Monday, May 16, 2011

Whither Labour? Keep it simple, stupid...

"...the canvas on which Labour is currently painting by numbers is wearing rather thin. A bit of blue, a bit of purple, some red, something of a strange colour called ‘new’, finish it off with a bit of a flourish. Stand back and marvel at the complete, er, mess.
In the meantime, the Conservatives emerge largely unscathed from their first electoral test since the general election. OK, they emerged completely unscathed. And Labour has spent the year talking to itself and in the seminar room (in fact, the last four years). Now the results of the experiment are about to be unleashed. There will be a deafening silence across the land."
... and, he concludes...
If Labour understands what people actually need, what they actually value, rather than what it thinks they do, then it may get more of an audience. Liam Byrne’sspeech about the “responsibility society” yesterday feels in tune with mood of the moment in this regard. Politics is a contact sport.
I think it's a bit simpler than he suggests here: We're totally obsessed with tactical gambits. and - as far as I can see - we have little interest in strategy.

The Tories did a great job uniting a core of people in what they hated. They came up with a self-serving picture of ZaNuLieBore aimed purely at their deep core of supporters - we were a statist / managerialist / authoritarian / EUNazi bunch of over-educated venal theives and liars from the non-productive classes. At the same time, they had a very simple prescription (that they didn't need to justify because it went over the popular head) based around reduction of the state. This is where their use of social media communications tools really helped them.

Once they had that, the question of principle was removed from the tactical questions and their core support was prepared to give the party carte blanche to get on with doing whatever it pleased to capture the public's attention.

The public respond well to moral coherence - and we ain't got any because we don't know what our simple prescription is.

Personally, I reckon it's really simple - and it doesn't involve any visions from leadership figures or any clever bits of rebranding or focus-grouping or handwringing.

It should be a position that is fairly close to the old Labour Representation Committee one upon which the party was founded: To ensure that decisions aren't made for people by corporations, employers, landlords and interest groups.

Put that in a modern setting and it means campaigning against consumerist abuses, the way that businesses are financing themselves on corporate welfare, the way that people don't feel that they have any impact upon the big issues that effect their lives - be it an immigration policy that puts corporate needs first without addressing the consequences for most voters - or the way that process-driven businesses and public sector organisations don't provide a meaningful way to involve everyone who faces the consequences of their actions in making their decisions.

Unite Labour around that and the tactical direction will follow...

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