For the Labour Party, 2017 wasn’t the disaster everyone feared it would be. The surprise loss of the Tory’s majority in the House of Commons has put Labour, and Jeremy Corbyn personally, in a very strong position. However, a new year presents new opportunities and it would be foolish for the Labour leadership top rest on its laurels. As such we present the second part of our “New Year’s Resolution” series, ( Part one can be found here) where we discuss the three areas that the Labour Leadership should focus on to continue improving their chances of gaining a majority at the next election.
1) Actually get radical, and be vocal about it.
The 2017 general election manifesto is going to be viewed as a blueprint for the next Labour Government. This is understandable, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on it. Not least is the fact that the rhetoric of the Labour leadership about a radical alternative to the Tories isn’t necessarily matched by the reality of a number of the policies. Renationalising the railways and scrapping tuition fees are big-ticket headline-grabbing policies that will poll well and act as a very effective way to catch votes. They aren’t going to change society though. The primary beneficiaries of these policies are the middle classes, and as such the wider progressive benefits are limited.
What Corbyn and his team need to do is take those headline-grabbing policies and use them as a way to start a conversation about wider policy areas. This is happening to a certain extent already. The talk of a “National Education Service” is the sort of rhetoric that can form the basis for a wide-reaching educational agenda that has the potential to change society for the better. The problem is if you look into it the “National Education Service” is currently just a slogan used to make the abolition of tuition fees look more radical and progressive than it actually is. I don’t doubt that there is a commitment from the leadership to expand on this rhetoric in a way that will actually lead to some policies, but that work needs to start now. Not only do you need the time to properly formulate the policies to make them effective and know how to implement them properly but being vocal about it will allow you to enthuse the base and get them out on the doorstep when it matters. Speaking of which…
2) Mobilise Momentum for the Locals & get out the vote
The local elections in May are going to be a test for the Labour leadership. Not in the sense that if they go badly Corbyn’s leadership will be challenged, but because it’ll be the first time we’ll see if the army of activists that Momentum was able to provide in the general election will turn out to campaign in local elections. If they do, then Labour now has access to a resource pool of talent and individuals who are willing to put the time in even when the prize isn’t that grand.
If it’s possible to get Momentum out and about for the locals across the whole country ( I expect we’ll see lots of stories about Momentum activism in London where the Tories are currently on the path for a hiding), then Labour will be able to utilise the extra manpower to boost their general election performance. Whilst it isn’t the be all and end all of elections, the ability to campaign throughout the entirety of the parliament will make it a lot easier to reach voters and capture their votes for the general election.
To make this happen though, the leadership may need to start leaning on Momentum’s central organisation to make it happen. The success of Owen Jones’ campaign days to try and unseat vulnerable well-known Tories such as Ian Duncan Smith is testament to the willingness of Momentum members to get out their and campaign, but it will likely require some central organisation to get the right people to the right places where it will make the most difference. If the Leadership can make this happen, the Tories should be terrified.
3) Prepare for a snap election
Even though the likelihood of a general election this year or next is quite slim, the instability of the Tories parliamentary majority & the weakness of Theresa May’s leadership all mean that there is still a chance we could have another snap general election.
The one weakness of the 2017 campaign for Labour was the manifesto. It was not well costed. Bits of it were “costed” by using figures from Private Eye magazine. The only reason Labour got away with it this time was because the Tories didn’t even bother to cost there’s at all. That won’t happen next time. They won’t be that stupid twice. This means that the manifesto needs to be watertight to minimise attacks that will come over the costs of the manifesto and where the money comes from.
On top of the manifesto a strategy for a snap general election needs to be develop as well. Target seats to attack and defend, as well as a way to build upon the success of the messaging need to be a priority. Without this Labour runs the risk of being caught short and could possibly fail to make the gains they need to make to kick the Conservatives out of Government.