The warning lights are flashing for Labour

by David Ward

The contrast with last week’s conference could not have been clearer. George Osborne may or may not fulfil the ambition his speech betrayed and find himself as PM. But there was a clear message. And Labour should be worried. The Conservatives will use Labour’s soul-searching to dominate the centre ground.

John McDonnell released a statement straight after Osborne’s speech telling us that “This is a Tory chancellor who doesn’t live in the real world.”

In fact there were two things missing from almost every shadow cabinet member’s speech last week which have pulsated through every Minister’s so far at Conservative conference. An understanding of what happened in May, and a vision for how the party will approach 2020.

From Jon Cruddas and Margaret Beckett to James Morris the evidence based analysis of Labour’s defeat has been the same. People thought Labour’s heart was in the right place, but worried they would spend too much and focus on the wrong priorities.

The job for any party is to negate its weaknesses and draw attention to its strengths. Just take a look at the slogans in the background as Osborne spoke.




Words which speak directly to what matters to voters and their families and areas their brand is strong. A significant section of the speech dealt with radical initiatives to promote growth in the North of England – an area of Conservative weakness. Today we also learned the Government will adopt at least three policies in the Labour manifesto.

Contrast that with Jeremy Corbyn’s speech last week.

Straight talking, honest politics.

Words which simply puff up positive notions people already hold of the Labour party while making no attempt to deal with the negatives. And don’t mention the deficit, John McDonnell said something the day before but thinks he got away with it.

Osborne is making a naked plea to Labour and swing voters with initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse, and a National Infrastructure Commission led by Lord Adonis. Not to mention a direct appeal to the wallets of middle earners through increased tax allowances and offers of discounted shares. The warning lights should be flashing on the Labour dashboard.

A successful narrative could be forged to attack the Conservatives. Highlighting their own wasteful spending on projects like Universal Credit, botched reorganisations in the NHS, and bribes for schools to convert to Academies.

Pointing out the difficulties those on average incomes still face if they want to buy a house, start a business or simply find another job. But we can’t do that until people believe we won’t be profligate with their cash. This was why Brown knew we had to match Tory spending plans in 1997.

If it is to return to office in 2020, or perform well in local and Scottish elections next year, Labour needs to develop a clearer narrative on these things. But to even gain a hearing we need to deal with our own weaknesses first. Otherwise we’ll be watching a lot of George Osborne on the telly.

David Ward is a Labour campaigner in south London

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5 Responses to “The warning lights are flashing for Labour”

  1. Tafia says:

    If it is to return to office in 2020,

    Wouldn’t matter who won the leadership just gone nor does it matter who leads Labour into GE2020 – there is simply no way they would win it.

    The mathmatics is all wrong.

  2. John P Reid says:

    Do you think this rhetoric is falling on deaf ears?
    I suggest that labour-uncut, goes off, thinks up a few sensible policies, that are relevant to a government of 2020 , maybe has a few ideas on the EU referendum,and accepts that the Corbyn fans of Students who read a article about how, capitalism is bad, because there was enough money for everyone in the 80’s, and the Tories only got in because people who voted for them were dumb and read the Daily mail, because you’re not going to convince anyone that labour Will be destroyed in 2020′ because the Tories may implode over infighting like they did with Westland or ousting Thatcher, but win in 87′ and 92′ anyway

  3. Ex labour says:

    Academies were a labour idea and education policy were they not ? So would it not be better for Labour to point out that this is a successful policy devised by them and being continued by the Tories ? It is always better to be positive rather than negative especially when it’s your own policy.

  4. Mike Homfray says:

    Unless the public moves to the left then it’s unlikely they will abandon the Tories

    But its our role to provide an alternative
    And then campaign and argue for our point of view

  5. John P Reid says:

    Mike ,The labour party has been in the past too the right of Tories,when the Tories wanted council homes in the 50’s ,labour were happy to let people buy them,
    Labour was anti the EU when the Tories were pro it
    Same as durin get early 2000’s on law and order.

    You may think it’s moral to want to be a alternative,but if it wasn’t Thor the fact the liberals are finished,they could vnetually over take us as the opposition and then what of all th heard working labour councillors who’ll Lose there seats if the Labour Party becomes redundant

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