Ten hard truths

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. As leadership ballot papers are despatched, here’s John Slinger with his top ten for a centre-left party that is serious about winning.

1. Elect someone capable of genuine leadership, who can speak to and for the whole country. Labour members and supporters should spurn the view that this selection process is primarily about them; it should be about the voters.

2. Appeal to people who voted Conservative and for other parties with policies which appeal beyond Labour’s declining ‘core vote’. A winning alliance elected us in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Only leadership as in point 1) can encourage a genuine conversation with all voters rather than ourselves.

3. End the constitutional link with the unions to show that Labour is above sectional interests. No party should hard-wire significant political influence for one section of society into its constitution. Unions should remain close friends, enabling relationships with other sectors to be nurtured.

4. Seek to become the party for workers and business by unashamedly building new bridges to both unions and business, the sector employing more than four in five UK workers.

5. Focus on ideas that work by following wherever evidence leads, rejecting ideology and ignoring protest group purism. That could mean a greater role for the state where markets should be more competitive or more involvement by the private sector in providing, but not owning, public services.

The party would condemn failure in public and private sectors, and encourage both sectors where they succeed. The cases of Mid Staffs, Hillsborough, Jimmy Savile and others show the dichotomy of ‘public sector good/private sector bad’ is false. Labour should incubate excellence wherever it is found.

6. Champion continued EU membership by emphasising its benefits for our economy and for our global influence. With the exception of a few leading politicians such as Pat McFadden, debate on EU membership has long lacked a positive, effective political voice, thereby offering the field to those who peddle the myth that Brexit is the panacea to complex global problems.

7. Stand up for strong defence and diplomacy because at a time of growing global instability Britain must be a confident member of Nato, a proud and trusted ally of the United States and willing to play a leading role in maintaining global security and enforcing the Responsibility to Protect doctrine where appropriate. This would help convince the public that it is a party of hard-nosed, principled government not pious protest.

8. Emphasise responsibility not just rights so that “I know my responsibilities” displaces “I know my rights” in the mental landscape of citizens, companies and organisations. At the state level, the responsibility of government to assist reflects citizens’ own responsibilities. For example, on healthcare, people should be encouraged to stay healthy through exercise and good diet. On welfare, the contributory principle enshrined by Beveridge would be reintroduced, with assistance provided because citizens accept their responsibility to seek work, or to desist from having large families if they cannot afford them. On the personal level, a ‘responsibilities agenda’ would encourage volunteering within communities, enabled but not directed by the centre.

9. Bring about a social mobility revolution so that Britain becomes as famous for meritocracy as it is for Downton Abbey. The work of the Sutton Trust and Alan Milburn’s Social Mobility Commission should inspire more action to bring about greater equality of opportunity, appealing to people from all backgrounds who believe that aspiration and fairness are not mutually exclusive.

10. Transform how we do politics through a constitutional convention involving the public as much as politicians. It could introduce a new bloc of Citizen Senators, selected by lot, into the House of Lords with similar initiatives on local councils. It might lower the voting age, introduce digital voting and above all, usher in a sensible system of proportional representation such as the mixed-member systems of Germany and New Zealand which preserve directly elected representatives while ensuring that parliament reflects the proportion of votes cast for each party.

The above are some thoughts on what a winning party of the centre left would look like. On 12 September, we’ll know if the Labour party has space for ideas like this.

John Slinger is a strategic communications consultant, and chair of Pragmatic Radicalism


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24 Responses to “Ten hard truths”

  1. william says:

    Either Labour becomes an ever shrinking debating society, or it tries to become a party of government of the UK. This entails support from Scotland (thankyou Gordon Brown for having wiped out Labour), Wales, and non London England,which is at present solidly blue. The clue is in the Anti Spam.The requirement for an opt-in for donations from members of Unions will,, as things stand , bankrupt the party. Shit or bust.

  2. Carl N says:

    Sounds great, you should join the LibDems, that’s basically their platform. 🙂

  3. John Stone says:

    Per 2, there’s more value in appealing to people who voted UKIP, Green and didn’t vote at all than those that voted Tory

    Number 4 is just more triangulation, support the people who support you.

    I don’t give a monkeys about 7

    Any more motherhood and apple pie?

  4. John, wouldn’t it be more honest to start a new party rather than hijack an existing one? By wanting to change the core beliefs of the Labour Party, you seem to be copying what the Leninists of the Militant tried to do all those years ago.

  5. John P Reid says:

    3 and 6′ no .unions have a role to play, the ones affiliated should stay that way, the ones who aren’t shouldn’t be allowed back in and it’s possible to be on the right of the party and anti the EU

    This article is al well and good but
    Many Yvette voters are giving Jeremy their second choice many Andy supporters are giving Yvette their second choice

    In the second round Jeremy will come first, if Yvette comes second,with Andy votes in the third round she can over take Jeremy
    If Andy comes second in the second Roumd behind Jetemy,and Yvettes knocked out, then more of Yvettes votes will transfer to Jeremy ,and he’ll win on the second round,

    Forget Yvette can’t make a decision, forget the Tory press will call her Laurie Penny for Islington, she’s the only one who can stop Corbyn,and the future survival of the party will be over in the next few weeks otherwise,

  6. @John Stone,

    I’m not that keen on #6. I used to be generally pro-EU and, in principle, I still think it’s a good idea.

