Posts Tagged ‘narrative’

Labour urgently needs a new narrative on the economy

20/05/2015, 11:15:22 PM

by Dan Cooke

One thing we learned in the election campaign was that the younger Ed Miliband, while apparently much in demand, was a lousy date who “only wanted to talk about economics”. We also learned something much more serious: the mature Miliband and his advisers were completely wrong to think Labour could win an election without talking about the economy.

The Tory narrative on the economy, before and during the campaign, was so clear and powerful that friend or foe could recite it in their sleep. They had a “long-term economic plan”, that got the economy “back on track” after Labour “crashed the economy” and the “money ran out”. This account of the recent past provided powerful rhetorical support to their forward offer of prosperity for all, including more investment in the NHS than Labour promised.

If this grates with unfairness to many of us, we have to bluntly ask:  did our party ever pose a counter-narrative to challenge this one?  The frank answer is – at least during the campaign – clearly no. The line to take, when it was put to Labour spokespeople that the Tory plan was working, was apparently  to say that the recovery was not felt by all, the proceeds of growth were unevenly distributed or, more abstractly, that the economy was run for the benefit of the rich and not ordinary people.

Unfortunately these were talking points only to avoid talking about what for most people is the central question of economic debate: who can be trusted to deliver growth and jobs. It sounded as though we were saying this did not matter because it was the “wrong growth” and the “wrong jobs”. By building a campaign around issues of how to regulate a successful economy, like banning zero hours contracts, we forfeited the debate on who can be trusted to deliver a successful economy in the first place – in other words the debate that actually decides votes.


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In yesterday’s debate, George Osborne had a clear script, Ed Balls didn’t

06/12/2012, 10:00:08 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“It was just like a budget”. This was the immediate reaction of the ever perceptive Nigel Lawson when the Daily Politics sought it soon after the Autumn statement. Ming Campbell – the only other participant on a very balanced panel – concurred. That said; they had a point. Not only was the stagecraft familiar. The content was too.

The Conservatives have a script, you see. China is rising but the skivers aren’t, so further welfare reform is needed to prevent China eating all our dinners. The global race will be won by strivers, not drunken layabouts. And reform of our schools will create a nation of strivers. That’s if Johnny Foreigner and his euro don’t do what the last government and our “mess” could not quite do and do for us good and proper.

This script has been obvious since Conservative party conference. It has, in its own parlance, stayed the course. It is no surprise, therefore, that it was served up again yesterday. That’s the thing with political scripts. Politicians disembark on one that feels right, feelings which polling confirms. Then they keep saying it and saying it and saying it some more. Finally, maybe, it hits home with the electorate. By which time, certainly, they have bored themselves and the lobby into a stupor.

It was never really in doubt, consequently, what Osborne’s key messages would be. Any sentient political observer should have long known. We know its villains: the last government and the bed we made; welfare recipients and the beds that they lie in; the rest of Europe and their siesta.

But Osborne’s heroes shun and abhor all such lazy, flabby, debt-sodden indulgence. It is the strivers that have doubled exports to major emerging economies since 2009 and created over a million jobs in the private sector since he became chancellor.

Politics is the ceaseless clash of narratives: many half-baked, most never reaching a real terminus but the endless grafting of perceptions unto realities. So, what story did Ed Balls tell in rebutting this tale of striving heroes and shirking villains?


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What is Labour’s message on public service reform?

02/03/2012, 08:00:03 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Step back for a moment. There’s lots going on in politics with the welfare and health reform debates raging, and it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Now, ask yourself this question :– what’s Labour’s narrative on the Tories?

What is the common thread that runs through Labour’s positions on these two issues; ties them together and explains to voters why the Tories are wrong.

In politics it’s easy to lurch from issue to issue and get sucked into the detail of the day to day battle. Like a primary school game of football there’s a scrum of politicos, journalists, bloggers and tweeters charging around the Westminster pitch en masse chasing the day’s story.

But out there in the real world, voters aren’t players in the micro-drama of news cycle politics. They aren’t interested in the minutiae that concerns the political class, life’s too short. They are spectators, with at best a passing interest in the game on the pitch.

The majority will have opinions on issues like health or welfare reform but what matters most is how a party’s various policies combine in a to give a clear idea of what they stand for, and equally importantly, why the other side are the wrong choice.

The big picture.

So back to the question, what’s Labour’s narrative to frame the Tory picture?


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Kill Red Ed. Introduce Real Ed, says Jonathan Todd

28/09/2010, 01:30:11 PM

This afternoon Ed Miliband will introduce himself and reintroduce our party to a country unfamiliar with him and wary of us. The country needs to get to know Real Ed before Red Ed compounds the hostility towards us. This introduction and reintroduction should be made with the narrative which he intends to articulate at the next general election in mind. The first steps he takes as party leader could determine whether or not this journey ends in Downing Street.

A useful political narrative should have three parts: an explanation of where we are; a vision of where we want to get to; and a plan for realising the vision. David Cameron’s general election narrative is predictable. He will describe a country recovered from Labour excess; festooned with the tiny platoons of the Big Society and the ringing tills of prosperity. Rolling back the state, he will argue, took us this far and remains imperative to taking us further into Cameron’s sunny uplands. Hence his commitments to have people keep more of their own money through reduced taxation and his warnings, potentially echoed by almost all of the media, of Labour’s high taxes and big government.

Ed needs to do more than attack this logic. He also needs to promulgate his own contrasting narrative. For his story to have traction he has to confront various realities this afternoon: preparing our movement for the challenges ahead and communicating to the country that the party is prepared to take the steps necessary to meet these challenges.


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