The polls are dire. The leader has a poll rating that would make Francois Hollande blush. Stumble after stumble has left Labour looking incompetent and bereft of ideas.
But looking back at the last few years, there are lessons to be learned from the EU referendum, the Labour Leadership campaigns and the other major votes across the world to allow Labour to make it’s case in the best possible way, and to even outperform expectations.
- Be Positive
The Brexit vote was lost because we spent too much time trying to scare people about the other side.
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns, particularly “Mark 2”, were strong because they presented an alternative. A vision. A set of simple ideas that many people could unite behind.
Labour now has to do the same. I was disappointed to hear the first words out of Jeremy’s mouth yesterday being anything other than “this election is an opportunity for the British people to move in a new, better direction”.
More funding for education, the health service and a Brexit deal that sets Britain up as a collaborative, active partner of the EU (leaving open the idea of what can happen in the future – the Tories have irreparably damaged our relationship with Europe for the time being), funded by a fairer tax system. That’s all you need to say.
- Keep it simple.
“Take back control”, “Make America great again”, “Kinder, gentler politics”.
They resonate because they’re easy to understand. Labour’s platform needs a simple resonance that is underpinned by five key deliverable promises that don’t need a lot of explaining. As a simple example:
“Building a New Britain”:
- A National Education Service (no grammars, better standards across well funded state schools, paid for in part by VAT on private education) to invest in our future
- A coordinated, collaborative approach to Brexit – approaching our EU partners as exactly that, and not as opponents
- Commitment to the triple lock (I don’t agree with it, but it’s announced)
- Unequivocal commitment to the United Kingdom, (including Northern Ireland)
- A fairer tax system
And then repeat it. Ad nauseum. And only offer up the promises if challenged. Let people decide what a New Britain means to them. Help them be part of something great.
- You don’t win anything by telling people that they’re wrong.
Brexit. Trump. Corbyn. All three campaigns were marked by the fact that the louder you shouted the flaws in an argument, the more concrete your opposition becomes in their beliefs. So stop it.
Any canvasser who tells a voter they are “wrong” needs to be taken aside for ten minutes to cool down.
And we must limit attacks on the Tories.
I know it’s hard. I know you think they’re evil. But 45% of the electorate (give or take) are currently planning on voting for them. If you attack the Tories, people feel you are attacking them. And then you’re breaking the first and third rules. So don’t attack. Just explain how we can make things better.
- Get the whole team on show.
Everyone. Show the wealth of talent that exists within the Labour Party. Jess Phillips standing next to Clive Lewis. Rebecca Long-Bailey standing next to Yvette Cooper. Kate Osamor standing next to Dan Jarvis.
If every fight is reduced to the local level, the press will make everything about Corbyn. Labour’s big events need to feature every available talent from across the party. Get some star power in. If we can get Ed Balls as a candidate then get him on stage doing the Charleston with Diane Abbott.
This has to be about Labour vs Tory, not Corbyn vs the world.
And it’s not just the top team or the candidates. Every single Labour member needs to get involved. Donate money, volunteer, actually DO things. That goes for registered supporters too. If there’s 300 members in a branch, every single one of them needs to contribute to the extent of their physical capability. Making Corbyn leader (or not) is the easy bit. It’s time for the hard graft and every member has a duty to step up. There’s half a million of us and there’s plenty of work to go round.
I wanted a sixth item, but I’m slotting it in here – sharing stuff on social media does not count. Chances are that only people that agree with you will see it and no amount of #wearehismedia is going to change that.
- Stop trashing past Labour Governments.
Here’s the tough one for the leadership. They’ve built their party reputation by trashing Tony Blair. They’ve got to stop.
Blair and Brown are the proof that a Labour government can deliver on its promises. Point to the record levels of funding for schools and hospitals, the human rights act, civil partnerships and the lowest levels of child poverty in history.
Then when someone says “yeah, but Iraq”, point to those achievements again. And again. And again.
So in summary, stay positive, keep it simple, don’t tell people they’re wrong, use the whole team and embrace Labour’s record of delivery in government.
It doesn’t sound hard. Because it’s not.
So let’s build a New Britain. Together.