Op-Ed: Labour Leadership Fight Navel Gazing

Some of us are still coming to terms with what happened on the 7th of May, myself included, naturally following the result some turned on Ed, others the public, the Greens, the SNP and  those who voted Tory. This is not how the party is going to win people over, we need to be critical of policies, actions and ideas but never of the electorate, this is a notion that needs to be installed into the party at every level.

It may be popular to criticise the ‘35% strategy’, but are we truly to believe this was central to the parties failure because we offered more to our base than under the 2005 or 2010 elections? The commentariat are missing what the party leadership said about austerity and benefit cuts, the reason many supporters marched, petitioned and actively campaigned against.

In may we had hundreds of micro policies, many of them good yet no narrative or story, thus allowing certain policies to define us. The issues with policies defining us is that there is much more to the party than one or two policies and these policies often paint very different stories, pro austerity, yet anti cuts is one example though not one Kendall has given herself. This muddled message is why the public stopped listening, telling stories that counter each-other does not win over two groups but instead meant nobody listened to either story.

Attempts at a cohesive narrative where there yet of the rebrands from: Next Generation, Blue, One Nation or even Pre-distributive Labour, everyone was lost on people as we broke from New Labour but we never crafted a Labour for now, instead flowing between brandings . Nothing was distinct in narrative nor inspiring in detail, policies such as those on bringing rail franchises under public control where present but not concrete and our policy would have taken more than 2 full terms in office to complete. Parties who seek to govern need a narrative, a coherent story and this is where triangulation has become suffocation for our MP’s, the shadow cabinet and our members.

Whoever becomes leader the party needs to stay clear of what I am going to dub an anti ‘35% strategy’, debasing our vote is just a recipe for disaster. Debasement of the center left can be seen elsewhere across Europe, look no further than our similar parties in Greece and Spain. The party needs to talk the language of the people, be made up of the people and crucially to ask people their policy suggestions to truly represent the movement. It is simply not enough affiliating to Trade Unions when we do not listen to their members, when constituency meetings gather less people than you meet on the way. Learn from and motivating members, thousands of which work in food-banks, live a life with hardship and have their own stories, aspirations and hopes.

As a party Labour need to rekindle old flames, renew and build on Miliband, he started albeit with the shackles of triangulation and the myths surrounding the crash in 2008. He was right to launch a policy review with much of the heavy lifting coming from the bottom up, through meetings and the ‘Your Britain’ site. The party needs to feel valued again and hold policy meetings, campaign on issues that people want to and crucially reconnect with the public. The need for local groups to run member lead campaigns as we did at Hampshire Young Labour on Apprenticeships and ethical procurement with Portsmouth Labour Students. The party needs to be present in the community and take people with it.

If we do not take our members and our base with us, they will leave. We cannot take our heartlands for granted the SNP destroyed us in Scotland after being ignored for too long. The party needs reminding that our mission statement as a party is being ‘a moral crusade or nothing’. The Greens offer to many in our party a throwback to the past with new faces and a renewed passion sadly missing from our benches. We need to find our soul, we need to reconnect to it and we need to remember we only appeal to a majority of the public when we carry the public with us. We don’t need old policies or old politics we need to discover our modern vision, be proud of our values, we need to listen and then shout about it.

 

This article was originally written by me and posted on http://www.ukprogressive.co.uk/op-ed-labour-leadership-fight-navel-gazing/article40754.html

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