Labour needs to rebuild trust with voters, which means we can’t promise everything to everyone

by Tom Clements

As much as I had deep reservations about Corbyn’s ability to win an election, I hadn’t expected us to fall as low as we did on Thursday. After the initial anger started to fade, the stark realisation that we could yet drop further brought a resolute determination. We must do better next time.

But before we can start to think about winning the leadership of the Party, we need to accept some of the blame for allowing the Party to fall into disrepute. It was our failure in 2015 to challenge Corbyn on policy rather than management that allowed Corbynism to blossom in our Party and wilt in the country.

But now we’re here again, we have to grasp this opportunity. We need to work to ensure that a viable, progressive leader emerges victorious in 2020. To elect someone that resonates with the country rather than plays the right notes to the Party. We might not get another chance.

To do that, however, we have to be more than competent managers. And our vision can’t be a return to Blair or Wilson. We can’t just repeat history and expect it to work but we can look for the rhymes.

In 2006, Tony Blair declared that the USP of New Labour was “aspiration and compassion reconciled”. He was successful because he appreciated that to be able to help those at the bottom, you had to support people to do better for themselves and their families. It was this revolutionary combination that allowed Blair to build a coalition that was able to inspire the country.

But not only is that not enough today, it is not right for today.

If success in 1997 required compassion to be united with aspiration; today, we must marry compassion with responsibility to rebuild the red wall.

But this is not just a neat rhetorical device. Compassion and responsibility are a blueprint to reconnect with the forgotten heartlands. To win back the voters who lent their support to the Tories this time so that we can build a better future.

Talk to anyone in places like Morley or Don Valley for any length of time and it will become clear that they care deeply for their friends, their high street and their place in the world. But be sure that they don’t expect improvements to be handed to them on a plate. They understand more than most that nothing worth having comes easy.

Whatever the reaction of some on the left to Thursday’s result, people aren’t indifferent to the plight of the thousands of families that rely on food banks to get through the month. It is their charity that keeps them going. But if we are to get a Labour government that can deal with the increase of in work poverty then we need to get real about the need for welfare reform.

Because it isn’t greedy bankers or tax limiting companies that really annoy people on the doorstep. It’s the family on the playground that don’t work but go on three foreign holidays a year, it’s the bloke at the club who drives a brand-new car even though he’s never worked, it’s the people that dress head to toe in labels whilst they have to make do with supermarket brands and hand me downs.

So that means looking to reform welfare so that work and training is incentivised. To make it easier for people to increase their hours without affecting their living standards. To ultimately make sure that people don’t fall into a welfare trap so it truly is a hand up and not a hand out.

Social care that treats people with dignity, staffed by dedicated and highly qualified professionals is the least that people deserve. But to build a truly comprehensive social care system that makes good on Beveridge’s promise of top-class care from the cradle to the grave, we need to be honest on how we are going to fund it.

And that means putting a stop to the fantasy that it is the top 5% that can fund everything that is broken in our society. If we continue to try to pretend that is the case then people will, quite rightly, fear a ‘but’ around the corner and trust will continue to evaporate.

Or we could be honest. We can say that top class public services for the many can only be funded sustainably by the many. Whether it is an extra penny on national insurance or a flat fee, people need to know that we are with them for the long haul.

If we want people to share our compassion for the environment; to continue to reduce their carbon footprint and to believe in the green new deal then we need to be responsible about the challenge that we face. To convince people that the climate crisis is not just another metropolitan fad, we must make difficult choices about what we include in our next manifesto.

That means cutting expensive policies that appeal to our members but don’t resonate in former coal fields like abolishing tuition fees or providing free broadband. And then using those savings to reduce the impact on the consumer so that being environmentally friendly isn’t a luxury choice. And in doing so, we can make sure that we have a government that takes responsibility for the climate to reduce the burden on our children’s mental health.

By creating a vision that is built on compassion and responsibility, we can start to rebuild trust with those voters who deserted us this time whilst retaining the values that make us Labour. Not just by throwing retail policies at them in the short campaign but to make them feel integral to our vision of a better society. To actually meet people where they are rather than where we believe they should be, we can start to rebuild our broken coalition.

But ultimately, whatever the remedy, we need to make sure that we no longer take these forgotten communities for granted. People need to believe that the Labour Party know that their community, their aspirations and their lives matter.

