A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Repositioning Labour

I agree with the broad thrust of this piece by Richard Darlington:

http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/08/05/its-time-to-wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee-argues-richard-darlington/#more-2285

If Labour doesn't realise the extend of our rejection by the electorate in May and accordingly make some big changes to policy and positioning, we face a bleak, indeed short, future.

I was talking last night with a former council colleague whose judgement on electoral strategy I really trust. He was concerned that "business as usual" would mean we (Labour) would face electoral oblivion within a few years and whilst there might still be something called the Labour Party we would no longer have a realistic chance of forming governments. There are just too few people who will now vote for us on a tribal "my party right or wrong" basis, and we are miles adrift of the Tories in seats in places like Kent that we won in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

I'm very proud of what we achieved in 13 years in power but we need to move fast after the leadership election to come up with an agenda for the future which shows we listened to the result this time. I worry that the obvious ghastliness of the Coalition's cuts and the euphoria of getting a wave of new members and winning back council seats will cause people to start thinking we can just get back in on the swing of the electoral pendulum and that we don't have to make fundamental changes.

As you might expect, I don't believe that the change required is a move to the left - i.e. further away from the voters - on a traditional left-right axis.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't agree with this being necessarily about changing policy. In reality the tories have not changed their policies substantially since the 1990s, but they managed to find a very convincing front man who has to an extent overcome this. The lesson from recent elections in the UK and US is that the best sales person wins. The underlying policy isn't (necessarily) the issue. Of course it doesn't mean keeping everything the same. But ultimately it's about delivering a strong overall message.

Incidentally, this is also the reason why (unspoken) the most important and difficult thing any new leader will have to do is to get the media on board.

12:47 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Labour borrowed far to much for the stupid wars and Trident programmes.

The trouble is now that Labour left Office with no money left in the treasury and massive debts to repay the Con/Dems have an easy answer to when Labour complain of the cuts, all the Tories and Libs say is if you had not left it in a mess we would not be making these cuts!

Labours legacy will be here for years.

2:36 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Labour Party, if it has any sense, will elect as its leader the candidate who is least damaged by the record of the last Labour government---Diane Abbott. She can plausibly claim to be different.

Another interesting point about the article to which Luke refers is that it only seems to worry about the million votes lost since 2005. But 4 million were lost before then. Again, a powerful argument for electing Diane Abbott.

Having ditched Labour in 2005, I would definitely come back if Abbott were to win. Possibly, if Ed Miliband. The other three would not make me want to vote Labour again. I think they are dreadful.

5:40 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Blogger donpaskini said...

Hi Luke,

Good post, but I would be v interested in where you are going with this argument.

What do you think about the findings that 75% of voters agreed that Britain was too subservient to the USA over Iraq and Afghanistan, and 32% thought that this was one of the main reasons why Labour lost the election?

It is easy for anyone to argue "Labour should change by adopting more policies that I agree with", but I wondered how far you would push for changes to policies which you personally agree with, but where you are in the minority.

2 other thoughts:

1. Demos is pushing the line that Labour should be positive about the Big Society and call for cuts to the NHS. I simply cannot imagine that either of these are policies which would increase Labour's support - would you agree?

2. One thing which you've quite rightly argued in the past is that Labour needs to pay close attention to the "ground war", mobilising activists and running effective grassroots campaigns. The danger with making big changes to policy and positioning could be that it alienates the activists and means that we don't have the people to run effective local campaigns.

6:11 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Blogger Harry Barnes said...

"If Labour doesn't realise the extend of our rejection by the electorate in May and accordingly make some big changes to policy and positioning, we face a bleak, indeed short, future."

Then shouldn't the debate during the Labour leadership contest centre on the pros and cons. See -
http://dronfieldblather.blogspot.com/2010/06/calling-those-with-voting-rights-in.html

We have made significant progress on this matter. http://dronfieldblather.blogspot.com/2010/08/now-there-are-five.html

8:48 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Demos
already destroyed Communist Party, SDP and now trying todestroy Labour

New Labour went to far

we lost the general election because we lost working class votes

like Redcar,Burnley

allnew Labour MPs

9:53 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Blogger Robert said...

The image and sales pitch are crucial especially in areas which lack social solidarity and where decisive numbers of voters switch political allegiance as readily as supermarket brands. Labour’s currently low level of support in the suburban south and east of England exemplify this. We need to look at our name too. For too many voters, the name "Labour” is synonymous with poverty, manual work (and men) and the past. That’s not too surprising because the name was invented more than 100 years ago to christen a party which largely represented male manual workers who lived in poverty. So when 21st century working people haul themselves a bit further up the social ladder they regard the shedding of Labour allegiance as natural. I don’t pretend to have a solution to this, although I suspect we would be more successful with virtually any name which sounded fresher and more 21st century eg "Progressives", "Democratic Socialists”, or "Justice Party". A related problem we must face is that despite receiving more votes then other parties from 18 -25 year olds in Elections (including May 2010), Labour fails to sign enough of them up to join and then modernize the Party. Most young people aren’t interested in being active Labour members. Why not? What is unattractive about being active in a Party built on principles of altruism and which shares young people’s ideals for a fairer, greener, non-violent, multi-cultural society ? We need to find out what the problem is and fix it fast or we will simply die out like the dinosaurs. I think electing Ed Miliband as leader may be part of the answer, but the Party needs to make a sustained effort to attract young people to join it (and more women of all ages).

