Labour needs to shine a light on Tory failures | Letters

Readers respond to a piece by Andy Beckett, where he argues that the Conservative party is avoiding blame for the dire state of Britain today

Well done, Andy Beckett, for trying to refocus electoral debate towards the record of the incumbent party of government (Our focus on the future lets Johnson avoid the present, Journal, 30 November). After almost 10 years of Britain having a Tory prime minister and a Tory-led government, everything in the public domain is worse: the NHS, education, housing, public transport, social care, policing, inequality, poverty and, most shaming of all, child poverty.

Add to that their fouling of public discourse with the Brexit mess, which they have failed to clean up, and it is no wonder that Boris Johnson would wish to direct our gaze towards the sunlit uplands of the Tory-managed future and away from the past and present. While the Lib Dems might be shy about pointing the finger, given their complicity in the cruel failure of austerity, it is a mystery why the Labour party is not more vocal on the Tory record. The independent media, meanwhile, have an absolute duty not to neglect this important element of the pre-election debate.
Keith Howells
Morpeth, Northumberland

• Andy Beckett’s thoughtful critique of the Labour campaign argues that it concentrates too much on the future and not enough on Conservative responsibility for “the dire state of much of Britain now”. True. But this is not the only problem with the campaign. In the north of England, where the Liberal Democrats are hardly in contention, many voters are trying to decide whether to remain loyal to Labour or to believe propaganda delivered by a Conservative-supporting tabloid press. Abstract campaign slogans such as “The many, not the few” are unlikely to help them make up their minds. Such slogans may accurately reflect the party’s underlying ideology, but what emotions do they engage? Mild envy?

The focus must be on concrete messages that draw attention to present problems, appeal to traditional loyalty to the party, and engage emotions likely to influence voting (anger, fear, anxiety, need for security). Something like “Stop life getting worse. Stand by Labour. We care” would do the trick, and even fit on the side of a campaign bus.
Nigel Harvey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Andy Beckett argues persuasively that concentrating on the future rather than foregrounding the government’s record has been helpful to the Conservatives in this election. But this neglects one key, if tacit, aspect of the Tories’ pitch. It is that they are now under entirely new management and so cannot be held responsible for the present, or the past. They are helped in this by the increasingly presidential style of our politics, aided by some of the TV formats portraying a simple contest between the main party leaders.

Labour and the other progressive parties need to demonstrate the falsity of the “new broom” image by revealing how complicit the would-be rulers have been in the policies of the last nine years, and the turmoil they have produced.
Dr Ron Glatter
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

• Reading Andy Beckett’s call for Labour to put more emphasis on the Tories’ lacklustre near-decade in government, I was reminded of a recent public meeting in Wimbledon, where Keir Starmer asked the audience to name anything good that the Tories had achieved since coming to power.

My partner likes a challenge, so piped up: “Gay marriage.” This was the only achievement anyone could come up with, and, as another audience member commented: “That didn’t cost them anything either.”

Now that the parties’ manifestos have been published, I can only conclude that, if the Tories do get in with a majority, the country has been so worn down by austerity that the best future its population can imagine is a nation continuing along the same dismal path, but free of Europe and without potholes.
Tristan Wood

• Andy Beckett rightly talks about the calamitous effects of years of Tory austerity – non-existent in media coverage of the election. Missing is any debate about the shameful poverty and hunger that are having terrible effects on children, families and communities. Silence from political parties except Labour, whose manifesto at least shows the moral leadership and sense of responsibility needed to address the causes of destitution.
Julie Owens
Carlisle, Cumbria

• Andy Beckett is right to draw attention to the fact that “an election about the future can also make bad news from the present seem irrelevant”, but there really is a bigger tragedy than the Tory legacy and a Johnson government. Defeat for Labour will mean, inevitably, that whoever takes over from Jeremy Corbyn will return the Labour party to the so-called “middle ground” of progressive politics. I have been waiting for more than 20 years for the Labour party’s magnificent new manifesto – one that could herald a better society for us all. Its rejection will, I fear, destroy the prospects for real change for another generation.

Only one person can really be held to blame for this dismal future. Jeremy Corbyn is a decent and honourable but vain man. The fact that he cannot see that he is the single most important (maybe only) barrier to Labour having the majority that would enable it to implement its manifesto is a disgrace, which will eventually shame us all. If only he would say, even now, that in the event of a Labour majority he will immediately allow the Labour party to elect a new leader, one to take the country forward in a real spirit of post-Brexit reconciliation. Please can the next leader of the Labour party be a more pragmatic idealist (and maintain the courage of “It’s time for real change”)?
Frank Newhofer

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