Voters want security at home, at work and for the country. Right now, Labour’s not offering it

by Ian Moss

The course to the next election seems set, unless the Labour party decides to re-engage with the basics of being a political party. The Conservatives will have a significant majority whoever leads them and the opposition vote will splinter – to the SNP in Scotland and in the rest of the country a smattering to Labour, a rump to UKIP and loose change to a Liberal Democrat party that left power regretting it so much that it fled without a credible position to challenge from.

Historic generational support for Labour has been broken in Scotland. The Midlands is also weak for Labour, and the north will go next. Voters that would have turned out for “anything with a red rosette on” are taking a look at Labour and will decide it is time to give up their unconditional support. Instead of having a healthy core to build on, Labour is redefining its core. It risks setting a ceiling on its support through its ongoing mission to alienate voters that disagree with the narrow, ideological view of the world its leadership has championed since 1980.

The first past the post system means parties have to build a coalition before they go to the polls. The only way back to victory for Labour is working across the soft left to the centre to build an electoral block that can challenge for 35-40% of the votes.  The Conservative party attracted UKIP voters back to its own coalition with the threat of a Miliband government. Labour has its own UKIP problem which is currently more intractable unless it can re-connect with the working class, small businesses and people who work in trades in its heartlands.

The Conservative party has set its strategy for Labour under Corbyn in one slogan: a “threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security”. Slogans don’t work if they don’t go with the grain of people’s thoughts.

National security is an issue to people when terrorism takes a more frightening form –actions by people unconcerned with loss of civilian life in the pursuit of an extremist objective that has no obvious political solution. There is little voter sympathy with any political party that thinks we should understand terrorists more and condemn them less, but to add to that an impression that defence from aggression in itself is a bad thing and the electorate will deliver quite a clear verdict. Defence has not been a dividing line between serious political parties since Atlee but now Labour is on the wrong side of that line; even before the Falklands is thrown in.

Voters are likely to be cautious with an economy that has not recovered from the well remunerated mistakes of the banks. Work became less secure even before the crash – the certainty of working in one factory for decades with a final salary pension scheme has gone. People’s incomes are rising at slow historic rates. The impression taxes will rise to pay for “somebody else” is going to play strongly to voter concerns. Labour assumed a weak recovery would be bad for Osborne. Instead it has been terrible for Labour given the economic credibility gap.

The appeal to family plays on people’s concerns that future paths are more complex than previously. Flexible labour markets, short term contracts, rising housing costs and the pace of change in the employment market creates insecurity for parents and grandparents when compared to the economy they grew up with. ‘Family’ is the code for saying “look after yourself, not your fellow human” and it means Conservatism, not Labour. Labour’s challenge is always to say that by looking after your fellow human you will improve the lives of your family. Migration is a channel for insecurity. Labour has to recognise the general public concern and the specific impacts on wages in certain sectors.

A Labour party that looks anything like winning will give a strong message to business that it supports wealth creation whilst remaining firm in the view that inequality of incomes between top and bottom is neither justifiable nor acceptable. That the poor and low paid need state support as a matter of economic and social justice. It will show small businesses it will take on the global players that compete on different terms whilst recognising here in the UK businesses need to have the burden of taxation and regulation minimised to create jobs. It will increase investment in public services, but only if it has trust that it will be economically competent and that the money will not be wasted. It will restore the balance between workers’ rights and employers.

None of this is particularly profound; the complexity is in governing. Labour has to look and sound like a party that might be able to manage that complexity. Voters have to be convinced that for national security, economic security and their families’ security the best bet is the Labour party and that it’s the other lot they have to worry about.

Ian Moss has worked across government and is now in public affairs

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7 Responses to “Voters want security at home, at work and for the country. Right now, Labour’s not offering it”

  1. John R says:

    ” Defence has not been a dividing line between serious political parties since Atlee but now Labour is on the wrong side of that line; even before the Falklands is thrown in.” – Ian Moss

    Have you forgotten the 1983 Labour Manifesto? That was a pretty major dividing line which is presently being played out again.

  2. Madasafish says:

    I will sumarise this article as follows:

    Defence is like motherhood and apple pie. No-one really discusses it as an issue as everyone is in favour of it.

    Except Corbyn and the Labour Party.. who are dimwits and out of touch with the real world.

  3. Ian says:

    I said “serious political parties” for exactly this reason. In 1983 Labour wasn’t serious. It got hammered.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Exactly Ian

  5. Henrik says:

    Labour? Security? Defence? Patriotism?


  6. Bobby says:

    Guido Fawkes is uncovering on an almost daily basis how Sadiq Khan has associations with some vile Islamists and jihadi supporters. Either he is a clueless halfwit who is easily exploited by bigots who hate our society or he is a shifty two faced creep. That Labour is promoting him (and he says anyone who questions his past or doesn’t want to vote for him is an ‘Islamophobe’ displaying arrogance and bullying contempt for the people) says all you need to know about the absolute train wreck that is Labour. If he becomes mayor it will lead to people in the rest of the country running away from Labour even faster.

  7. Anon E Mouse says:

    Have to agree with Bobby. Selecting Khan to represent Labour in London is a disgrace. This man is either mad or bad but should NOT be representing the Labour Party in any way with the people he associates with.

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