There are two elephants standing in the middle of Labour party HQ. One only quite problematic, the other very much so: Labour’s economic credibility and the dreaded south. The former is unfortunately the hardest to crack. If we can sort these two problems out then we are certain to win a majority in 2015. Continue assuming that the current polls reflect what will happen on polling day and we could all be in for a shock.
The cost of living crisis is a powerfully persuasive message; it is relevant, real and direct. It did not fail Ronald Reagan, but the electorate is smarter than it used to be; it will take more than an emotionally provocative and optimistic ad to win this election. The electorate’s ability to trust Labour with the economy is central to our core message hitting home and translating into votes. Without economic credibility we will not be given a fair hearing in 2015. And we will be left outside in the pouring rain while the other two ‘serious’ parties are dancing their way back into No 10.
The Conservatives know this. They know that, given a fair hearing, we will be a force to be reckoned with, and so Crosby and co will do everything in their power to make sure we do not get that fair hearing we deserve. They want to rerun their 1992 election campaign, twisting the arm of the electorate to stay on course and ‘not let Labour take us plunging back into economic wilderness’. The ads write themselves. Labour HQ will have to make sure that our rebuttal operation is nothing short of sheer genius to counter this, because you can bet they will be slinging more mud than can be found in Glastonbury (on the wettest of years).
Broadly, this boils down to two things: a promise to balance the books, and to provide hope of growth and prosperity that will bring the cost of living crisis to an end. If this is going to work, the electorate have to be convinced that changing tack will make their lives better; at the moment they ae not quite there yet, especially where this matters. Southern voters are seeing their real wages rise. If we are to win those essential southern seats we have to find a way of talking their language and reflecting what really matters to them.
There appears to be no end in sight either – with funds tighter than ever, it is nearly at the point where good old-fashioned Labour organising will not be able to hold off the wave of Tory cash, because we will have so little money to play with. At some point we will have to narrow our key seat list, campaigners will need to go to the seats that will mean the difference between being in government or not, and scarce resources mean that our hands will be tied.
It all feels frustratingly obvious at times, and a bit gloom and doom, but it does not have to be if the party listens and gets it right. The first one-term opposition in a generation could be ahead.
Lauren Crowley is a member of Progress. She tweets @Lauren_Crowley
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