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Young One Rick explains why Labour is doing so badly

One of my most favourite analyses of the politics of public spending comes from Rick (gloriously played by the much missed Rick Mayall), in the classic TV sitcom The Young Ones:

“I mean, it’s no wonder the country is in such a state. I don’t know why they don’t just be honest and hand the whole place over to Oxfam. Nothing but scroungers and horrid old people and workshy layabouts all wandering around clutching their Giros and trying to get something for nothing. Oh yes, the Post Office seems to be very good at handing out other people’s money, doesn’t it? No wonder my grant’s so small. …”

At the moment lots of British expert political commentators seem baffled as to why Labour is so crushingly unpopular, despite so many of its individual policies being so very popular. But it’s not rocket science. If you are wanting to get more goodies from the government, the last thing you want is all the other damn scroungers to be queueing up for their goodies, as likely as not ahead of you in the queue. What Labour Leader Corbyn is promising is that there will be goodies for all, and worse, he seems to mean this, and to believe that this is possible, or at least possible enough for him to give such a policy a serious try. But that’s no bloody use. That way, the goodies will run out, and there will then be no goodies for you, no matter what the promise was. What you want is goodies for yourself and for those in your own quite small category of scroungers, paid for by all the other scroungers having to go without.

20 comments to Young One Rick explains why Labour is doing so badly

  • Paul Marks

    There is indeed a limit to buying votes – the promises have to be at least vaguely plausible.

    Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are promising most people the Moon and Stars (at the expense of “the rich” and “big business”) and most people think the promises are too wild to be believable.

  • DOuglas2

    You are falling for the fixed-pie fallacy. If goodies for all are dispensed, won’t that have trickle-down effects that will be a boon for the economy? /s

  • John K


    I hope you are right. Labour’s manifesto seems to be: get free stuff from us and the rich bastards will pay for it.

    They are trying to sell the idea that more taxes on the 5% of rich bastards can pay for all that lovely free stuff for the other 95% of us. It worked so well wherever else it has been tried, what could possibly go wrong this time?

  • Mr Ed

    I got the distinct impression from listening to the Shadow Chancellor this morning that the plan to re-nationalise the water companies might be done without compensation, he was not asked that, but he simply said that options were being considered. Of course, this would eat away at many pension funds and lead to more impoverishment, both directly and indirectly, but that is the plan unless I am very much mistaken.

    And I recall the late, great Auberon Waugh writing no later than the early 1980s that on a visit to a Post Office, he seemed to be the only person there paying money in, when many were taking it out, one of those little signs that point to trouble ahead.

  • Stonyground

    Those of us who are old enough to remember the seventies know why Labour are unpopular. Corbyn’s lot seem to be considerably more red than the incompetents that left us in such a complete mess all those years ago. Of course it would be different this time around, it would be even worse.

  • Richard Thomas

    When I first read that Ben Elton had supposedly been something of a closet conservative, I was surprised. Then I thought about it and it made sense of a lot of stuff.

  • Regional

    Rick Mayall was a cunny funt, the Left certainly can lampoon themselves.

  • jim jones

    Labour is unpopular because they are seen as the Muslim Party

  • bobby b

    There’s no great benefit to being one of The Elect if anyone can join.

  • Cal Ford

    What’s sad is that left-wing parties are failing around the world, so what does May do? Turns the Tories leftwards. Adopts Ed Milliband’s failed policies which have already been rejected by the electorate.

    Milli-May. That’s what I’m calling her from now on.

  • PeterT

    I’m not sure how everybody else feels, but much as I disliked Cameron I thought there might be a classical liberal in there somewhere just waiting to get out. With May there is no reason, no reason at all, to believe this to be the case.

    If my vote mattered I might consider voting Conservative to support Brexit, but I live in a safe Labour seat (the Tories could possibly win it, but this would require some truly heroic assumptions) so I will go for UKIP I think. Not yet decided.

  • Lee Moore

    If there had been a General Election during the war, the thing to have done would have been to vote for Churchill, absolutely regardless of your opinion of the merits of Indian independence.

    Let’s just get Brexit done, and worry about the rest some other time.

  • Mal Reynolds

    @Cal Ford: it’s partly political calculation (alongside May’s clear belief in centrist politics). The only electoral threat to the Tories is Labour, who have moved further left. With no enemies to the right, the Tories also therefore move further left, maintaining all the votes to the right of them and picking up more to the left of them from Labour.

    That now is an absolutely golden opportunity to move to a more free-market footing, with no opposition to be seen, would be the decision that was made if one valued the country above the party. But the Tory party has survived for so long, and been the natural party of Great Britain, precisely because it (mostly) puts the party ahead of the country. Hence the loss of opposition leads to a swing to the left rather than the right.

  • Cal Ford

    Mal, yes, it’s clear what May and Nick Timothy are thinking. But Labour are going to get thrashed anyway.

    If the Tories move to the centre, then when Brexit is over and done with, there’ll be a risk of a split in the Tory party, as right-wingers will go to war with the centrists. There may even be a new party formed (which won’t be UKIP).

    Brexit has united the Tories, it’s healed the old split over Europe, and it has brought a lot of the Tories’ traditional base back into the fold from UKIP. May is now risking another split. She’s thinking that she’ll get all these centrist voters. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll stay, especially once Brexit is over. Whereas if you alienate a lot of your base you really are flirting with disaster.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Labour isn’t doing badly! Like Germany in WW2, it will just come second! There’s honour in just being there!

  • Charlie Suet

    Labour is certainly not doing badly, from the perspective of those who lead it. Remember that Tony Benn consistently argued that the 1983 election was a success for the left because they won 28% of the vote on a socialist manifesto. If Labour get the 30-33% they’re polling at, with a full-on Stalinist as their campaign manager, then it will seem like a victory to the Trots, whatever the media says.

    Those of us who want a genuine liberal party in this country (as opposed to a EU boot-licking left-wing mess) will go on being disappointed. But having the main alternative to the Tories be a bunch of anti-West pricks who swan about in front of the hammer and sickle is good for the Conservative party and no one else.

  • Mal Reynolds

    Anyone have any thoughts on the future of the libertarian-right in UK politics? Every now and again we get a new news article claiming a rise in its popularity (especially among the youth) but all parties are shifting further and further away from it. I find a Tory party split hard to believe, given their rather long history of not splitting, so they either need to steer it back or a new/ another party needs to step in. No idea who that new party would be though as the Lib Dems gave up anything resembling that a long time ago, UKIP are disintegrating and both are broad churches anyway.

  • Mr Ed


    I have just read this in the Conservative Party Manifesto for the 2017 General Election:

    We will reform Compulsory Purchase Orders to make them easier and less expensive for councils to use and to make it easier to determine the true market value of sites.

    As Brian M of this parish once said ‘Every political movement has its own term for stealing‘.

    What could be more hopeless for liberty than the current Conservative Party? It’s only function is to act like a blocked bowel that fortuitously stops you bleeding to death after being knifed by Labour.

  • Mal Reynolds

    Mr Ed,

    Christ that manifesto is horrendous. Talk of an “industrial strategy”. “Conservatives do not believe in free markets”. “We reject the cult of individualism”. It’s not just Corbyn who has gone back to the 1970s.

  • Cal Ford

    Milli-May has gone back to the late 40s and 50s, I think. But not to the good parts of that era.