Wednesday 18 December 2019

Five things Labour should to do now, and five things it (probably) won’t.

From the Daily Record Sat 14/12/19

The Labour party in England woke up yesterday in the same situation Labour in Scotland found itself in 2015 - shattered, its citadels sacked, the activists bewildered and not knowing how to win back territory taken fore granted for generations.

There are few lessons from Scottish Labour on what to do next, because the party was ahead of Corbyn into the ditch.

If there is a lesson from further afield it is that there no guarantee for social democratic parties in an age of identity politics.

The French Socialist party banked just 6.4 per cent in last year’s elections, in Greece Pasok last polled at just over six per cent. That shows what is on offer for Labour if change does not happen.

Here are five do’s for revival, and five don’t pitfalls.

1) Goodbye Corbyn, but not all of Corbynism

If he hasn’t gone by now more shame on him. The leader, and his legacy of anti-patriotism as much as anti-Semitism, repelled Labour voters. He was a force for failure, not a cause for hope. But the agenda for change, for nationalisation and for renewal, people wanted that. To persuade voters Labour needs leaders who can communicate big ideas, and how they would be paid for, beyond reading out a shopping list.

2) Take your idealogical purity and stuff it where your majority just went

If a party keeps losing, Labour’s lost four in row, it is beyond time waiting for voters to come home. If the Momentum purists and trade union barons put a ring of voting steel around socialist purism and one more push to awaken the working class, then it is time to start thinking about another centrist party. The purge of purism has to be done, and done quickly, or Labour is lost for a decade. 

3) Adopt a friend

If you’re Labour and don’t have any Tory or SNP friends you’re not principled, you’re just a loser.
Listen, don’t preach on politics. Often people will shock you, but unless they cross a racist or bigoted line, try to work out what policy responses can answer their fears.

4) Open up

Mandatory re-selection isn’t popular but open primaries can be. Labour needs top talent, and needs to sound and look like the people it wants to represent. That starts with you, Richard Leonard.

5) Embrace the nation

The UK fashion industry is bigger than the car industry, no one has worked in a deep mine in three decades. New commuter housing developments on the edge of hollowed out former mining towns, in places like Mansfield and Bolsover, do the talking, pay the taxes and voted Tory. Offer aspirational voters the future, not just an echo of the past. So green lives four our kids not just green industrial jobs. 

Five things Labour shouldn’t do (but might):

1) Don’t look back in anger

History is in the rear view mirror, the party could be too. Fine, blame Jeremy or John, kick the dog or the dressing table, anyone but yourself. Your opponents are in front, not behind. Unite quickly to get on with winning.

2) Choose the wrong leader

There is a certain inevitability to the left, which controls the party, trying to prove it was right and the voters were wrong by choosing a bad leader. Don’t choose a leader for you, choose a leader for that SNP/Tory/Lib Dem mate you’re talking to again. You need someone who can win. Otherwise see point 2 above

3) Don’t forget the who won the election

Not Johnson, but the grown-up children of working class voters you lost a connection with. Don’t deny reality, reconnecting on voters’ trust is hard work and takes time.

3) Don’t break up the country

Don’t buy the nationalist narrative of Scotland being ”different” but learn from the SNP that politics is about identity as well as policy. Labour’s identity is common endeavour, that more is achieved by unity. Keep challenging nationalists to come up with a progressive argument for dividing people from each other.

5) Don’t give up

Against failing school and health standards, against austerity, against globalism and climate change, people need a social democratic alternative more than ever.