Time to rein in the wreckless

Former Labour minister turned thinktank chief Chris Leslie gives his reaction to Alistair Darling's

Alistair's speech to conference today may not be the talk of the bar at the Midland Hotel - most delegates wanted far more radicalism - but there's no doubt that it was the most significant contribution to the actual debates so far.

He didn't detail a raft of policy specifics, nor did he commit to new spending plans. But the Chancellor did signal that the normal market orthodoxies which have let rip in the city are at last facing the prospect of restraint and accountability.

This is seismic stuff and Labour's leadership would do well to capture the imagination of the vast majority of the British public by acting decisively to curb excessive speculation and the perverse bonus culture that has fuelled the recent financial turmoil.

It's not only morally right that Labour reins in those wrecklessly gambling with the livelihoods of others, it is essential if we are to rebuild an efficient and successful economy.

Short-selling stocks and talking down the prospects of companies can become a cancer that deters long term investment and destabilises rationale investment choices.

We are witnessing the dawning realisation that markets have their limits, that at the edges of economics there are vital political interests, and that those advocating sturdy regulation and transparency have been right all along.

Britain now has an opportunity to lead the world in the design of a fairer and more open system of international checks and balances. And Labour should highlight the reliance of the Tories on the old laissez faire paradigms now wholly defunct.

Gordon will need to maintain early momentum and strike while the iron is hot. In the new circumstances we find ourselves in there is a real chance to put Cameron on the back foot, especially if hypothecating some tax revenues from the very richest and giving a tax break to the vast majority.

The Tories like to talk about "sharing the proceeds of growth". Those whose wealth has ballooned unfairly during the boom times should be asked to share some of the proceeds of their privileged growth with ordinary working people.

The Tories cannot afford to oppose any reasonable moves to tax and regulate the super-rich. There is a new licence to act boldly in the air and Labour must capitalise on that new mood.

Hinting at changes and chiming with some of the instincts of Labour's delegates is sufficient for this week, but the real test will be on policy activism in Alistair's pre budget report.

Chris Leslie is chair of Labour’s backbench Treasury Committee and was shadow Chancellor in 2015. 

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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