How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? We need to be more than just the least worst option

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Sam Fowles looks at the need for a clear vision.

The biggest mistake Labour could make in the search for victory in 2015 is thinking that’s what’s most important. Labour needs to win but winning is the easy part. We also need to actually change people’s minds. Labour needs to give the country a big idea of what Britain could be in the 21st Century. We need to aspire to be more than simply the least worst option in the existing paradigm.

The specifics of policy and politics are important but Labour needs to do more. There needs to be a bigger reason. We need to offer the electorate a different idea of society and we need to give each and every person a tangible stake in it. Individual policies must all drive towards this goal.

If government is seen merely as economic stewards or national regulators conservatives will always be at an advantage. Government needs to be seen as the expression of society, the heart of a living breathing organism which engages us all and through which we fulfill our responsibilities to each other.

Conservatives have a clear idea of society. We are pure individuals, viciously self interested. Empathy is irrelevant and the absence of fortune is the cardinal sin. This happens to be a worldview which perpetuates the power and wealth of a Tory donating elite.

But it is a complete idea which electors can grasp. Labour needs to offer a competing worldview. By all logic of economics and history the crash of 2008 should have been a social democratic moment. It wasn’t because no one made a social democratic argument.

The temptation to bow to the poles and grind out 34% is great. But such leading from behind makes for ever greater disengagement with politics. Disengagement benefits only the right. Poles are a product of discourse, so Labour needs to offer an alternative discourse. Cameron and Osborne are weak. Labour can probably beat them based on demographic advantages and not screwing up too publicly. But the simple law of averages suggests that the Conservatives will eventually elect someone competent.

When they do Ed Miliband’s talk of responsible capitalism and the cost of living won’t be enough. Margaret Thatcher was the most successful political leader of the last 50 years because she redefined the roles of the citizen and the state. Clement Attlee did the same. It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s society.

Sam Fowles is a researcher in International Law and Politics at Queen Mary, University of London and blogs at the Huffington Post 

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5 Responses to “How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? We need to be more than just the least worst option”

  1. uglyfatbloke says:

    Does that mean embracing policies just because they are fair and just?
    Will Ed stand up for democratic reform? Scrapping trident and it’s replacement and the preposterous new tank programme? Extending the upper threshold of employment tax (NI) so that everyone pays a more equitable share? Ensuring that the poorest families get child benefit just like middle class ones? How about giving small business (and a small business is not one with 30-100 employees and an 8-digit turnover) a fair crack at small government contracts ?

  2. Andy says:

    Sadly because of its current format, especially its naive view on AWS IF Labour does win it will be due it being the least worse option.

  3. Carol Hulme says:

    Cancel HS2., save the hard pressed taxpayer and the next generations billions of pounds, plus interest payments on this vanity scheme.Look at alternatives (51m). Save the environment from being trashed. Save peoples lives from being blighted for the next 20 plus years. There will be a lot of votes up for grabs if Labour have the courage to ditch this unwanted project.

  4. Tafia says:

    All Westminster elections are the least worst option. Very few MPs get more than 50% of the vote in their constituency and rely on the opposing votes being split between several options. When you throw in that turn-out in a GE is usually 60-odd%, then really 50% of the vote represents less than 35% of the eligable electorate. In fact, in a substantial number of seats the ‘didn’t vote’ is higher than the winners share.

  5. GS says:

    “We need to be more than just the least worst option”

    It will take a generation to clear the PLP of the Blairite belief that Labour can, and can only, win by a “least worst” approach, by being almost totally indistinguishable from the Tories but offering a bit more competence and nicer smiles.

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