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.