Trying to out spend Johnson’s Tories won’t work. Labour needs to be smarter

by David Ward

So here we are again choosing a new leader. And once again all the different factions of the party are getting ready to fight like cats in a sack about it. I have no doubt it will fall on deaf ears, but my appeal to the party is to put the burning anger with each other to one side for a moment and think about the next election and choose someone right for that task.

Back in 2015 I wished on these pages we would stop re-fighting the 2010 election and recognise that the EU referendum would finish Cameron’s career, change the conversation, and put in place someone such as Johnson.

In 2015 and to a lesser extent in 2017 Corbyn captured the moment with an anti austerity message. It turned out that wasn’t what was needed in 2019. But in 2024 it will be nearly a decade since Corbyn won the leadership, with a government who have been investing in public services and infrastructure outside London.

We need to take Johnson at his word about trying to improve lives in former Labour heartlands. He means it, even if he might not achieve it.

We have already tried in 2019 to out-spend Johnson and it didn’t work. The astronomic figures weren’t seen as credible. The policies were too scattergun with no sense of priority. Too many of them seemed have come straight out of a think tank seminar. Such things are all well and good, but  Local Transformation Funds or a National Energy Agency don’t correlate to people’s everyday lives. The job of the skilled politician is to make ideas sound less Wonk and more Wakefield.

By 2024 with some Conservative investment no doubt making at least some kind of difference, the out-spending approach will be even harder.

It’s good that the Government are proposing to invest in public services, and Corbyn deserves some credit for changing the conversation on that. The task will be to call out the Government when they don’t deliver on their promises. Trust is key. Exposing when you can’t trust the Tories to deliver, and convincing people they can trust us to focus to deliver on improving their daily lives.

The focus has to be on what matters to people’s lives at a granular level. From the size of school classes to the jobs in industries like fishing (and towns that rely on them) which Johnson will need to sell out to get a quick deal with the EU.

Because it will be hard to simply out spend the Conservatives I expect there will be a temptation to open up a new front against Johnson’s culturally conservative agenda. That is a topic for another day. But what we do know is that Labour isn’t going to win a majority unless it can speak persuasively to young metropolitan ‘liberal’ voters in cities, more socially conservative traditional voters in heartland seats, and to Labour/Conservative swing voters in former marginal seats in Corby or Northampton.

It’s not an impossible task – we’ve done it before. But anyone who seems to be all about any one of these groups and not the others, is probably the wrong choice.

That’s why it’s not about whether someone is ‘Corbynite’, ‘Soft left’, ‘Blue Labour’ or ‘Centrist’. Just as Jesse Jackson said at the Wattstax Music Festival in 1972 “Today on the programme you will hear gospel, and rhythm and blues. All these are just labels. We know that music is music.” We must know that Labour is Labour and what matters is appealing to a majority of the electorate.

Lastly, is a bit of charisma too much to ask from the next leader? If we’re honest, a lot of our big names come across as either pious or perpetually sad about everything. The kind of people you might avoid at the work Christmas party. There’s a reason Boris is able to glide past problems and scandals, or just hide from them in a fridge, and it’s the same reason someone was once called Teflon Tony. I’ll be looking for someone who’s able to tell a joke properly. Someone with a bit of the magic touch. Or at least isn’t completely devoid of it.

David Ward is a Labour member in South London

Tags: , , , ,

9 Responses to “Trying to out spend Johnson’s Tories won’t work. Labour needs to be smarter”

  1. Sykes says:

    This contest is a foregone conclusion really. RLB and Angela will walk it. Jess Phillips would be a comedy candidate. Nandy was a chicken coup plotter. Keir Starmer is okay but he’s a bit “wooden” on-camera and not really very good at interviews. It’s not about tribe though; RBL & Co would simply be the best choice.

  2. Anne says:

    Good article David – agree with what you are saying.

  3. Tafia says:

    Lisa Nandy. Well I thought initially she was best of a bad bunch.

    Well it sounds good…until you learn that she is the daughter of millionaire cultural Marxist Dipak Nandy, one of the founders of lobbyist group and tax exempt charity The Runnymede Trust…

    …and the granddaughter of Lord Byers who himself is no stranger to a bit of controversy, the former leader of the Liberal Party who helped to make a pedophile scandal conveniently disappear some years back…

    …and voted to remain in the EU when 64% of her Wigan constituents (who only ever see her at election time), voted to leave…

    …and has claimed over £1.6M in expenses since becoming an MP, some of which was for supporting the Palestinians.

    So, don’t let a couple of ‘Aye ups’ dropped in conversation kid you…

    And Labour think she might be the answer??

    FFS, you really couldn’t make it up.

  4. Bob says:

    Of all thise mentioned are any of them really cedible, the answeris is a resounding NO.

  5. John P Reid says:

    Excluding the 2017 the combined tory /labour vote last week of 76% (44% and 32%) was the highest since 2 of the 1979’s elections
    Beating the 1992 election with 41.6% Tory and 34.5% labour
    Even the 2015 election where UKIP were the thirds party to labour in 30% to Tory on 3.9%

    And the Scottish situation since

    So the fact blair in 2005 got 359 mp to the tories 200
    And now story 368 to labours 202

    The Tories got 12% more than labour

    The Tories just got 1.3million more working class then middle class votes the Labour Party just got 100,000 more middle class votes than working class ones

    Labour got more 100,000 more middle class votes then working class votes in 2019, in 2010 for the first time it was level pegging and estimated to be in the tens in 2015 and 2017
    31.5% working class votes to 32% middle class ones last week
    The Tories got
    46.3% working class votes to 42% middle class ones
    Labour has not only got to get a 10% swing those swings are in the working class areas and that doesn’t include Scotland it’s appealing to a different demographic to the English/Welsh working class

  6. John P Reid says:

    Posted to soon, forgot to point out
    Blair got 2.8% more than Howard in 2005, and then Cameron got 7% more than Brown in 2010, where as labour got 12% and Johnson got a bigger majority than Blair in2005

    so the swing needs to be massive.

    excluding Scotland,
    I can see Laura Pidcock and Melanie onn returning to parliament in 5 years, they’ll have to canvass the same areas, will they really feel they’ve any chance of winning, with Starmer Philips Thornberyy or Long bailey

  7. John P Reid says:

    Labour won in October 1974 with 11.4 million votes
    Labour lost in 1959 with 12.3 million votes

    the 15 years between those 2 elections could be compared to the near 15 years between 2005 and 2019

    fact Balir got 9.6 million in 2005 and won and Corbyn got 10.2 million and lost doesn’t take into account that electorate increased by 1/7th in the last 15 years

  8. John P reid says:

    it’s almost as If labour will never will win again, if only someone could have fore seen it and stopped it

Leave a Reply