Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. Here’s Kevin Meagher with his top ten.
1. Fundraising must be the next leader’s top priority. The party is broke and its funding base in the affiliated trade unions looks increasingly precarious. Miliband hated raising money and avoided doing so. The next leader will find it occupies more of their time than anything else. That’s if they’re serious about running a political party.
2. Manage effectively. No-one in politics can line-manage. They really can’t. Decisions are subject to constant change because competing courtiers love sticking their oar in. And no-one takes responsibility for things because no-one wants to be left holding a problem when the music stops. (That’s why the “Edstone” passed through ten planning meetings without anyone pointing out how mental it was). And because virtually no-one in politics has ever worked anywhere else, they think this dysfunctional way of operating is normal. Blair, Brown and Miliband were all hopeless managers in their own ways. The next leader needs to learn to delegate and performance-manage his or her team. Let the general-secretary run the party machine and if they’re crap, sack them. Oh, and stop hiring inexperienced kids for important roles that they then guff up. Radical idea: advertise key jobs and hire the best applicants.
3. Avoid expensive US consultants. The hero worship of US politics by seemingly everyone who works for the party is actually closer to a creepy infatuation. Its staggering no-one on the NEC had the decency to demand that “Obama guru” David Axelrod repay the £300,000 he was paid for contributing nothing of value to the election campaign he was supposed to be masterminding. It could have funded another dozen organisers on the ground. (Members should remember this and take it out on the dozy NEC reps responsible for agreeing to hire him). For future reference, the party has enough talent and experience to run its own campaigns and doesn’t need any more Yank snake oil salesmen.
4. There is no progressive majority. If Labour isn’t convincing former Conservative voters to give it a try, then it isn’t winning. Actually, it isn’t even competing. The dozens of marginal seats that remained stubbornly blue in May need to turn red if Labour is ever going to govern again. That’s the strategy for 2020 right there. Screw deals with smaller parties, tactical voting and smart-arsed game-playing about what percentage of the electorate the party needs to creep across the finish line. Concentrate on bread and butter economic issues to the exclusion of everything else. Oh, and ditch the gesture politicking. The shroud-waving about how “immoral” the government is. (Clue: no-one cares). The noisy feminism that repels most women voters. And the endless appeals to the idle young, who can’t even be bothered to vote.
5. The party’s blend of ethnic support is unbalanced. This is awkward, but there’s no other way of saying it. The balance has now tipped too far towards the Muslim community, at the expense of enough Sikhs, Hindus and Jews voting for the party. (The latter, disastrously so). Is this why Labour never has anything to say about ISIL and home-grown Islamic extremism? And our Muslim voters are often in safe seats, stacking up whopping majorities, while we lose seats where a few hundred Skihs or Hindus could make all the difference.
6. No-one in the Scottish Labour party is fit to run a whelk stall. How many chances should the Scottish party be given to bugger things up? The first big electoral test for the new leader is whether or not they can make any headway in next year’s Scottish parliamentary elections. Better to run things from London than leave it to the hapless locals if no-one there has a half decent plan to get the party back in the game.
7. The Northern powerhouse is a good thing. Labour has foolishly ignored the radical devolution of power and accountability contained in George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse proposals. This is a mistake, especially as the concept of an east-west growth corridor linking our major northern cities is a carbon copy of John Prescott’s earlier Northern Way. It’s happening. It’s a positive move. Stop sounding so po-faced about it and back it.
8. Spring clean the Shadow Cabinet. How many MPs work on the Labour frontbench? About half of them! The shadow cabinet is stale and lazy. Time to reward the strivers and the expense of the skivers. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Caroline Flint ran ministers ragged during the last parliament, but they were about the only ones who did. The next leader should be brutal in rewarding scalp-hunters at the expense of coasting grandees and the makeweights. And gender balance is gloriously irrelevant: pick the best team.
9. Don’t patronise business.The next leader needs to make an early, big intervention to change the rhythms of the party’s relations with business leaders. They are looking for strength and clarity. They saw neither in Ed Miliband. They don’t want gushing praise, they just want to know they’re not dealing with buffoons and that Labour frontbenchers are open to new ideas and don’t see business as a magic money tree.
10. Comprehensive Spending Review. Scheduled for November. This will be the first major test since the election of the party’s tone and how it reacts to further cuts. Avoid being predictable at all costs. Explain how foolish cuts – like the abandonment of rail electrification projects – undermine economic growth and do nothing to improve the UK’s productivity. The new leader and shadow chancellor should set out the unintended consequence in a cool, rational way. They must not simply walk onto the punch and find themselves mouthing the words “these heartless Tory cuts”. After all, if it didn’t work in May, it never will.
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut