vitriolic and underhand campaign ever waged in the press by Blair and his cronies, the people of London voted for Ken. The whole establishment was united in trying to prevent Ken from winning. For the first time, an ordinary person, not an Oxbridge barrister, has got some real political power, and the establishment are furious that their control freakery has not worked.
18 YEARS THE TORIES WERE DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY, it is going to take more than 3 to fix it. The public needs to stop being impatient, and thankful that the Tories aren't still in power, cause by now we would have no economy left, and the NHS would have long been privatised.
The terrible indictment of New Labour is the sense of betrayal felt by many who really hoped that this country would emerge in a bright new day after the terrible dark years of the Tories.
With such a massive majority, Blair could've afforded to be more radical, delivered on public services and nailed the tax-dodgers, fat-cats and corporate leeches who are sucking this country dry.
Labour has lost heavily in these local elections due to one reason alone. Failure to recognise that pensioners (whom they have seen fit only to increase their pensions by 75p a week, that 3 loaves of bread to the layman) make up 33% of the UK electorate
Not yet 4 years in power after 17 years of conservatives. Come on Britain give them a chance.
Before we ask whether New Labour has lost touch, we should look at the foundation of communication between politicians, parties and the people.
Why should they care if they are losing touch with ordinary people like us. It doesn't matter if they are in office or not they still get their wages paid. In a Labour stronghold like I live in, it makes me so angry that the staunch labour voters who have voted labour all their lives have been left with no credible jobs and don't have two pennies to their name. But as always a politician will say that people are much better off under the "New Labour". Rubbish, I say, and I feel that they should start to come and live in the real world.
The problem is there is very little difference between Labour and the Conservatives these days. Like the USA, the UK is basically becoming a one-party state, because there's no real difference between the major parties (which are pro-business, pro-market and politically correct to the point of absurdity). There are a few rebels who reflect what the parties once were, but they're kept out of power by the party leaders.
The press may be having a field day, but our economy is strong, inflation is low, unemployment is low and our government is respected and admired by both Europe and the US. How many countries can say that at the moment?
I voted first for Ken Livingstone and gave all my other votes to The Greens in the Mayoral Election. It is the first time in 25 years that I have not voted Labour. I am not a hard left type, I don't like militancy, but I feel betrayed by the Labour Party. I had hoped to see more money for pensioners and a bit of social justice. I think Labour has lost touch with voters. AND they've been foul to Mo Mowlam!
The Labour Party no longer knows who it is for. While they struggle to keep their activists and grass roots supporters they think they can keep middle England behind them. There is already a Conservative Party and traditional Labour party supporters won't vote for a replica of it. As for middle England, they won't stay anti-tory forever.
The local elections results are a protest vote against the government. Mostly from senior citizens still angry at the derisory pension increase. Never undervalue seniors.
Tony Blair hasn't lost touch. The public are just sick of him lying. People contrary to popular belief are not stupid. Tony has increased TAXES, increased spending and delivered very little. Hell the ITC recently upheld a complaint that the advert implying that nurses earned 20K a year was a lie. I know and I accept that politicians are paid to lie for their country, notice the emphasis for their country, not to the electorate. I think you are beginning to see the backlash against spin.
People no longer know where they stand with Labour. Mr. Blair and his Government are indecisive and sit on the fence over crucial issues in case they upset voters. Focus should be placed on the top priorities of education, infrastructure, pensions, NHS, support for sterling and protection of all farming interests.
Jim Carson, London, England
I voted Conservative in the council election, not because I like the Tories, but because Labour previously dominated the council with over 70% of the seats. They could do what they wanted with no effective opposition, and consequently alienated their electorate. Now no party has overall control, so hopefully we shall see common sense prevailing.
Labour are rapidly losing the plot. They are adopting the same mindset that saw the Tories kicked from office. Their arrogant, "We know best" attitude is sickening and they are so out of touch. I wish Politics in this country would change. Why can't politicians show some humility and admit it when they have made mistakes instead of spinning their way around the issues. Politicians are in power to take on the issues - not to avoid them and dance Tony's tune.
Less spin and more action is definitely required from this Government. Listen to the people Tony before you blow it.
Barry Clark should know that the scrapping of clause 28 was a New Labour manifesto pledge, based on its inequality. It is also right that the married persons tax allowance was scrapped with benefits targeted instead, towards children. There are presently many forms of relationships, some more longstanding than marriages, so this is simply a matter of equality.
