Dead Men Left

Thursday, September 22, 2005

New Labour: "addressing the full range of concerns"

Occasionally, you find a Parliamentary candidate from one of the main parties so dirty and rotten and desperate they'll try and stoke up racism to claw their way in to power. In the 1964 general election, Labour frontbencher Patrick Gordon-Walker was defeated at Smethwick in the West Midlands by a Conservative who campaigned under the slogan "If you want a nigger for your neighbour, vote Labour." Harold Wilson, then Prime Minister, rightly described the loathsome Tory creature as a "Parliamentary leper".

Labour's learned a trick or two since then. In a by-election last year, former management consultant and investment banker Liam Byrne scraped a narrow victory over the Liberal Democrats at another West Midlands seat, Birmingham Hodge Hill. Here he is in the Guardian today, freshly-promoted to a ministerial position, and sharing with us the secrets of continued New Labour success: May 13% of Labour identifiers voted for another party and 9% stayed at home. The evidence shows that these were by no means all leftwing protests - where we lost support, we were challenged from left and right. Iraq was the most important issue for Labour defectors. But almost as many cited crime, antisocial behaviour and asylum as the reasons for failing to back us - the same is true of the economy and NHS. Regaining all these supporters means addressing the full range of concerns.

Here's Byrne "addressing the full range of concerns" on crime and antisocial behaviour during his first election campaign:

People of Hodge Hill deserve to know the truth about dangerous Liberal Democrat policies.

I know how concerned people of Hodge Hill, Alum Rock, Bordesley Green, Kitts Green, Stechford, Shard End and Washood Heath are about the anti-social behaviour of teen gangs and drug dealers. I want these gangs busted. I want these drug dealers put behind bars, I want the drug money of these so-called drug barons confiscated and used to make our area better.

I challenge the Liberal Democrat candidate Nicola Davies to defend policies that would make life worse for local people.

Here's Byrne on asylum:

Labour is on your side—the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers...

We have taken tough action against those who abuse the system as a cover for economic migration.

While Labour were tough the Lib Dems were wimps—they tried to stop us taking away benefits from failed asylum seekers and they voted against plans to speed up deportations.

If the language is not that of Smethwick in 1964, the intention is the same.