Panelists at the Next Left conference stressed the need for Labour not to underestimate the threat posed by the new government, echoing Ed Miliband’s comments.
At Saturday’s Next Left conference, outgoing transport minister Sadiq Khan, Fabian Society general secretary Sunder Katwala and “Twitter tsar” Kerry McCarthy all stressed the need for the Labour Party not to underestimate the threat posed by the new government, echoing Ed Miliband’s comments about Labour’s vulnerability on immigration during the recent election.
They all said Labour’s message had to be progressive and proactive, and not reactive as may have been the case in the past. Housing policy and new local government power were discussed as potential mediums to show traditional Labour supporters the party’s policies were focused on their agendas.
The significance of digital media was also debated, with a focus on ‘where next for Labour and building the new movement’, tweeter Ellie Gellard, Clifford Singer – creator of MyDavidCameron.com – and former government special adviser Michael Jacobs saying that if Labour is to rebuild its platform as the party of progressive change, it cannot simply be a digital campaign waged on past policies.
Co-editor of Liberal Demoract Voice, Mark Pack, said that the argument shouldn’t be for or against old/new media, but rather should recognise that local policy formation starts with good local parties focused specifically on local issues, something which new media could certainly facilitate in the future.
There was also agreement that Labour must try and set the progressive agenda and reclaim the position as the advocates for normal working class people, with a specific focus on reclaiming its position as the defenders of civil liberties, an area which the panel felt had been partially neglected throughout the last 13 years.
The final panel of the day included Tory blogger Jonathan Isaby – co-editor of Conservative Home – Labour MPs Chuka Umunna and John Denham, former Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris, guest Ben Brandzel of 38 Degrees, chaired by Mary Riddell of The Daily Telegraph; the questions focused on whether Labour should attempt to attract disenfranchised Liberal Democrats to the party.
The Labour panelists were unanimous in their position, a firm yes, but once again stressed the threat outlined by Ed Miliband in his speech. Mr Denham voiced concerns that the public may in fact “like the coalition at the end of the term, and actually I expect it to go the full distance and not break up earlier than anticipated”. Mr Umunna, newly elected MP for Streatham, reaffirmed those concerns and the need for us to proceed with an agenda of fairness and opportunity for all, stating that Labour should “go back to our roots and support the people who made us who we are”.
Mr Isaby, meanwhile, reiterated a taxation policy of as small as possible in line with “true Conservative valves”, and Mr Brandzel said:
“Tax should be on wealth generating wealth for the wealthy, and not on labour of the average person.”
Once again, the central theme during the debate was that the coalition posed a great threat to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and with Labour being in opposition, it gives the party a great opportunity to fight for the progressive left and reclaim its position as the party of change in local communities.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.