The Thick of It


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What wins elections?

Is it enough to be an opposition to a disliked government to win elections? Of course not. Neither is it enough to complain but not to offer an alternative. Perhaps the least likely path to electoral success is by heading into ideological extremes. Whenever Labour or the Tories have been perceived as occupying the left or the right respectively, they have been rejected by voters. 

YouGov's Peter Kellner has argued that while politicians and parties need to be seen to be centrist to be accepted by the electorate there were other reasons that were more significant in seeing a change in government since 1945. Kellner's advice is that Ed Miliband should be careful where he positions himself: follow current public opinion and look weak - the perceived centre shifts over time; "give swing voters solid reasons to hope their lives will get better if you win. Then they will vote for you". The point is simple and echoes what I've said for some time - opposition isn't enough for Labour. Labour needs to be a credible alternative and needs to set out some specifics about what would be different in a Labour Britain to a Tory one. As Dan Hodges states: "There is protest. And there is power. Labour cannot be the party of both".

Labour must not just shout, it needs to show it can act, in the centre ground but sensibly, to show it understands what people want and how their lives will be better if they vote for the party.

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