Here's 10 left-wing things Gordon Brown could do

But I couldn't think of any of them on LBC!

I was on Petrie Hosken's show on LBC last night discussing politics and the week's big news stories with the Tory blogger Iain Dale and the Lib Dem blogger Mark Pack (the former "head of innovations" for the party - what on earth is that, then?) for an hour. As the show came to an end, Petrie gave each of us less than a minute to tell the listeners what one thing Gordon Brown should do to revive Labour's fortunes (Pack said "Resign!"). I have been kicking myself since, as my rather flat and dull answer was to say he should take a risk and hold a referendum on proportional representation on the same day as the general election. Now, don't get me wrong. I do care passionately about electoral reform and genuinely believe that proportional representation would revolutionise British politics (and prevent future landslide majorities for both Labour and, thankfully, the Tories) but I accept that it's not going to set pulses racing. Nor is it going to energise the rank and file of the Labour Party or, for that matter, the wider left. As I left the LBC building in Leicester Square, one friend texted to say, "Jeez, PR? What kind of lefty are you?"

She has a point. PR is a necessary but not sufficient part of a robust and risk-taking Labour fightback. Like Polly Toynbee, I think Gordon Brown has nothing left to lose over the next nine months, so it's time for him to throw out his copy of the Daily Mail, stop worrying about "Middle England" and go for broke. As a wise man once said: "This Labour Party [is] best when we are boldest, best when we are united, best when we are Labour."

So here are ten things Brown could do in the coming months that I should have pointed out on LBC last night:

1) Scrap Trident, saving the taxpayer around £20bn.
2) Crack down on tax havens and tighten tax loopholes, saving the taxpayer around £25bn a year.
3) Impose a retrospective 90 per cent tax on all 2008/2009 UK bank bonuses.
4) Scrap ID cards and the national identity register, saving the taxpayer at least £5bn.
5) Increase Jobseeker's Allowance from the miserly £64.30 a week to at least £75 a week.
6) Scrap charitable status for private schools, saving the taxpayer around £88m a year.
7) Impose a windfall tax on the multibillion-pound profits of energy and utility firms.
8) Abolish prescription charges in England to ensure equality across the UK and to bolster the NHS.
9) Lower the threshold for the new 50p top rate of tax from £150,000 to £100,000.
10) Raise the threshold at which tax is paid on redundancy money - currently £30,000 - to £50,000.

There you go! I feel a bit better now.

Now, what would your left-wing advice for G Brown look like?

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.