Sunday, 10 May 2015

For Labour the next five years need to be about hope not scaremongering

A couple of years ago I wrote an article for the Progress website in which I argued significant parts of our party were taking an approach of opposing everything the coalition government did as a matter of principle rather than being selective in our opposition.

I made the case that the ‘Digital Bennites’ who took up the former approach were out of touch with the electorate and that the ‘principled’ opposition of the 1980’s would lead to an inevitable result.

It’s fair to say that the comments on my original article were not the most complimentary that I have ever received.

It gives me no pleasure to write that two years on we did see a Labour party hurtle towards the general election, with Ed as a modern day Michael Foot, out of touch with huge swathes of the population who failed to connect with a message most activists had difficulty in enunciating.

Let us be clear it wasn’t Ed that failed last Thursday. We all did.

We expected voters up and down the country to share our disdain for an uncaring Tory government whilst we failed to recognise the evidence of a gradually improving economy. We ignored the stark fact that to many people feeling a little better off had more credibility than being told we had 24 hours to save an NHS which for millions is still working just fine.

What did we expect? We spent 5 years telling people the sky was falling in and then acted surprised when they didn’t believe us because for millions of voters it hasn’t.

We are entering a leadership debate which will frame the future of our party for a generation. The outcome of that debate must be about providing not only a safety net to the most vulnerable in our society but just as importantly a clear hope for anyone who has ambition to improve their lives.

Now that we have a majority Tory government there will be a huge clamour for the digital bennites to come out in force. It is a clamour that must be restrained because it is one which simply doesn't resonate with most voters.

Yes, five years of Tory rule will be unsettling to us but not everything they do will be wrong.

Our opposition must be smart because we must be under no misapprehension the Tories narrative of building economic growth and encouraging entrepreneurialism will be.

More than ever the case needs to be made that our opposition should be constructive. How will we ever hope to reach out to ambitious and aspirational voters with five more years of scaremongering?

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