Winning in 2015 requires an understanding of where the electorate will be. By anticipating now where people will be then, we can begin to build now a set of winning policies.
However, as an audience member pointed out in the Progress political weekend session ‘Building the new centre ground: understanding the electorate of 2015’, we cannot afford to lose voters along the way; we must seek to understand where the centre-ground currently stands and ensure we are in line with it. Our starting point must be where the electorate is, not where we hope it is.
Voters have not moved to the left since the financial crisis, said Alexander, and, while they may agree with us in opposing excesses, they care more about their own pay packets. This I wholeheartedly agree with. Yes, it’s important for us to take a stance on bankers’ bonuses and phone hacking, and we have led the way on those issues, but when it comes to election time people will care more about their energy bills, the cost of petrol and their bank balances. We need to prove that we are the party that is best able to manage the economy in order to ensure a better economic deal for the ‘squeezed middle’ and those at the bottom. We must show the electorate that we have a plan to improve their lives, rather than just being a party of protest.
The importance of protest was, however, highlighted by Alexander nonetheless. Without an electorate that is angry with the government, we will not be able to kick the government out. We need to amplify the anger that people feel, while giving them hope of a better alternative. We need to find out what their hopes are and come up with a plan to meet them.
Understanding the electorate involves getting out there and listening to people. As Graeme Cooke suggested, we need to be building alliances and ensuring that we are the voice of the people, as well as the leader of the people. Contacting people in the final three weeks of an election is not enough, stated Alexander; we need to cultivate voters.
As well as listening to the public, we need to get better at listening to party members. This is something we’ve made a start on, but there’s more to be done to create a culture of constant discussion within the party to ensure that we are constantly modernising. Our manifesto for 2015 must reflect the views of ordinary party members and the general public.
Politics is about shaping the agenda, as well as reflecting the public’s beliefs, but to stand any chance of winning in 2015 we need to understand the electorate.
Winning in 2015 may not be the easiest task, but we can do it providing we modernise our party and show the electorate that we have the ideas that will benefit them directly. It’s down to each one of us to renew the party and ensure it is in a good place to win over the electorate in 2015.
Bex Bailey is the East Midlands’ youth representative on the National Policy Forum
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