9:54 pm, August 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all the leadership contenders planning to move Labour to the left,I assume that the name New Labour will be dropped and replaced by Old Labourlite?

12:11 am, August 06, 2010

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Meaningless twaddle as Demos provide almost without fail. Given that we have just lost an election, utterly predictable.

As for getting rid of policies, its clear enough that has already happened in terms of, say, ID cards. However, our job will be both to stay united and to provide an alternative as the situation changes - which it will.

I'm not convinced we are ever going to get a majority in the suburban south. There are some seats we can and should win, but some of those 97 and 01 seats really are only ours in a totally disastrous year for the Tories.

Personally, one good bit of advice would be to avoid Demos and the 'Open Left' project and suggest they toddle off to the Tories. And please take Purnell with them.

2:20 am, August 06, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Demos are not to be trusted. Their "poll" was full of leading questions designed to get the answer they wanted, and their "spinning" of the data utterly mendacious......

Their love for Dave's "Big Society" fraud sums them up.

However, Luke isn't totally wrong. There *is* a danger that we get too comforted by the LibDem implosion, the influx of new members and (soon) new councillors, and so on. The fact is that many voters have fallen out of love with Labour's (New or Old) world view. The coming storm gives us a chance to change that, but it won't happen by itself. We are all going to have to work our bollocks off for it - and that means serious thinking at the top as well as a much needed revival of grassroots activism.

11:24 am, August 06, 2010

 
Blogger tony said...

I would argue the opposite.Those who did vote Labour last time voted for us despite our 13 year drift to the Right.By becoming more right -wing (god knows how we would manage that one!)we would (a) lose more than we gain & (b) more to the point, what would be point of us at all?
Labour is a socalist party ,non?

4:36 pm, August 06, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert said...

"working people haul themselves a bit further up the social ladder they regard the shedding of Labour allegiance as natural."

I suggest a reading of (any of) the works of the one, the only and the magnificant John H Goldthorpe.

"The Affluent Worker in the Class Structure" is a good start.

10:05 pm, August 06, 2010

 
Blogger southhackneypunter said...

I feel this is all very sad, Labour didn't get wiped out at the last election at all, many of the seats the Tories crowed they would win they lost. After all, they're 'were-you-still-up-for-Ed Balls?' moment famously failed to materialise didn't it?

Many people still voted Labour despite Ashcroft's slick marketing budget and Coulson's dirty tricks because they were scared of the cuts being proposed by Cameron and Cable, now these cuts are arriving people are even more scared.

And the class vindictiveness of the Coalition (that Brown tried desperately to warn the electorate about) has already led to proposals with nothing to do with reducing deficits - ie. ending access to social housing, driving the poor out of southern england, targeting the disabled for cuts - these are just early flashes of the cruel face of these 1930s Eton 'Flashman' bullies in power... Harold Wilson didn't apologise for defending workers, tenants and children in the 1970s, why should Labour waste time searching its soul now while Rome burns around it? (unless it is now entirely comprised of wealthy home-owners and managers who secretly agree with the Tories anyway).

So it's sad to think you might want Labour to 're-connect' with its supposedly 'lost' working class voters. What can that possibly mean if it doesn't mean supporting the anti-cuts movement?

To my mind it could only otherwise mean embracing dog-whistle racism to 'win back' Labour's supposedly 'dis-enchanted' BNP sympathisers - when these voters are largely a figment of the Daily Mail's imagination anyway as the BNP's wipe out at the election demonstrated ... now that really would be taking a road to oblivion for Labour.

(PS. what haven't you expelled Frank Field?)

11:54 am, August 07, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

If what you are suggesting is true then considering the recent poll for the lib dems...we are heading for a one party system for the uk.

If things go badly wrong the Tories will lose the next election no matter what. It all depends on how their cuts affect the rest of the economy.

5:43 pm, August 07, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Policy and positioning ... and where's personality.

It's all personality, stupid.

The Reds haven't got one.

You're going to be stuck with a plausible numpty who can rely on your loyalty to keep him leader.

Welcome to the wilderness years.

By the time the Reds get back you'll be past caring.

2:56 pm, August 08, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Reds....hardly. The last Labour government wasn't remotely red.

Support for the tories is going to plummit when people like yourself lose their jobs.

11:26 pm, August 08, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brain-dead zombies who believe everything is about "personality" are a major reason why we are in the mess we are in the first place.

Politics isn't a replica of the X-Factor or Big Brother, you know.

Imbecile.

12:25 am, August 09, 2010

 
Anonymous izlediks said...

Nice Blog...
Pc Keyfi

1:18 pm, August 09, 2010

 

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