    My confidence in the EU, and my confidence in European social democracy generally, has been shaken by the failure of the euro though. Germany’s treatment of Greece is just appalling.

    I’ll change back to supporting the EU once there is a system of fiscal transfers in place, not unrepayable loans, to ensure the eurozone can function effectively. I can’t see that happening any time soon though.

  7. Donald Smith says:

    John Stone, point 2
    % of electorate voting Labour 20.1. Assume ALL Green votes go for Corbyn Labour +2.5, assume UKIP exLabour return – perhaps 1.5 = 24% and roughly equal to Tories on 24.3%.
    Add non-voters. Non-voting in 2015 33.6%. Lowest non-voting since 1974 = 22%, more usually 25%. So, perhaps 8-9% available to persuade to vote Labour. That may be harder than you think, but is certainly worth going for.
    Then you need to offset, any losses in Labour vote from those who do not like Corbyn’s policies. This may be up to 4%.
    So – a working assumption
    Lab 2015 = 20.1% of electorate
    losing 4%, but gaining 4% from Green and UKIP
    add non-voters = up to 29%

    Then what about UKIP voters returning to the Tories? Tories = 24.3% in 2015 + half UKIP = 28.5%

    Without appealing to Conservatives you end up neck and neck with the Tories, assuming you can get high support from non-voters.

    It’s certainly worth trying but, is rather risky.

  8. Bob Crossley says:

    I don’t understand how chanting the New Labour 10 Commandments gets us any further forward.

    The Blair faction seems to have lapsed into magical thinking – just follow the ritual, say the magic words, and everything will just fall into your lap, the leadership, the adulation, the landslides and all. Here’s a really hard truth for you: it didn’t happen that way before, so there’s no reason that it will happen again.

  9. Tafia says:

    24% of the entire registered electoral base voted Tory, 22% voted Labour, a staggering 34% didn’t vote at all. And that’s just registered voters. It’s beleived that as many as one in ten of the adult population doesn’t even bother registering to start with.

    There is more mileage in engaging young potential voters from that 34% than chasing after the 2 or 3 5 that might swing from Tory if you bribe them enough. Ask Corbyn – that’s where a huge swathe of his support is coming from and where a huge swathe of the SNPs support came from.

    Put enough passion into things and people will voye – the Scottish Referendum proves that.

  10. John P Reid says:

    Peter actin, Corbyn would be popular with voters from other parties if they want thief party to do well, as he’ll. drug votes for them.

    Donald smith losing 4% is that 4 of the vote, try 14%

    Bob Crossley, you’re tight in one sense

    Daniel sleight, to form a new party you have to assume even with the le total system backimg it impossible that you’ll gain others votes, the SDP had a good idea they were going to take millions of votes, yes if Corbyn wins millions will stop voting labour, but they wouldn’t neccasarily vote for a new centre left party, but Abatain, or hold this nose vote Tory, or libdem ,look at he amount of people who’ve switched back forth from libdems in the last 10 years.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Peter actin, Corbyn would be popular with voters from other parties if they want the other party to do well, as he’ll. drug votes for them.

    Donald smith losing 4% is that 4 of the vote, try 14%

    Bob Crossley, you’re tight in one sense

    Daniel sleight, to form a new party you have to assume even with the le total system backimg it impossible that you’ll gain others votes, the SDP had a good idea they were going to take millions of votes, yes if Corbyn wins millions will stop voting labour, but they wouldn’t neccasarily vote for a new centre left party, but Abatain, or hold this nose vote Tory, or libdem ,look at he amount of people who’ve switched back forth from libdems in the last 10 years.

  12. Madasafish says:

    The Labour party will become electable when they have a Leader who appeals to voters..not ALL voters but about 40% of them..

    So far after Tony Blair, they have picked people you would not want to buy a drink for, let alone vote for. I am sure all four Leadership contenders are very pleasant in their own way but I would not want to buy any of them a drink…

    All this agonising is irrelevant, just pick a normal looking and sounding person who speaks normally.. (by definition this excludes: bald men, bearded men, Liverpool accents, and women who talk as if they want to bore you to sleep).

    Only trouble is: there are none…

  13. Labour’s biggest problem is that our current electoral system is in woeful need of updating. We need to ditch the old first past the post system and adopt some form of proportional representation that will give the UK a parliament that represents the people and their views. That way Labour will not feel it has to hide its basic principles, and emulate the Tories to some extent, to gain power. I think that the whole Labour leadership contest has been more focused on who might win a general election in 2020 rather than who would be the best leader of the party.

  14. Tafia says:

    Mike Hodges – we had a referendum on AV. AV was rejected (despite the fact that both Labour and the tories use it in their leadership elections and despite the fact that Scotland, Wales and NI all use different forms of voting in their regional governments).

