Things to do when you are 16% behind
Today's YouGov poll isn't cheerful reading for Labour folk.
My recipe for recovery:
- The bits of the PLP and Government flapping and gossiping about leadership challenges would be well advised to spend their energy between now and polling day on 1 May canvassing voters rather than each other.
- After 1 May anyone who thinks they can do a better job than Gordon needs to put up or shut up. Prolonged speculation would be the worst possible scenario. I think we would be insane to switch leader twice in under a year, and seeing as the one we have got was already Chancellor for ten years, no one can say they didn't know what they were going to get. I don't think there's anyone else both ready and willing - and more to the point with any base of support in the Party - to do the job.
- We need to start applying a basic rule to all policy ideas before running with them: does this help or hinder Labour's primary objective as a Party and Government to create a more equal society? The 10p tax rate abolition, for instance, clearly fails this test.
- We need to show we are listening and responding to people's economic pain - there's no point telling someone whose mortgage has just got more expensive that everything is fine. A bold plan to rescue people about to have their homes repossessed has to be a priority.
- The basic New Labour agenda is still just as clearly where the public are at as in 1997 - combining social justice and investment in public services with keeping taxes low, tackling crime and being strong on defence. The problem is that the public are now confused about whether us or Cameron can best deliver that agenda.
- The problem isn't with our core vote - I've spent the past couple of weeks canvassing the most deprived estates in Hackney and they are still enthusiastically Labour - it's the hard-pressed C1s and C2s who feel economic ups and downs the most because they are on the cusp of being comfortably off or completely screwed if the economy tightens up.
- Brown needs to be himself - his core beliefs and passion about poverty at home and abroad are attractive and sincere so he should go out and articulate them and tell the image-makers to get stuffed. If it doesn't work at least he will have been true to himself and acted as PM in a way that will leave a legacy we can all be proud of.
- We need some John Reid and Margaret Beckett type figures (not necessarily those two individuals) prepared to go on TV and radio as and when needed and robustly defend the government and kick the Tories metaphorically in the head - one of the downsides of the generational change in the last two reshuffles is an absence of those kind of senior figures.
- Re-build the Party starting at the grassroots. We can't hope to sell a 4th Labour term to the public if we don't have members and activists out their selling it.
- Don't Panic!