We can't totally blame Labour because in many ways they are simply continuing with the many poor legacies left behind by the Tories. To continue with these legacies instead of trying to fix/reverse them has proved to be a mistake but hey the majority of the population is so apathetic having allowed the Tories walk over us that Labour were bound to continue this trend. Surely the Government have the ability to work out how to put themselves into a genuinely popular position with the voters. You'd think so.
Jeff Nagle, UK
Tony Blair was swept into power on the back of huge anti-Tory feeling, and with the spin machine behind him promised a lot. He and his party have delivered little. This year's election results suggest that election fatigue is setting in - there have been far too many votes since 'new' Labour came to power, too many attempts to fix and fudge democracy. If Tony et al learn nothing from this May 4th then they should not be surprised when they lose the next general election.
The results primarily reflect the perceived lack of difference between the two major parties. In this circumstance, many voters stay at home, while a high proportion who turn up take the opportunity to poke at the government, especially in local elections.
Also, the support for Ken Livingstone and the Greens, has shown that people in London at least, are now prepared to consider a more radical alternative to the Tories, especially in relation to environmental issues.
Has Labour lost touch with the voters? - Definitely! What this result has shown, especially re. London mayoral elections, is that people are not to be taken for granted. And if Tony and his cronies continue to behave that arrogantly and keep with moving to the right, they will only lose more and more voters. Labour leadership should reconsider its strategies and start listening to, and most importantly delivering for the people.
Labour lost touch immediately after the election. Blair has taken an iron grip of the PLP, all policies being distilled by his back-room boys. Any freethinking is stifled and instead of informed debates we have sterile rhetoric and cliched sound bites. The so-called election manifesto has been largely ignored, with teachers, nurses, and local government being trampled on. And I thought Thatcher was centralist!
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland
I think Tony needs as a matter of urgency to heavily focus on those that put him into power in the last election - middle England. The ones with families, mortgages, ever increasing tax bills and a feeling that we have now served our purpose and so this justifies the 'slump' back to many of the principles of Old Labour.
Voting in elections has always been the case of selecting 'the best of a bad lot'.
William, youre a long way from No 10.
Tony, change your ways to help keep him away.
It looks like "New Labour" is successfully emulating Bill Clinton's success is reducing voter turnout among some of it's traditional poor and working class constituencies. A 33% voter turnout sounds very "American" to me. On the other hand, Livingstone's victory is sort of like the primary victories of Jesse Jackson in the 1980's. Interesting politics in the age of the PAX AMERICANA.
I think that the Labour Party
should be extremely worried about
the results of the Local Government
Elections and the election for London
Mayor. I think that is a message for
Tony Blair that no matter how highly
he regards himself and his Chancellor
he still seems unable to understand that
the ordinary voter does not want to
be told who he (New Labour) thinks
is good for us. Arrogance will be
his and his party's downfall.
Brian Lovell, from London, living in the USA
The results have proved beyond doubt that the average Brit has been quite indifferent to the polls and the Labour Government in the island nation as borne out by the very low election-turnout. This attitude of the Brits reminds me of the middle class apathy in India whose interest in any election has been waning with the passing of every general election since independence. If Brits refuse to take part even in Council polls it will mean the slow death of democracy in the U.K. On the other hand, the stock market and big business will be happy about the outcome of the polls as the return to power by the Tories is a sure possibility.
I don't think they have ever been in touch. They had a superior media machine in 1997 and we all hated the Tories. That's why they won with such a landslide. Now all that's happening is people are waking up to the fact that New Labour are just the same middle-of-the-road bunch as the Tories. New Labour is simply administrating the country. What people want and need is dramatic change.
No, its just mid term blues, happens every time. It was not helped by the despicable way the Tories played the race card either. They should be ashamed.
I'm still in favour of allowing time for Labour to unwind some of the Tories mistakes over the previous 17 years, before I criticise this government.
The council and mayoral election results show that voters do not like being dictated to by New Labour. While it is too early to say whether disenchantment with New Labour will lead to Conservative votes at the next election, the results returned today are undoubtedly a warning shot across Blair's bows to get his act together and be more like a leader than a dictator.
Haven't we been here before? At mid-term the party in power does badly in local elections and the media talk it up into a big disaster. But at general elections their own financial position and prospects mainly influence people. If the government keep the economy sound, if unemployment continues to fall, and inflation stays low then they will get re-elected. If the economy blows up in their face then they may lose it. All the other issues that the media froth about, especially at this time of year, will be yesterday's news by the time of the next election, it's bread-and-butter issues that decide elections not media circuses.
