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This is no time for Labour to play it safe

Ed MilibandShould Labour aim to slide past the electoral finish-lines with (as one senior civil servant once said to me) ‘minimum exposure of flank’? Or should the party make clear what it really stands for today, and what its central objectives for government really are?

The argument for the former is obviously that it entails fewer risks in counter-blasts from the Tories and their right-wing media friends – and clearly a campaign to project the party with a more confident and inspirational presence does have to be worked on very carefully if it is not to be misrepresented and exploited by malevolent enemies.

But the argument against, which in my view tips the balance, is that there is very sizeable segment of the electorate, to a large degree potential Labour voters, who feel unmotivated and disinclined to vote at all. The classes with the lowest turnouts at the 2010 election were the young and those who were semi-skilled or unskilled workers. The potential gains of winning them over to vote, even perhaps inspiring them, could well in terms of the millions they represent turn out to be the decisive factor at the next election.

Of course it will raise the political heat in this coming year before the election. But – and again planned very carefully beforehand – picking a fight on a few central issues could likely be essential in stamping Labour’s identity on the minds of the voters. It is often only when a political party sets its standard on some big, often contentious, issue and fights its corner robustly and confidently against the inevitable attacks that the voters conclude that the party really means it and, if the issue has been chosen well, begins to swing behind it.

Renationalising rail and at least some energy companies would show that Labour would re-draw the lines between state and markets. Not only to protect long-suffering customers, but to stop exploitation in failed private markets.   Another such issue would be to establish Enterprise Councils in all large companies which would give worker representatives drawn from across the firm a say both in its operations and in allocation of pay from boardroom to shopfloor.

One Comment

  1. This is indeed not a time to “play it safe” as we approach 2015.Indeed it is a time to carry the fight to the enemy.

    One of the current “in phrases” used by the Tories is not to “hand the keys back to those who crashed the car”.

    Well I can only think of the Government’s decision to award the contract for the administration of their new Childcare Subsidy Scheme to Atos!

    This after Atos’s involvement in the 2012 Border Agency meltdown and their responsibility for the Work Capability Assessment fiasco at the DWP.

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