Lessons of the summer
Daniel Hannan's attack on the NHS gave us a great open goal and we proceeded to pour heavy fire at the Tories on this issue.
Net result: we (Labour activists) all felt great and remembered why and how much we hate the Tories but the electorate was singularly unimpressed, the polls didn't budge an inch and we remain 16% adrift.
Trouble is, this is the politics of our comfort zone and most of the people whose voting patterns are determined by love of/expected immediate need for the NHS, or well-funded schools, or inner-city regeneration, or greater equality, are already in the hard-core 24%-28% of voters who are sticking with us in every opinion poll.
After all, we had great policies in these areas in every one of the four elections when we got soundly thrashed by the Tories. Too many voters don't expect to be sick (admittedly a stupid position for them to take, writing as I am from my hospital bed), haven't got kids of school age, don't live in the inner city and don't feel underprivileged for us to win on these policy areas alone. Others do care about these issues but weigh them up, and trump them with concerns that the economy ain't in great shape, they feel over-taxed, they are worried about crime and immigration, or our armed forces are over-stretched in Afghanistan.
We can't win next year by just focusing on the easy issues that make Labour activists feel good.
Yes we should bang the drum about issues like the NHS but we won three times and we might stand some chance of winning again if, as in the last three elections, we come out of our own corner and take ownership of the range of issues that otherwise default to their historic pre-1997 status as Tory strengths. So we need to:
- explain how ID cards, which the Tories oppose, are central to combating illegal immigration
- cut taxes for the lowest paid
- get people from welfare into work to help cut the deficit
- reinvigorate the respect agenda on crime and anti-social behaviour, which has not been high-profile enough since 2007
- put more money into buying the defence kit the troops in Afghanistan need - which has the useful side effect of creating high quality industrial jobs
- above all explain how our economic decisions are driving the ongoing recovery from recession - decisions the Tories opposed
These should all be OUR issues. We have to address them and loudly if we are in anything other than "circle the wagons and pray for a miracle" mode.
Just for the record, the August MORI issues poll has the following as the issues rated most important by the public:
And further down the table for all the anti-Trident self-described "populists", nuclear disarmament scores under 0.5%.