Tom Clements is a history and politics teacher in Leeds

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9 Responses to “Labour needs to rebuild trust with voters, which means we can’t promise everything to everyone”

  1. Alf says:

    Blair’s a Tory really. Also, he should be expelled from Labour over Iraq. I’m sure that would be a popular move with the members.

  2. Joun P Reid says:

    Momentum -New labour lost 4.8 million results between 97-2010
    New labour -‘As Neil kinnock started New Labour with Tony Blair they increased labours vote between 1983-1997 by 5.2 million votes

    Momentum that irrelevant

    New labour – Corbyn lost 2.5 million votes last week

    Momentum – argh but Corbyn increased labours vote by 3 million in2017

    New labour but you just said previous votes that increase elections was irrelevant

  3. Tafia says:

    Alf, you dont win elections with members – you win them with floating voters.

    The Labour memberships big problem is it it doesn’t seem to grasp that. Nor apparently do you.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Alf ,no Blair should be at The Hague
    But then so should the IRA and certain IRA supporter from isliington This is literally the best article I’ve ever read no pay wall

  5. steve says:

    Do better next time?

    Well, what makes you think there’s going to be a “next time” for the Labour Party.

    Why should the leave-voting majority give a second chance to the party that refused to accept the Leave result and turned itself into a Remain party?

    It’s not that you took “forgotten communities for granted”. You did worse than that – you showed them only contempt.

    And on 12/12 the communities threw your contempt right back a you.

  6. Eamonn Graham Maddick says:

    Is it just me or are some of the people commenting on this and other articles on this site living in some weird parallel universe? In the real world Labour have been utterly and deservedly demolished in the general election. They haven’t won the argument, they haven’t won a moral victory, they basically haven’t won anything. That’s a fact. The hard left can keep droning on about the evil Blairites all they want, though perhaps they might like to reflect on the fact that back in those days Labour was capable of appealing to the general public with sensible and affordable policies and consequently won 3 elections in a row. Meanwhile back in fantasy land the view seems to be that if they keep on moving ever leftwards then at some point the public will magically decide that they’ve been wrong all along and will flock to the Corbynista cause. I think that they might be pretty disappointed when that doesn’t happen. Anyway, they can drone on all they like, as Labour have not a hope in hell of stopping the Tories from doing as they please for the next 5 years due to the saintly and infallible Jeremy and his followers and their excellent and hugely successful election campaign.

  7. John P Reid says:

    The name of the Labour Party as historically worth fighting over ax its a start for anyone wishing to cling into a platform for social democratic policies
    Is naive there’s nothing associated with the Labour Party worth left having
    The Tories are becoming a Christian Democrat Party
    And the tradition of Attlee or Wilson isn’t worth the fight to actually purge the Labour Party of you town revolutionary reactionary thinkers

    They’re so far
    Form reality and delusional to the level of defeat they think they’ll win within a few years

    Unless Lisa nandy wins and has he’ll for the next 4 years it’s over

  8. Anne says:

    I hope that the group established to reflect on the reasons why we lost the election is true and accurate. We must learn from mistakes. There are some Labour MPs such as Lisa Nandy and Rosie Duffield who were in leave voting areas but managed to retain their seats – why was that?
    Also this ridiculous name calling ‘Blairite’ has got to stop, as has this group ‘momentum’
    As Kier Starmer is saying we need to become more of a broad church. It is going to be a long road back but we have got to start to work together.
    We are admitting we got things wrong – now the clever thing is working out a way to put these right.

  9. John P Reid says:

    Canterbury was only 51% leave in the referendum
    Dagenham in 2017 even though the majority went down, the percentage went up to 50%
    It shouldn’t be the leave seats we kept where they weighed the votes , but the fact they’re now marginals

    It should have been the seats we lost or failed to win

    Thurrock had a 0.8 swing towards the Tories in 2010 and a 20.4% swing towards the Tories 2 weeks ago

    Tories won
    It with a90 majority in 2010 having been labour in all
    But 4 years since
    1945 including in 1983

    Next to Basildon the seat when labour lost in 1992 ad I stayed up and watched all night U realised labour would lose
    That what i’d fought for, for 5 years had died

    The seat that determined elections

    And on where was little support compared to previous times where effort was thrown at chingford and saving Dagenham

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