The Thick of It


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Election post mortem on BBC Radio Five Live

I admit to having spent the weekend out of London, which helped stave off the depression of defeat. My words here have been sparse after weeks of intensive campaigning. Finally, my life seems to be falling back into place. I'll leave Ken, BJ and Gilligan for another day.

Labour needs to avoid an internal massacre, now is not the time for root and branch change. The recent elections were always likely to be tough, being in the third term. However, Labour needs to take a few relatively easy steps towards salvation. I even find myself agreeing with Ann McElvoy on this.

I was asked to speak (as a follower of Progress) on Simon Mayo's BBC Radio Five Live show yesterday lunch time about where Labour should head from here. There was some common agreement between the guests, Graham Stringer MP, Khalid Mahmoud MP, Michael Meacher MP, Lorraine Davidson and Gavin Hayes (Compass) that Gordon Brown doesn't have much more than six to twelve months to show strong leadership. Views differed about how exactly Brown should improve his and Labour's fortunes.

Brown needs to communicate a clear and consistent message. At the moment I find it difficult to crystallise what his leadership is trying to achieve. The same couldn't be said for Blair, whether right or wrong.

Brown needs to make public services more responsive to peoples' needs, making their lives easier, not more complicated. This means simplifying the over bureaucratic (but redistributive) tax credits system and better communicating the changes to (particularly) the NHS. Longer opening hours for GP surgeries is a fantastic change, making the lives of many much better. However, like the Young Fabian mentioned in McElvoy's article, many of those potential Labour voters who I speak to, do not correlate changes like this, the minimum wage, or better buses in London, with Labour.

Labour also needs to talk about aspiration and talk to the whole country, not retreating to the core vote. This is dangerous and will only lead us towards the nadir or 1983, much as the Tories did in 2001.

Labour needs to rediscover under Brown the secrets of the success of the mid 1990s. There is a young team in the cabinet in Balls, Milliband, Milliband and Purnell who should be able to match Cameron's Tory team. The success of the mod 1990s was based on a young team, strong PR and communications focused on providing solutions to what people wanted. The young team needs to harness this approach. I also wonder what the PR experts recently appointed by Brown have planned. They need to act fast.

You can listen to my thoughts when I manage to upload the excerpt, or the whole debate (click on Tuesday, this will work until Tuesday 13 May 2008), I come on about 32 minutes in, after the sports news.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Longer opening hours of GP surgeries as a bright new invention? It is backtracking on the government's earlier initiatives to allow GPs more control (with a higher salary - five times that of a newly qualified teacher) of their own surgeries' practices - which was a dreadful idea and made it more difficult for working people to see their own GP at a convenient time. To promote this would invite criticism of earlier errors.

It baffles me that politicians who are looking to impress feel that they can do so by banning things that their constituents enjoy. I, as a teacher, can empathise with this - the second I got my stripes, paper aeroplanes were out the window. But really, come one. Jacqui Smith - self-confessed stoner - re-classifying weed despite the fact that it was a superlative example of Labour forward thinking to reclassify it to C in 2004, leaves me incredulous - as does it the government's personally chosen, well-qualified and well-paid commissioner.

Right guys, we need to bolster support. Positive positive positive. Any ideas? Yes: let's ban stuff. People love that. Conkers; speeding; causally smoking a joint in the comfort of your own home when you could be out battering some stilettoed harridan in the city centre.

Sit back and wait for the earnest nods: 'I'm so grateful that you changed the law in my favour. What's that? You're changing it back? Why? For my own good? Oh, I see. So if I carry on doing what you told me I was allowed to do you will put me in prison/take away my money/socially ostracise me?'

And now Bo-Jo coming over all vigilante presbyterian on the tube: whay do these people think that voters want stuff taken away from them? Pregnant women: banned from enjoying a glass of wine with a meal because the government - totally against the advice from their HIGHLY PAID medical experts - feel that women cannot understand the BMA guidelines on safe drinking whilst pregnant, are ostracised. The government need to give us straight-up positive, original policies.

Labour must find positive policies that do not smell of backtracking to focus on (not child poverty as we all now associate it as the excuse for the 10 p fiasco - and, let's face it, in the wake of a Tory swelling, the middle class voters are on a big individualistic kick so philanthropy is out the window).

I'm petrified - PETRIFIED - for the sake of my children that we could have a Conservative govenrnment in the next very soon; but my petrification is overriden by fury at my own party for letting us all down.