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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Getting Labour back on track - some guidelines

This bank holiday weekend has come at a good time for Party members. Exhausted by weeks of campaigning, a period to rest and recharge is welcome. The same might be said of our government. There is little point in lurching towards an ill-considered remedy for our current travails. Still, here are some quick guidelines for thinking through how we can get on the right road.

Our core vote needs a reason to vote but we need more than our core vote

If we look at the London elections we can see that turnout rose and both main parties had success in getting their votes out. Inner city areas came out for Ken while other boroughs provided more votes for Boris Johnson. Even in a constituency such as my own (Lambeth and Southwark) for example, the Tory vote rose. Yet a focus on the 'core vote' was not enough to keep Ken in City Hall. Ken had previously been able to appeal across the electoral spectrum.

Having the correct policies just ain't enough

If the London elections taught us anything, it was that personality counts too. But more than that, those policies have to be consistent with a clear progressive message. Why are we not hearing clear messages repeating our values before describing policies. Talking about values is not talking about what we want to do or repeating some legislative theme. It is about talking about equal worth, the Common Good, our responsibility towards each other and especially the disadvantaged, our belief in cooperation, our status as leaseholders on this planet.

Organisation is important even in 'safe' Labour areas

It is sometimes impossible to prevail against a national political headwind. Yet we can do things to help ourselves. Some CLPs and Labour Groups are well-organised. Others can do more. We can probably all do more. MPs and councillors should see themselves as campaigners all year round, running campaigns big and small. It is hard, with few activists sometimes (but all parties face this). But in this fast changing political environment doing the basics (good quality leaflets, basic voter id, street surveys and campaigns, candidates meeting as many people as possible) is not optional.

You can't decide direction by committee

The coming days and weeks will see a plethora of articles and speeches about the policies Labour should adopt and the communication strategy it should employ. No doubt in a small way I will join in. But ultimately judgement calls have to be made after listening and learning. Few committees or groups can be bold.

It's about tomorrow not today

The minimum wage was a bold step forward and we all love Sure Start. But what are the challenges of tomorrow and what are the progressive answers? Addressing those questions shows we deserve to be leading tomorrow and not just today.

Stepping out in faith

Firm in our beliefs and confident in our policies and experience, we must push back at the Tories. We will not always get the airtime or column inches but if the Tories get an easy ride that ought not to be anything to do with us.

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