Monday, July 04, 2016

Labour’s existential crisis needs pragmatic not philosophical solutions.


Defeat in 2010 and again in 2015 should have provided a clear and unambiguous message to the Labour party: renew or prepare for yet another long period in the wilderness years.

So what’s to be done?
1.     1. If Labour is to continue to be a major force in British politics then it needs a strong visionary leader with a clear sense of direction. Jeremy Corbyn is NOT the person for this important role. Is he willing to do it? Of course. Is he able to do it? No.
2.       2. The party also needs to look closely at its current image or ‘brand’ and remember that it cannot choose simply between style or substance as though they are in some way mutually exclusive.

The truth is that many Labour members and supporters will have opposing interpretations of why we lost or about the direction we now need to take if we are to regain much of our lost support. Some will want the party to be more passionately principled whilst others will stress the need for sensible pragmatism. There will be calls for the new leader to champion the state whilst at the same time allowing market forces to operate with minimal impunity; to attack the causes of poverty but to also be the party that promotes aspiration. The longer these conflicting priorities are debated and discussed the longer we are likely to spend in opposition.

Our core message should be simple and unambiguous: our values have not changed and our mission as a party is a clear today as it was a century ago – we really are stronger as a nation when we come together than we can ever be apart.

Therefore Labour’s next leader should only propose change for a purpose and that purpose should centre on renewing the party's policies, its systems and structures in order to ensure that we are properly equipped to exploit the opportunities to reconnect with our traditional supporters and with the millions of voters who feel so badly let down by the duplicitous leaders of UKiP.

If Labour is to learn from this defeat then it will need to be more proactive in its consultation and dialogue. Here is where I do agree with Corbyn. For too long ordinary party members have felt ignored and removed from the leadership. The new leader should learn from Corbyn and recognise that members want to be heard and they want to be listened to. Perhaps even more important though is the need for the party to be more proactive in consulting and engaging local communities. It is only when local parties reach out and get involved in their communities that people will see Labour politics as a way of helping them deal with their problems and realising their hopes for a better future.

A renewed Labour party should be the natural place for people to turn to when they want to change things because a party that gets things done locally – and nationally – is a party that will keep winning elections.

A renewed Labour party will need to reflect the aspirations of ordinary people but it will also need to be realistic about the challenges that lie ahead. The forces of conservatism are not confined to our new coalition government, they exist within our own party and it will be up to those of us who believe passionately in the core values of our movement to take on the cynics and the pessimists within our own ranks, to become the change we want to see – be it in our party or in our country.

Who we are is who we were. 

Labour's core values can and must inform any future 'rebranding' of the party but we should not be afraid to do things differently. New Labour may well be over but under the right leader a Labour Party renewed is alive with possibility.

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