Dialling 999, booking a one-way ticket to Dignitas or buying a Lottery ticket and hoping aren’t realistic options so Keir Starmer and Labour face some hard thinking.
Crushing defeat in Hartlepool, lost council seats and failing to take back mayoral posts from Boris Johnson’s Conservatives leaves Labour still tumbling down an already queasily high electoral mountain.
What Labour must do to win again isn’t easy but to start a national conversation here are eight ideas to get the talking started:
1. What is Labour for?
Fundamental yet too many voters don’t know and when they do, don’t like it. Starmer must paint in vivid colours the fairer, stronger, better, more prosperous country he’d build. The NHS is Labour’s greatest, most enduring gift to the nation but it needs to offer more than championing a single public service.
2. Good Policies
The perception Labour lacks policies is the ugly twin of too many voters ignorant of what it stands for. Practical, attractive plans and ideas to improve lives that can be shouted from roof tops would fill gaps.
3. Be Relevant
Here the party has to appeal to people in jobs as well as the jobless, self-employed and employed, middle earners and low waged, private and not just public sector workers plus the old alongside the young. One Labour MP complained too many of his constituents thought it represented only benefit claimants and migrants. That’s a bigoted caricature and both groups deserve representation anyway but it must appeal to self-interest as much as altruism.
4. Optimism Beats Pessimism
Be upbeat about the potential of people and Britain and what could be achieved. The triumphant can-do spirit is infectious. The historic mindset of the Left is failures, sell-outs and betrayals. When the country’s riddled with injustices and inequalities, families and communities held back, this isn’t a moment for champagne but Labour optimism for change would go a long way.
5. Culture Matters
Locally and nationally, many take pride in their area and the nation. Criticism of Starmer for appearing on TV with union flags is ludicrous. Tories focus on statues to divert people. Brexit serves a similar role. Redefine patriotism as championing British values of fairness and decency – and stop the Tories hijacking flags.
6. Keep It Simple
Take Back Control, Get Brexit Done, Keep Brexit Done, Levelling Up, Build Back Better – all Tory slogans. All dishonest, too. The point is Labour hasn’t come up with anything snappy since Tough On Crime and a five-point pledge card for 1997. Soundbite phrases work.
7. Hammer Your Enemy
Sleazy Johnson’s tipping point will be found and incompetence may prove his Achille’s heel yet a Tory Government spending big during the pandemic is a difficult target. Every Tory failure must be ruthlessly exposed.
8. Unite Or Die
Leadership is bringing a big tent party together by emphasising they have more in common than divides them. Left-winger John McDonell is right the party lacked policies and New Labour’s Peter Mandelson that Blair’s the only winner in a line of defeats to the Tories. Lock the pair in a room and don’t let them out until they find common ground.