25th March 2016
Labour’s national message is hopeless; members must fight for communities
Some of you may remember turning up for a count on Election Day. Most of you may remember losing. I’m sure the majority of you remember glimpsing the exit polls and, in disbelief, stopping to stare. Many of you, as I do, will remember just how long the night was, as that damned poll was proven right. For us to do any good we have to win, and the history books tell us that doesn’t happen often.
Only 4 Labour leaders have been elected Prime Minister in the last century. In fact, only 4 Labour leaders have really been elected Prime Minister full stop. Labour has only ever won 5 elections with a majority of more than 5 in its history. We have fought hard for every working majority we’ve ever won, but we’ve also fought hard for every time we haven’t won. If you want a lesson, trying our hardest isn’t enough without a pragmatic and inclusive message.
Labour’s members and supporters need to remember that before we condemn ourselves to a slow and nasty decline. Not a single voter cares about the ins and outs of socialist theory, nor would a single voter vote for a party that ignores their concerns or appears reckless.
I wouldn’t put any money on our leader learning that any time soon. Even if he wants to win, he doesn’t want to attract the voters he needs to win. But we members and supporters can drive the local narrative, and we can fight as hard as ever.
Our fight needs to be for communities; communities our Newest Labour leaders are abandoning. We lose our vital infrastructure as well as votes as people in Essex, in Staffordshire, and in Norfolk flock from Labour. But the Tories aren’t offering people better.
If we’re going to win we need to give a localised message rather than a national one as we knock on as many doors as we always do. We need to tell people why their local party, their local candidate, and their local MP offers a pragmatic and realistic alternative for their community. And Labour’s councillors, MPs, and candidates really do offer a lot for their cities and towns.
By driving our own narrative in middle England, Wales, and Scotland, we must create a clear divide between national politics and local candidates. Instead of talking about the follies of Corbyn and company, we need to be telling people why their local candidate’s different, and we must not be afraid to distance the party from the more divisive extremes; if they be Trotskyites or anti-Semites, they don’t represent what we stand for.
I fear there’s a good chance we won’t be so surprised if the exit polls say the same in 2020 as last year. That doesn’t mean we should give up. More is at stake than 2020 over the next 4 years, but only by distancing ourselves can we give ourselves the chance our effort will deserve.
By Duncan Bradeley