What Labour needs to do to win in 2015

With 16 months to go, Ed Miliband is beginning to put in place some key policy commitments, notably the realignment of corporate power in several sectors in order to address the living standards crisis and the lopsidedness of a recovery that benefits only the top 1%. But if Labour is not only to win the election, but also above all then to set in hand the transformation of Britain from its present dire and broken state, a number of other important conditions have to be fulfilled. First, Labour must present, not just piecemeal policies, but a credible narrative across the range based around a distinct ideology which clearly explains the root problems that hold Britain back and how they can and must be put right. That is what others have been trying to do – the Fabians in their Vision 2030, Larry Elliott in his books and Guardian articles (e.g. 13 January), the Rowntree Foundation in Why Fight Poverty, and myself in my recently published book The State We Need: Keys to the Renaissance of Britain.

Second, there has to be a huge social movement in the country to drive the agenda. Labour can only achieve serious transformation if it has a vision which can win the hearts and minds of a majority of the electorate. Labour is well placed to secure this if it could enhance its relationship with the 7 million-strong trade union movement from one of uncomfortable co-existence to one of positive and committed partnership. This means quickly resolving the current stand-off by strongly encouraging individual trade unionists to join the Labour party (and giving them sound reasons to do so) whilst at the same time preserving the collective voting rights of the unions within the federal structure of the Labour Movement. In addition there needs to be a revival of the role of Socialist intellectuals within the country – perhaps a Socialist society or indeed a new Socialist journal.

Third, Labour needs to do much more to systematise its campaigning across the country. Some 3 or 4 central themes should be chosen, and they should be driven home by meetings, discussions, local projects, specialised campaigning up and down the country from now to May 2015. In every region there should be a key regional official and a selected MP to oversee this work and to report back problems and successes to the centre (and there are already good precedents for this, even for example in such unlikely areas a Banbury). And this should be assisted by a big revival of the training and political education which was such strong feature of Labour activities in the past, promoted particularly by the monthly Talking Points which debated current controversial issues throughout the party.

Fourth, Labour needs to become a democratic party again. Whereas the Tories have always been top-down and never wanted their members to play any active part in their politics, Labour has always traditionally attracted by giving activists a real say in the formation of policy, with annual Conference as the supreme policy-making body within the Movement. That broke down under the Blair-Brown regimes, but it is essential it be recovered if Labour is to acquire a really vigorous and dynamic membership and win back the millions of voters we lost after 1997.