To win in 2015 we have to do two things. One is that we have to want to win, and the second is to show that Labour in unequivocally on the side of Middle England.
Wanting to win means being more determined than the Tories. And, however fractious things may be in Westminster, in the marginals a combination of money, Crosby nous and cabinet manpower – I use the word advisedly – is being deployed to some effect.
And the deliberate unshackling of the coalition parties may be an easy target for criticism in the Westminster village. It makes obvious sense in the frontline marginals where people are even now choosing which political party they want to form the next government.
Showing that our policies are aligned with Middle England should be easy. Here in Northampton we have a work ethic that would put Calvin to shame. We look after our families, care for our community. And in return for working hard and living by the rules, we expect to be able to live a decent life in a decent society with government on our side, facilitating the process.
The Tories have problems with these concepts. In place of a decent life, people here have seen falling living standards and a cap on aspiration. The Tories were blindsided by the cost of living crisis. On top of that, people who have worked hard to climb the socioeconomic ladder have found themselves hit by higher tax bills and loss of support for childcare or child benefit. Worse, they have seen their children’s prospects blighted by soaring university tuition fees, house prices and shrinking job prospects.
And in place of the decent society we have the bedroom tax. It does not affect so many people, but is a symbol of Tory social policy. Along with the growth of foodbanks and rise of homelessness, there is a growing sense of unease over the direction in which society is heading, and an understanding that it cannot all be blamed on immigration or Europe.
It is not surprising that people in this marginal are questioning whether the Tories are on their side. Even Michael Gove has repeated the criticism of elitism that we so often hear on the doorstep.
But the big question is, if not the Tories, then who? Labour’s job in the next few months is to provide the answer on the doorstep, in the marginals, with simple, clear policies about what we will do to improve living standards, support aspiration and give our drifting country a sense of direction.
Sally Keeble is prospective parliamentary candidate for Northampton North. This article is based on her speech at Progress Political Weekend 2014 in the opening plenary session, Building a majority Britain: How do we win in 2015?
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