One of the benefits of social media is the annual reminder of past events. I love May 1st when friends and colleagues pop up on my timleines with the memories of May 1st 1997. Forever 1st May will be a reminder of the historic Labour victory in 1997 for me. It certainly changed my life!
Whilst I am reaching an age where I regularly feel nostaligic the 1st May reminder goes deeper than that. It was a profound moment in the nations history and specifically for the Labour Party in 2020 where I realise there are many members who have no experience or idea of what it takes to win.
In one sense this is why this blog exists. Not to hark back to the 1997 victory (and the ones in 2001 and 2005 and the narrow loss in 2010) but to constantly update how Labour wins back somewhere like Loughborough. It still needs the Loughborough seat to form a majority government. The fact that there is now a 7,169 Tory majority in the seat is a constant reminder of how big the mountain Labour has to climb is in order to stand a chance over the next decade of returning to power.
The precise policies and remedies will constantly change over time but the basic principles remain the same. What frustrates me all too often is having to go through making the same mistakes time after time inside the Party.
In a place like Loughborough and other marginals the most important thing to do is listen to every part of the community. You only win by building a broad coalition of support. That’s why seats like this are a microcosm of the entire country. It’s about building a coalition of support outside our so-called base. You can’t just pile up support from various parts of the electorate. And it usually means some really tough conversations and a few compromises along the way.
I learned this lesson harshly when I first set out in politics. Knocking on doors in my home area.. a place I thought could or shold be Labour just outside Leiecster but always returned Tories and then later a few Lib Dems. I may return to these early days and my swift shift into supporting the modernisatoin of the Labour Party from my early flirtation with the Bennite wing of the Party. It’s alos when I started wearing a tie! My first political compromise and the road to New Labour! I realised our voters didn’t want their representative to look scruffy!
Unfortunately within the Party it feels as though we need to re-learn these lessons. We need to listen to people we want to vote for us and understand their concerns, hopes and dreams. We need to understand their aspirations. It still sounds from too many on the left that we ‘don’t get them’ and in fact are quite dismissive of their world view. I saw some reaction on social media to the Keir Starmer reponse on patriotism this week (another seperate blog on this I suspect) and it highlights why we have a massive problem in the so-called RedWall seats. The hard left rejects patriotism as racism/ xenophobia. We have to win back our understanding of patriotism before we can hope to connect.
The path to victory is hard and requires some sacrifices along the way. Social media echo chambers mean too many Party members think we did ‘win the argument’ in 2020 and the disasterous election result was’nt that bad!
I will come back to Starner time and time again, but my initial lack of enthusiasm for him was his inability to articulate during his campiagn that there would need to be some tough policy choices ahead. Instead all the candidates felt they had to show the Party membership they would keep large parts of a 2019 manifesto that had been roundly rejected by the electorate. The path back into Downing Street starts with listening to those outside the Party and social media echo chambers. When both our leader and the Manifesto were so roundly rejected lets tackle both issues!
The modern solutions for the problems faced by Britain in the 2020s will follow and don’t need to be set out in detail just yet. Not the other way round where we try to fit our past solutions (state natoinalisation for exemple) into a modern setting. The post Covid-19 world will hopefully give us space and time to think very differnently about political and social solutions to the problems of the modern world. I am certainly not advocating going back to 1997 and never have. My progressive politics has always been about finding modern policy solutions to the problems of the future.
That’s where my personal focus will be in the next phase of my life. I have joined the Fabians for exampke and during Covid-19 am finding time to read and study more widely. My persoanl policy priorities will remain around economic justsice and wellbeing (in its widest sense) but I will dip in and out of other policies priorities over time.
Once again on this blog the above focus will look at what some of this means practically for a place like Loughborough. Once Lockdown is over I am going to be out and about in the constituency just chatting and listening. What do people not involved – or even usually interested in politics feel about themselves and their local community. I have seena brief taste of this as part of the Town Deal Board, where I pushed us to make sure we led genuine community engagement. I urged this because I know all too often policy makers have different experiences and outlook to those we aim to serve! I wasn’t disappointed. But again more of this later. What the public wants and thinks ‘government/councils’ can deliver is again part of the reason for political disconnnect and disengagement. I will write about this process as the plans for the town develop.
So as I conclude, I am really making a plea to the Party and its supporters to be open to change after listening to voters. Don’t dream up ideas of political education or assuming the electorate have been duped by the MSM. When we listen we can start to properly engage and not lecture. Then we might start to slowly earn some trust back from the wasted last 5 years.
(First Draft – Comment and build this together!)