The Decline of the Labour Party

Yesterday I was watching Tony Blair being interviewed. It wasn’t very interesting. In fact, in the half hour interview he said nothing of any real substance. He said he wasn’t surprised that Jeremy Corbyn had done so badly in the General Election. He said that the Labour party needed to become centrist party again if it was going to win elections again. They’d now lost four elections in a row since his days as Prime Minister. He cited various good things that Labour had done in his day (none of which I could remember).

One thing he didn’t mention that Labour had done was the 2007 smoking ban, of course. Nobody ever mentions the smoking ban. One of the odd things about that ban was that Blair stepped down as Prime Minister just days before it came into effect, and so Gordon Brown was Prime Minister on the day. And I think that if Labour has lost four elections in a row since his time, the smoking ban is the reason why. For why should any British smoker  (and there were said to be some 13 million of them in 2007) vote Labour after what it did to them in 2007? And since the Lib Dems supported Labour’s smoking ban, why vote for them either?

Scottish readers may wish to correct me, but Scotland’s separate 2006 smoking ban also came courtesy of the Labour party. It was introduced by Scottish Executive Health minister Andy Kerr, who was a  Labour politician and former Member of the Scottish Parliament for East Kilbride. If I’d been a Scottish smoker, I’d never have voted Labour again. Only the Scottish Conservatives opposed the ban. In the subsequent 2007 Scottish election, the Scottish National Party became the largest party in Scotland. In fact, the rise of the SNP in Scotland seems to been entirely subsequent to the smoking ban, even though the party had been in existence for many years before. Might that be because smoking bans that exile smokers to the outdoors are much worse in chilly Scotland than in slightly less chilly England?

I came across an interesting map of the recent UK election results (in the Guardian or Independent, I forget exactly where), weighted according to population.Labour red, Conservative blue, LibeDem orange, SNP yellow. It looks like the Labour party has almost been completely wiped out in Scotland.

As I see it, the fortunes of the Labour party and the Lib Dems have been in sharp decline since they conspired to introduce the UK smoking ban, And they’ve been in equally precipitate decline in Scotland as well.

But nobody ever talks about smoking bans. But if Blair had thought that smoking bans were one of his great successes, wouldn’t he have mentioned them? Perhaps the fact that nobody ever mentions smoking bans is because they are very well known to be politically and socially disastrous?

But the map above is interesting for another reason, and that is the rise of “national populism”. Brexit is an expression of English national populism. But Scottish nationalism is perhaps just the Scottish version of the same thing (although for the life of me I don’t understand why the SNP want separation from England, yet to remain in the EU). With all these separatist movements at work in England and Scotland and Northern Ireland, we may well see strong centrifugal forces acting on the UK in coming years.

About Frank Davis

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5 Responses to The Decline of the Labour Party

  1. wobbler2012 says:

    Wishful thinking Frank to think that Labour lost 4 elections due to the smoking ban. They lost the last 4 elections because they are absolutely bloody woeful.

    • jaxthefirst says:

      To an extent, Wobbler, but I do think that the imposition of smoking bans brought into sharp focus (at least initially for smokers which, as Frank points out, was a much higher number back then) how intrusive, dishonest and spiteful a Government could be if it wanted to, and also how easily-corruptible MPs were if even one little single-issue campaign group was allowed unfettered access to the ears of those in power. I think it was something of a shock to many people just how far MPs could be corrupted and, once the ban was in and all the much-documented negative effects of it became apparent, to the public, at least, even if not to MPs in their safe Westminster bubble – not just pub and club closures, but a new, judgemental, tinpot-dictator-style attitude amongst those who now felt that it was acceptable to display such qualities (employers, colleagues, the medical profession, friends, family members), a breakdown in social cohesion, loss of friendships and social contacts, an increase in isolation and loneliness, an increase in depression and other mental illnesses, and, above all, an underlying disquieting feeling that “something had been lost,” in that traditional British amiability, friendliness and tolerance in general had been replaced by intolerance, disapproval and suspicion of anyone “not like us.”

      Once those effects became apparent – and they have become apparent, no matter how many dyed-in-the-wool antis might like to pretend it’s all make-believe – even non-smokers started to sit up and take notice. And, in noticing, they didn’t much like what they saw. Because what they saw was a Government which had got too big for its boots, which thought itself to be untouchable and all-powerful and which didn’t see anything wrong in imposing laws which it darned well knew in advance would wreak a great deal of damage and hurt to the lives of a large number of their voters, in a deeply personal and very direct way. Even though the ban hadn’t been directed at them, many non-smokers were, quite rightly, alarmed at this turn of events, and their alarm is what made them more searching of the ins and outs of what was going on in Parliament. And it’s my belief that it was at that point – probably about a year or so into the ban, that people really began to mistrust Parliament. I mean, truly distrust it, rather than just having a bit of a moan about MPs or dismissing them as out-of-touch fools. They were (and are) out-of-touch fools, of course, but now the public realised that they were dangerous ones, and that Labour, as the most idealistic of the major parties, were therefore the most dangerous of all. No wonder they’ve lost election after election since the various bans were imposed – politically speaking and indeed somewhat surprisingly (because, on the surface of it, smoking is just one single issue amongst a multitude of others), smoking bans do seem to be something of a catalyst for an increased awareness of the failings of politics. No wonder Blair, ever the smooth politician, doesn’t want to draw attention to it – the timings are highly inconvenient! Can’t have the plebs putting two and two together, now, can we?

      And of course, Labour being completely rubbish in terms of representing anyone other than illegal immigrants or people on benefits, as you say, certainly didn’t help, either!

    • Frank Davis says:

      Recall that Labour had won 3 elections under Tony Blair before it lost 4 elections. So they can’t have been that woeful under Blair, And there’s also the odd coincidence that the smoking ban came into force just days after Blair resigned (27 June 2007).made

      Blair made Labour electable by largely abandoning its more radical policies, and moving to the centre ground’ Once he;d gone, Labour gradually reverted to its former radicalism, culminating in Corbyn.

      The departure of Blair, and the imposition of the smoking ban were for all practical purposes simultaneous events. So much so that i sometimes wonder whether they were related. Blair is said to have had strong reservations about the ban. But it would seem that his increasingly radical party pushed him into it. Did Blair resign because he’d begun to think it was going to be a disaster, and one he didn’t wish to be associated with?

      In my experience, Britain become a different place after 1 July 2007. What had been an easygoing, convivial country became a much older, uglier place. I don’t think my experience was unusual. I think all smokers had a similar experience, with varying degrees of intensity. I think the only thing that was different about me was lay not in my experience, but in my response, which was to protest against it, and keep on protesting. And it seems to me that there were bound to be consequences for treading so heavily on 10 million + smokers, and one of those was a decline in support for the Labour party that had done this to them. And, as Jax points out above, many non-smokers could see what had been done to smokers, and didn’t like it either.

      In this respect, I made quite a few of my protests on Boris Johnson’s blog (writing as idlex), and won a series of prizes for my efforts. I like to think that Boris took particular notice of me (why else the prizes?), and that he has not forgotten. But that’s probably wishful thinking.., .

  2. slugbop007 says:

    The SecondHandSmoke Lie has to be publicly exposed. OSHA’S 1994 Study and resounding conclusion plus the WHO’s own study around the same period of time should be sent to Boris Johnson’s desk forthwith. Without the SHS Lie Tobacco Control never would have gained so much power and influence. A very successful fear tactic that brought them bags of money, undeserved influence and more monies for the government’s coffers.


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