We are good at opposition. Be it the bedroom tax or the sell-off of our forests, rarely have we missed a Tory own goal, and the united, assured outrage that our party does so well has put paid to many of the Conservatives’ more radical proposals.
This confidence has allowed us to stand up as a voice for the most vulnerable in society, and is something we should value. However, when we stop being asked what we are against, and instead what we are for, all too often our confidence deserts us. Though the goal of a radical party is to make hope possible, not despair convincing, our current vision for Britain is so woolly and caveated, it is difficult to make hope possible at all.
This is the obstruction to victory in 2015.
Compare us to the Tories. Every message that comes from CCHQ can be condensed down into a single hard-hitting aphorism. If we are to compete, then we need to cut out the fuzzy nature of our vision for the country. One Nation is a slogan, but not yet an offering that will get us to Number 10. And in order for that offering to form Ed needs to realise that he cannot please all sections of the party.
Out must go weak Calpol politics, and in must come decision, and division.
So far Ed has managed a pretty impressive balancing act: a speech which faces up to the realities of social security provision ends up diluted to homeopathic levels, then disappearing; an announcement relating to fiscal responsibility ends up entombed within a policy review. But this balancing act is a major problem – if you try to please everybody, then you will end up pleasing nobody.
Thus in order to win we need to make a choice, decide what to do with the country, and be confident about doing it.
Our argument on the economy needs to be one that combines employment and growth with fiscal responsibility, proving to the electorate that once more we can make the tough choices necessary to be a party of government.
We should argue for a social security founded on responsibility and getting back to work, backing this rhetoric by supporting a jobs guarantee, universal living wage, a reversal of cuts to DLA and a flexible welfare system which includes the contributory principle.
We need to face up to the financial difficulties that will come in 2015, and argue that there are ways in which our public services, if reformed, can deliver more, while costing less.
And we need to argue for a combining of health and social care to make one integrated system that can serve Britain’s needs.
The party may decide to go in a different direction to the one that I offer, and, even if it does, at least the choice will have been made, and party members, supporters and activists can rally behind it in time for 2015. Ultimately, if we reject Calpol politics, decide on our vision for society, and confidently take that vision to the public, then Labour can, and will, win a majority in 2015.
Aled Jones is a member of Progress. He is attending Progress Political Weekend which begins today
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