Jack Lesgrin’s week: Time for pledges not pamphlets Keir

by Jack Lesgrin

Time for pledges not pamphlets Keir

This week Labour leader Keir Starmer published a 14,000 word essay. My immediate thought was that this risks getting us into ‘longest suicide note in history’ territory (after the labour manifesto of 1983 was so described by a Gerald Kaufman). Maybe he should have spent a bit more time inspecting plans for internal party reform than writing this opus.

Do Sir K’s PR advisors not think through the optics of such news? Perhaps the strategy is to set expectations so low that a grateful public will be relieved when instead of having to read 14,000 words they hear a few soundbites on the news?

Or is it an authenticity strategy: it worked for Jeremy Corbyn after all. I recall much hyperbole from MPs I know, as well as normally sensible activists, coming back from Corbyn rallies satiated with the industrial strength Kool-Aid dispensed both by cults and political leaders who tell their supporters what they want to hear, no matter how magical.

But the essay story projects the kind of authenticity that reinforces negative stereotypes of scholarly intellectual debate among and for socialists.

If the rise of Mr B Johnson has taught us anything, it is that the next election will not be won or lost on the intellectual coherence of an exceedingly long Master’s thesis.

Perhaps one or two other lessons might be learnt, and rapidly, if we are to have any hope of winning the next election. The first is that people want to hear what labour will actually do about any given issue. Not why the Tories are wicked, but how Labour would do things better. It’s a simple concept that is often lost by oppositions.

Then they want to hear an optimistic vision, set out in a clearly understandable narrative that tells a credible story about why voting labour is better for them and for the whole country, underpinned with policies that validate this.

New Labour had their pledge card with five policies (they had plenty of pamphlets too, but these are not what stuck in the popular imagination). It is a myth to think that such simplification is patronising, or dumbing down. It is the opposite; it’s in fact a mark of respect to people whose support you are seeking, that you are communicating with them in clear terms, about why they should back you.

As anyone who has written headlines, or short letters will know, brevity brings discipline to thought. Perhaps too many politicians prefer to waffle and obfuscation and fear clarity, for it can be used to hold them to account.

Keir Starmer’s essay was interesting, and relevant, but there’s a need for something in a more easily digestible form. Maybe it’s too early for a pledge card, so how about a one-pager entitled ‘Principles, policies and purpose: a better Britain for you.’ Tell your MPs to repeat its content. Empower your activists by giving them something that they can use on the doorstep that shows what your Labour Party means to the people whose doors they’re knocking on.

Remember, it’s not about you, your party, or your party’s members; it’s about how Labour can change people’s lives. There is a growing audience waiting to hear this, so sock it to them.

The mask slips 

As somebody who has recently caught Covid from my children, who in turn caught it at school, I’ve had a little bit of time to ponder, through the brain fog, or perhaps via a hallucinatory dream, about the government’s game plan for Covid during the autumn and winter.

On Tuesday we heard from Sajid Javid about their winter plan. The government attempted a new form of Orwellianism. Rather than distort the meaning of words, they use the concept of Plan A and Plan B to obscure reality.  Plan A (jabs for kids and boosters for loads of oldies) maintains the pretence that the reopening of the economy and the end of restrictions was, to quote every government minister, “irreversible”. Hence it is light touch and does not include vaccine passports and certainly not any reference to “restrictions”. Plan B however contains various measures: masks, WFH, passports and more. Heaven knows if there’s a Plan C in the cupboard…

Let’s examine how PR merges with ideology with this government, to the detriment of public health.

Just as at this time last year, HMG are perpetuating a version of reality in keeping with their libertarian ideology and boosterism, for as long as absolutely possible.

This is a bit of a gamble, and we know that various ministers like to take political gambles. Lady luck may yet come through in the end with a steady, manageable, if appalling death rate, and the economy and society broadly allowed to remain open.

But given what happened in 2020 when we “eased a foot off the accelerator” as the Prime Minister likes to put it, why take the risk?

Here PR intersects with ideology. I believe that they have calculated that the positive feelings, call it a ‘vibe’ among the part of the electorate that remains uninfected (admittedly this is diminishing by the week), is worth more to their long-term electoral interests, than were they to “level” (as the PM likes to say) with the population now by explaining that taking preventative measures early on can prevent a lot of death and indeed more draconian steps later.

In short, they have made a back of a fag packet calculation that the negative blowback from needing to increase the restrictions later, as a direct consequence of their strategy, will be minimal.

They cash in their boost from boosterism, and then if necessary, can always say,as they impose greater restrictions, “we tried”.

With that in mind, dear readers, you can make up your own minds about how, later on last week, environment secretary George Eustace said that a full lockdown would come in if a vaccine-beating variant emerged.

Time for a booster!

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8 Responses to “Jack Lesgrin’s week: Time for pledges not pamphlets Keir”

  1. A.J. says:

    Isn’t our ‘Ang’ a treasure? One minute we have the divine Polly Toynbee advising the Labour Party not to repeat Bevan’s well-known phrase about Tories, the next we have ‘Ang’ doing what she does best, getting all laddish and shooting her mouth off about ‘scummy’ Tories. A slap on the wrist from Lord Mandelson then? ‘Ang’ may claim it’s all a bit of a giggle after a few too many snorts of cheap biddy, others – the voters – may end up drawing their own conclusions.

  2. Anne says:

    This is a very poor article Jack – an excellent interview by Kier on the Andrew Marr. Sorry you have had Covid but perhaps you should have updated your immunisation status before now.
    Uncut has passed its interest – the internet has moved on in the way that information is presented. A thank you to all that have written articles – probably for no financial return. Unsure of the original purpose of Uncut but web sites now need to be better organised and have to take responsibility for what is written – including the comments section. Uncut has allowed these ‘comments,’ many not even related to the articles, to get out of control – allowing the Trolls to take over. This deflects from some of the articles presented. There should be no place for the use of bad language, bullying and harassment. If there is to be a Mark Two of Uncut it needs a better organisational framework. Uncut, in its present form should be closed down before any legal action is taken against it.

  3. A.J. says:

    Len calls her ‘Angie’. Isn’t that sweet? Maybe they could share a bottle of fizz. Meanwhile some dozy ‘Tory’ calls what she’s been saying ‘a load of crap’. It reminds me of Harold Steptoe calling Calvin and Pascal ‘a pair of berks’. At least when Bevan said what he did at the time he did it had a more anguished context.

  4. A.J. says:

    Give ‘Ang’ a shovel and she’ll surely keep on digging.

    Didn’t the gap between rich and poor increase under New Labour?

  5. Tafia says:

    A.J. Didn’t a group of Tories form th Vermin Club after Bevan’s remark, complete with a lapel badge, a tie with a rat on it which they used to taunt Labour MPs with in the Tea Romms, and meet for dinner in one of the Commons watering holes once a month for over forty years?

  6. A.J. says:

    I’ve said any number of times I’d like to see Bridget Phillipson as leader.

    I communicated with Ruth Smeeth’s office and would have canvassed for her if I’d lived closer.

    What’s so very ‘Tory’ about any of that?

  7. John P Reid says:

    It was bevan some trhatpersuaded Attlee to back Gaitskell over bevan as his successor
    Ruth smeeths great

  8. A.J. says:

    Tafia, yes, I believe – or have read – that Margaret Thatcher was an early member. Bevan was rather a divisive figure, more so than Laski or the fellow travellers as he was a Party favourite, and one which Attlee and the more moderate members of the Cabinet found a little too peppery for their taste. After all, Attlee’s wife was alleged to have been a Conservative voter. And she probably wasn’t alone.

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