Left Foot Forward asked a number of leading progressives what they think Labour needs to do to defeat UKIP.
Such is the impact of UKIP’s victory in the European elections that even Tony Blair has waded into the debate with advice on what Labout needs to do to beat UKIP at the polls.
If it’s good enough for Blair it’s good enough for us, so with that in mind we asked a number of leading progressives what they think Labour needs to do to beat the Kippers.
Marcus Roberts, deputy general secretary of the Fabian Society
1) Dive deep into the data
Look at UKIP’s results not just in wards where they won, but where they lost and either secured second place or cost Labour a council seat to the Tories. The work of analysts like Ian Warren is invaluable to this.
2) Understand the different kinds of UKIP voters
As Sunder Katwala cheekily calls it, there is BlueKip (likely 2015 Tory voters), FUKIP (the Farage faithful) and WhoKip (up for grabs, often former Labour or Labour-identifying non-voters). Target messaging, policy and organisation at the latter who can be won over with proven methods.
3) Look at policy and culture
Ed Miliband has a host of policy that should be attractive for Labour/UKIP considerers (managing rent rises, increasing social housing supply, year on year increases in the minimum wage). And Labour councils from Newham to Southampton have imposed residency duration tests for access to social housing which plays well on the doorstep. But smart policy isn’t enough. The cultural anxieties of Labour/UKIP considerers need to be assuaged as well. John Denham and Jon Cruddas’s embrace of Englishness for Labour is important here.
4) Put the Arnie Graf community organising model at the heart of Labour
UKIP are attracting blue collar voters as they tap into anger, insecurity and fear of change. To answer this Labour must be present in communities and demonstrate that change isn’t something to be feared because it’s done to you, but celebrated when it’s done with you – be it through living wage campaigns or action against pay day loan shops. All of this helps grow leaders rooted in their own community who will have the respect they need in their areas to persuade people to back Labour. As the Labour party’s top organiser Caroline Badley told me: “you counter the politics of protest with a politics that’s personal.”
5) Understand how UKIP attracts women
As the British Election Survey’s Caitlin Milazzo notes, UKIP is male-dominated but female voters tend to be especially loyal to UKIP. This emphasizes the need to prevent female Labour/UKIP considerers from breaking for UKIP now as they’re harder to win back later. Thankfully, the work of Gloria De Piero on both her ‘What Women Want‘ and ‘Why do they hate me‘ projects to engage both women and non-voters alike should be greatly expanded by Labour.
Anthony Painter, previously director of the Independent Review of the Police Federation
Labour has a perfectly sound immigration and European policy. It is in the national interest. The problem it has is that it doesn’t have the courage of its convictions; it’s scared of its own shadow.
If it accommodates UKIP then what? It’s quite simple. Labour will further reinforce policy positions that are not in the national interest and will, at best, gain no support. It will probably lose support. How is this a sensible approach?
There’s one further thing: the reputation of politicians. If you listen, Nigel Farage speaks, acts, thinks like the ‘political elite’. This should be pointed out relentlessly.
But there are also deep systemic problems: the Labour Party is an insider’s club. That is not going to change over night but after the next election, Labour will require fundamental change – much like the Police Federation has been through.
However, to start to desperately chase support of those inclined towards UKIP by becoming UKIP-lite will only compound the problem. Leadership in the national interest is what is needed instead of desperate and destructive measures.
Emma Burnell, Labour List columnist
The lie that UKIP are only a threat to the Tories has been well and truly exposed. Who they appeal to is the swath of voters who feel they have been left behind by politics over the last few decades. Those who don’t fit the Worcester Woman/Mondeo Man ‘aspirational’ middle class that mainstream politicians have been fighting over since the inception of New Labour.
Labour cannot and must not try to outflank UKIP on immigration. It won’t work practically, it won’t be right morally and it won’t even work politically – the voters simply wouldn’t believe us. But neither can we simply ignore the concerns about immigration.
What we can do is take these concerns seriously and think about their implications. What we must do is put forward a positive alternative that goes some way to assuaging voters insecurity and offering an appealing vision for the future
This does not necessarily mean a change of policies – many of those announced during the campaign (on housing, wages and the NHS) should – when pitched as a coherent package – do this job. But we need to frame less as a response to current circumstances (using only the negative cost of living frame) and more about ensuring and stronger and more secure future.
Annie Powell, contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
Less than 40 per cent of the UK electorate voted last week. Contempt for mainstream politics enables UKIP to thrive and is the issue that Labour must address.
In doing so, Labour MPs should – dare I say it – be more like Nigel Farage.
Farage is a ‘conviction politician’. That this phrase even exists is an indictment of our politics. The freedom with which he speaks stands in such marked contrast to the near-paralysis of MPs so afraid of alienating this or that social group that they use pre-prepared soundbites and avoid questions.
By trying to court all voters they inspire none.
It’s human nature not to respect someone who is desperate to please and is too insecure to express their own views. Those are certainly not the qualities we want in our leaders.
So Miliband needs to speak more freely: who does he stand for? What exactly is his vision for Britain?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.