Dave Strickland, UK citizen in the US
It is misleading to draw any conclusions from the recent elections. The London mayoral contest was for the first time ever, and so we cannot know how to interpret the result in terms of the next general election. The local government elections were to some extent based on local issues, and they do not reflect General Election results anyway: it has been shown that by-elections are peculiar in terms of voting behaviour, and local elections are even more so.
Never mind education! Ken was right, the IMF and the rest of the neo-liberal economics movement have killed more people than Hitler. And yet nothing changes. I support the anti-capitalist movement here and abroad and will be protesting at the IMF Summit this September in Prague. Come on everyone, we can stop this lunacy if we work together. (or is capitalism feathering your nest nicely and you'd rather the 3rd world went to the wall than have any change?)
He's certainly not been listening to me or the other 5 million small business owners who are creaking under the strain of masses of new legislation. I am delighted that these results will bring Tony Blair down a peg and force him to listen...I hope.
Martyn Williams, UK
I do not think that it is all that surprising that the Labour Government performed so poorly in the council elections. There is far too much apathy amongst their own supporters to actually be bothered to vote. Also the Government was voted in with the electorate believing it would somehow dramatically transform British society for the better. Needless to say these were unrealistic hopes. I honestly believe that it has been a fairly successful government and come the general election when people are faced with the choice between a Labour or Tory Government, the result will be some what different from last night. The fear of another Tory Government should be enough of a motivation to get people to the ballot boxes and back the Labour party.
Yesterday's results show that the voters of Britain are letting this Government know that they will not be stage-managed or taken for granted. As for the Conservatives, I think that the message is clear. The British people will let you run local authorities but don't trust you to run the country - hence the Romsey result.
Nick Pahl, London, England
Labour has totally lost touch with why it was elected. They only seem interested in power for power's sake. I won't be voting for them again until they start to put social justice back on the agenda. We need student grants and decent pensions as well as more money for the NHS.
I won't be going to the Tories though - we need a new force to the left of the Labour Party, maybe the Greens or perhaps the left groups could come together.
It's just mid-term blues. Labour will win the next election, they have a majority of over 180. That's more than the Tories have MPs!
When it comes to the council elections, it is perfectly normal for the government of the day to be given a bloody nose by the electorate. However, the election for London Mayor clearly shows that voters were revolted by the blatantly undemocratic Labour selection process. Let's hope that Frank Dobson can show a bit more backbone after the election, than he did during it.
Paul Jones, UK
I think this shows that Tony Blair and his party are not listening to the public.
If Mr Blair had listened to London then Mr Livingstone would be the Labour London Mayor.
I think that the British public are pretty disappointed with New Labour. We voted for them as an alternative to the Tories, but as time goes by the difference is less apparent. The big issue from these elections is not the people who voted but those who did not. Politicians don't have a mandate to govern because only 20% of the voters thought they were worth voting for. Unless Politicians start changing their ways, British democracy will continue to decline as more and more of us become disenchanted.
New Labour is completely out of touch with the people of this country. This is reflected in the low election turnouts and general antipathy towards the Government.
People voted Labour because they wanted an alternative to the low-tax, low-spend doctrine of the Conservatives, not more privatisation and tax cuts at the expense of public services.
If they press ahead with tube privatisation, they can look forward to a resounding defeat at the next general election as people switch to the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives.
Barry Clark, UK
Labour must show respect for the decision of the people of London. That is, it has to show a mature understanding towards Ken and his goals. This may require a shift in policy and thinking that is now overdue.
Labour have lost votes from over 300 people and their families just at my company due to IR35 costing them all over £15000 a year. I am now looking to work abroad, which will mean that they will get no more tax from me. This is even more stupid as the ruling will be turned over in Europe within a year for giving an unfair advantage to bigger companies.
As a staunch Labour supporter, I welcome the opportunity to remind an increasingly out of touch government that they were elected by us for us with a left of centre mandate.
To many traditional Labour party voters, New Labour and
Tony Blair are little more than a continuation of the Conservatives.
Top Talking Point stories now:
Links to more Talking Point stories are at the foot of the page.
|E-mail this story to a friend|
Links to more Talking Point stories
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>> | To BBC World Service>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy