OSBORNE Horatius

John Cruddas, the MP for Dagenham and Rainham, has a piece up on LabourList that introduces the findings of the party’s independent enquiry into why they lost the election.

It will make painful reading for Corbynites. The central claim is that voters rejected Labour not because it was insufficiently anti-austerity – the comforting partisan delusion underpinning the Islington MP’s campaign – but for the very opposite reason. To quote him:

“58 per cent agree that, ‘we must live within our means so cutting the deficit is the top priority’. Just 16 per cent disagree. Almost all Tories and a majority of Lib Dems and Ukip voters agree. Amongst working class C2DE voters 54 per cent agree and 15 per cent disagree. Labour voters are evenly divided; 32 per cent agree compared to 34 per cent who disagree.”

Suffice to say, such attitudes auger disaster for Labour if it adopts Corbyn’s prescriptions, barring some major shift in public attitudes before the next election.

The report also examines the role played in Labour’s defeat by fear of the SNP:

“The idea of an anti-austerity alliance with the SNP is unacceptable to a majority of English and Welsh voters. 60 per cent agree that they ‘would be very concerned if the SNP were ever in government’ compared to 15 per cent who disagree.’ A majority of Conservative, Lib Dem and Ukip voters agree, as do 40 per cent of Labour voters. Labour’s defeat in Scotland does not set a precedent for its leftward shift in England. The SNPs anti-austerity politics simply increased the risk that Labour represented to English voters.”

However, Cruddas also risks endorsing some faulty thinking in this section. First, he argues that:

“The response to the SNP amongst Welsh and English voters reflects the increasingly federal nature of the UK, and the growing political salience of a politics of identity and belonging. 63 per cent say that their English or Welsh identity is important to them.”

What he fails to mention is that Welsh Labour have been playing the identity card very hard for some time and it has completely failed to resonate. Likewise, he trots out the old saw that Scottish “voters are more progressive and collectivist minded than in England”, a statement consistently contradicted by attitudes research.

Cruddas attempts to sugar the unwelcome medicine regarding the political power of austerity and its resonance in England and Wales by arguing that voters hold ‘radical’ views on the economy – radical here meaning that they support some amount of redistribution.

George Osborne is already aware of this, if his bold move on the living wage is anything to go by. Indeed, a Government which makes redistributive interventions whilst living within its means sounds a lot like the philosophy of ‘small state interventionism’ which is coming to be identified as the Chancellor’s trademark.

Which raises an interesting question: if Osborne becomes the next Tory leader – and it looks increasingly likely he will – what space will he leave Labour to adopt Cruddas’ analysis, even if they wanted to?

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