    The reason AV was selected after much consultation and deliberation was two-fold:-

    1. It is simple – complicated methods of voting tend to cause lower turnouts.
    2. It maintains the Constituency link. Research after research showed over and ober again that the public like Constituencies and like to identify with ‘their man’ even if it isn’t the one they voted for.

    Straight PR is not popular with people because they do not have any idea about who they will end up with, governing them, in their specific area – they find the idea of party lists off-putting bordering on insider trading.

    Straight PR is also extremely unpopular outside of Engladnd – the devolved regions seeing themselves drowned out. So it would have to be bastardised with seats initially allocated on the size of the voter base in each region, then the allocation of seats based on the votes cast for the relevant parties within that region.

    For example, based on 2015 Scotland would initially be awarded 8.5% of the seats, then the parties votes within Scotland allocated those seats based on how well they did.

    I’ll work out a 500 seat UK assembly later on as an example and I don’t think you will like the result.

    Possibly the way ahead is scrap teh Lords and have a Lower house of 500 regionallly assessed Deputies, and an Upper House of 500 Constituency MPs.

    There’s another method as well of reducing the Constituencies to 300 and the winner and runner-up going to Westminster to represent, tempered by parties only being allowed to field one candidate in each constituency and no ‘false flags’ (ie Independent Labour etc – you either stand for a party as as purely an independent unaffiliated) That way every Constitiency will be represented by twp MPs, from different political allegiances who between then represent the wishes of over 60% of the voters of the Constutuency as a rule

  15. Tafia says:

    As promised, just for a laugh, what a 500 seat strictly PR based Lower House would look like, using PR based on the 4 componant countries.

    Firstly, the seats are allocated to each componant country representing it’s total voter base whether they voted or not:-

    England 413 seats
    Scotland 46 seats
    Wales 26 seats
    NI 15 seats

    These then re-allocated according to vote within each componant country, using the standard 5% qualifying cut-off.

    England (413 seats)
    Con 177, Lab 138, UKIP 62, LD 36

    Scotland (46 seats)
    SNP 23, Lab 13, Con 7, Lib Dem 4

    Wales (26 seats)
    Lab 9, Con 7, UKIP 4, Plaid 4, LD 2

    Northern Ireland (15 seats0
    DUP 5, SF 4, UUP, 3, SDLP 2, APNI 1

    Making a UK lower house (needing 249 as an overall, provided SF don’t sit)

    Con 191
    Lab 160
    UKIP 66
    LD 42
    SNP 23
    DUP 5
    SF 4
    Plaid 4
    UUP 3
    SDLP 2
    APNI 1

    Meaning that a Tory/UKIP coalition would hold power

  16. Mike Homfray says:

    I wouldn’t want to vote for this sort of party. I’m not centre and if I wanted a centre party I would have joined one

  17. paul barker says:

    The problem with this approach is that many Corbyn supporters have a different idea of what Winning involves. For them building a mass movement comes before winning Elections. The 2 sides are asking different questions, using different language. The whole contest has involved both sides talking past each other.
    In any case most of the votes will have been cast within a week, leaving both sides a few weeks to decide what to do with their victory & defeat.

  18. John P Reid says:

    Mike Homfray, you rejoined labour in 2010, you must have realized even with Eds victory,that there were those who have these views here,

  19. tim says:

    @ Tafia
    Great research on the numbers-first I have seen on what would have happened if it was in place after the 2015 GE.

    You seem quite knowledgeable on the subject, and I agree with your points on PR and the constituency system. Are you aware of any way that a PR system can be in place and maintain those constituency links? I suppose it could be that you have to live in the borough you are assigned (that’s the thing-who chooses!) for a minimum of 10 years to avoid parachuting etc.

  20. P Kroman says:

    Wow so glad I never joined up to Labour. If these are hard truths you guys have to get used to, then hey good luck with the ‘soul searching’. This blog entry is ghastly

  21. bob smith says:

    I am shocked by the blog link on this page, vibrators and sex tips. Is this some sort of sick joke. I’m so very well outraged. ‘Vibrators for Everyone’? Is this who Labour gets its tips off then, seriously you people are doomed if you follow this persons advice.

  22. A Frog says:

    I get adverts for iPlayer, blood donations and phones Bob. Maybe you are getting tailored advertising?

  23. Al Frog says:

    Nice analysis Tafia. A regional based PR like the Euros might be a good choice. Most would then get someone as a regional MP that matched their beliefs. I live in East Anglia, so it’s pretty much all blue but that hides the truth that many vote Labour, Lib Dem or now UKIP. It must feel the same to be a Scouse Tory. The current system is not only unrepresentative but exaggerates the north/south divide, which is unhealthy. Southern Socialists and Northern Tories usually have no representation or anyone they can go to for local support. PR might mean we had a UKIP / Conservative coalition now but it would at least be democratic. I can live with that, I don’t want to live in a Socalist Dictatorship any more that a Fascist one.

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