What's the difference between Labour in opposition and Labour in government ?

Back in 1994 I was agent for the Liberal Democrats in what was termed an "unwinnable" by-election for the vacant Tory seat of Reedham on Broadland District Council. The Lib Dems did actually win, but Labour ran some effective campaigns, particularly the rolling petition they were doing to save rural post offices. Yes, "Only Labour can be relied upon to save local Post Offices" was their bold claim, and this message found a resonance with the electorate that we only overcame be finding a more important issue (Labour didn't really that people had fresh water shrimps coming out of their taps and the Lib Dem petition on this issue, which was succesfully followed up by action from Anglian Water, saw the Lib Dems win by 17 votes).

Whatever the result though, Labour made a bold claim which clearly voters wanted to hear in rural Norfolk.

A few months later I went to University and grabbed a poster from the Labour Students stand at the Fresher Fayre, with a picture of Ken Clarke on it with the headline "This fat bloke just ate my grant", with the tag line underneath that "Kenneth Clarke's budget will mean student grants are cut 10% each year for three years.
You can see the poster below which for some reason I kept, perhaps aware even then that it would highlight Labour's hypocrisy in the future.
Of course, Labour were at the time in opposition, and again like Post Offices, they were claiming that they would defend people from the "evil Tories".

The problem is that in government, Labour have now closed 5,000 Post Offices after today's announced closures, beating the Tories 3,500 during their 18 years in office. And for students, Labour turned out to be even worse than the Tories. Far from a 10% cut in grants each year that the Tories gave us, Labour abolished it completely.

So what is the difference between Labour in government and Labour in opposition. Well its a world of difference, but its a difference that any opposition party ought to take note of. Labour hinted they were different and in some cases promised to be better able than the Tories to prevent cuts, to halt closures and to defend the things that people cared about. But in truth events in recent days, like the Post Office closures that the Labour party, when in opposition, campaigned against, show that there is a real danger, a cancer in British politics, that means that party's desperate attempts to get elected means that they will promise what they know they cannot deliver.


Johnny Norfolk said...

Labour are only interested in themselves and as they were in the 60s are drunk with power. They do not have the best interests of the people, just staying in power.
Anyone can throw money at say the NHS its easy the skill is in how the money is spent and reforming the NHS to meet the needs of the people, that takes skill. Labour have no idea how to run anything.

Johnny Norfolk said...
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Alasdair W said...

They're quite good a backing down on their promices and trying to pretend they didn't make them. Ministers are quietly pretending they didn't make targets for renewable energy for 2010. And why to Labour promice not to make student top-up fees in their 2001 manifesto?! Anyway the tories are campaigning about post offices, but I'm not convinced in power they would stop the closures, they'ld see the bill and start closing them down again.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Its not the Tories closing Post Offices its LABOUR. By the time the Tories are back in power it will be to late they will have all gone.

Labour want control of the people not freedom.

Daniel said...

I think these cuts will be remembered in the same vein as the Beeching cuts to railways in the 60s. As we are now ironically re-opening railway lines and stations, we will be re-opening community offices in 10 years time??? Don't bet against it!

Anonymous said...

Labour really haven't got anywhere to turn. The only way they can go through the same degree of change that they went through in opposition in the mid-1990s is by changing back to a bunch of hardcore socialists!

Anonymous said...

After experiencing many campaigns against lib dems - this article made me laugh for ages.

lib dem pot calling the labour kettle me thinks.

Anonymous said...

While I am appalled by the shamelessness of the broken manifesto pledges, I think you are ignoring an important aspect. The fact that policies from both types of government have been much more similar than their pre-election propaganda implies that a government has much less room for manoeuvre than might be expected.