Labour can win if it’s bolder

BE BOLD LABOURWith only four months to go Labour can win, but only if two sets of conditions are fulfilled. Firstly, that there is internal discipline generating external unity, with the usual suspects forswearing any ‘advice’, at least until 7 May (Blair and Mandelson please note). This means Progress supporting the Miliband ‘ left’ line, which merely points in a vaguely social democratic direction, but to some it is tantamount to the Bolshevik Revolution. The second is substantial changes in emphasis on policy, strategy and narrative.

On policy there is much detail after the exhaustive, if partly contrived exercise in policy determination through the NPF and Shadow Cabinet over the past three years. All the policies mentioned here are contained in the NPF report agreed at conference. However, the big policies, on housing, rents, banking, energy prices, worker protection, the NHS and childcare need to be spelt out and highlighted so that everybody knows where Labour stands on these issues, and that our position is clearly differentiated from that of the Tories.

Crucially policy on the economy needs to be spelt out, in greater detail than has been the case. Labour should commit to capital investment of £50bn, predominantly to build social housing, to be financed by QE, at the same time putting HS2 on ice. It should commit, as it has, to paying off the deficit, but over a longer time period and after economic stimulus has generated bigger tax receipts.. It should at least after 2015 -16 halt further cuts in local authority expenditure, making up the shortfall through tax increases already planned for and an increased programme of cracking down on tax avoidance at corporate and individual levels.

On strategy Labour should ditch the ‘centre ground’ strategy recently espoused by Blair and associated with Progress and Peter Kellner. While it is true that our electoral system tends to push parties towards the centre, and that New Labour won some of the centre ground from the Tories, much of that was retained by Labour in 2010 and will be in May because the Tories have moved increasingly to the right. The danger is that the substantial Lib-Dem element that moved to supporting Labour after 2010 may withdraw that support if Labour is not sufficiently radical. The rapid rise of the Greens in the polls is an indication of this. At the same time Labour must attempt to win back its traditional working class supporters.

All of this presupposes policy that is leftish enough to maintain the support of the ex Lib-Dem lefts and win back much of Labour’s traditional support that was lost in 2010 to the Tories, the BNP or UKIP, or to not voting. For the latter group the emphasis should be on increased provision of social housing, greater tenant security, defence of the NHS against privatisation, greater worker protection against ‘zero hours’ contracts, promoting better living standards via raising the minimum wage and extending the living wage, freezing energy prices.The ex Lib-Dem lefts should support these policies as well as more progressive taxation, maintaining carbon emission targets, democratic reform of the House of Lords, lowering the voting age to 16, more protection for minorities and an end to the gagging law. Labour must also pay more attention to younger people where commitments on housing and tenancies might help, but the big one here is a graduate tax which I believe should be offered.

But it is essential also that Labour has a narrative that explains that it was irresponsible banks rather than overspending by the Blair/Brown governments that were responsible for the crisis. This is crucial, but it is also vital to explain that the Tories’ policies on the economy have completely failed in that the deficit is due to rise this year, the fall in unemployment is due to large numbers of part time or self employed jobs, the anaemic recovery only looks satisfactory when set against the economic disaster that is Europe, and that the deliberate running down of public services is not necessary but is part of a Tory plan to demolish the welfare state and eventually privatise health and education.

Labour must also spell out that UKIP policies are no answer. Leaving the EU would cause a huge increase in unemployment, while stopping EU immigration would have little effect on overall population growth and could endanger the status of the large number of UK nationals resident in the EU. The Greens and their supporters must be told that their candidates will take votes from Labour and could cause the Tories to win seats where this would not otherwise have been the case.

Much remains to be said and done, but I believe that if we can make these changes, we should be able to win in May.


  1. Excluding Iraq,why would ex Libdems who have shown I terest in supporting is in the last 4 years,not vote us if we weren’t left wing enough, take unions, it’s always been said liberals were lefties who don’t like unions, so if labour swung towards the left, gave unions more rights, what makes you think that Libdems who were thinking of backing us,will only do so if we’re leftwing,
    I dint think ex greens are that pro unions either, recall the bin men’s strike in Brighton