Labour must address its weaknesses

It isn't enough to be half competent, polling well on some areas but poorly on others.

It isn’t enough to be half competent, polling well on some areas but poorly on others

The weekend polling will not have made great reading for Ed Miliband. A YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times (£) gave the Tories a two-point lead over Labour, 36 per cent to 34 per cent. This came after a poll on Friday which gave the Tories a single point lead.

Meanwhile criticism of Miliband’s strategy from key Labour Party figures has been growing louder. Former deputy PM John Prescott accused Labour in the Sunday Mirror of pursuing a ‘core vote strategy’, while Labour MP John Mann has branded the latest polling a ‘wake-up call’ to those ‘at the top of the party’.

Former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Patrick Diamond has also said that Labour ‘appears politically on the back foot’.

Along with the two polls, concerns about the party’s direction of travel appear to have been heightened by the recent party conference, where Miliband was criticised for ‘forgetting’ the two sections of his speech which dealt with immigration and the deficit.

It would be a mistake, however, to view this as simply a case of a leader of the opposition fluffing his lines. Miliband’s forgetfulness is indicative of a bigger problem Labour has had recently of focusing on areas where the party is already strong – to the detriment of areas where the Tories have a lead.

In contrast, David Cameron has done the opposite, focusing on the NHS in order to make inroads into Labour’s lead on the issue but, more importantly, balancing the Conservatives’ ‘tough’ message with compassion.

Now Labour needs to focus on the areas where it is viewed with suspicion. Yes it’s important to draw attention to the coalition’s failure to protect the NHS, but Labour must also fight on ground where it is seen in a more negative light. According to YouGov, over half (55 per cent) think the economy is the most important issue facing the country, while 55 per cent think immigration and asylum are. In contrast, health is chosen by 39 per cent.

That means talk about health – certainly – but don’t necessarily view it as the issue that will decide the election. September polling by Ipsos MORI found that the most important issue for voters at the next election is the economy – and the Tories have a lead here of 25 points. This is not good enough.

The Conservatives appear finally to have grasped that the best-rounded party will win next year’s election. For the Tories this means keeping a tough message on the deficit, welfare and immigration but balancing it with messaging on safeguarding the NHS and rewarding hard work.

Labour ought to take note and recognise that, if it wants to win power next year, it will have to convince voters it can be trusted in those areas where it is currently weak. That means talking, where appropriate, about the deficit, about immigration and about business.

It isn’t enough to be half competent, polling well on some areas but poorly on others. Voters want to see a government-in-waiting. They want to know that Labour has all its bases covered, not only those it feels comfortable attacking the coalition on.

The idea of ‘One Nation’ Labour, which Miliband appears to have dropped of late, is premised on the notion that Labour can govern for everyone; or more specifically, that everyone is a potential Labour voter. Such a strategy has far more potential than anything which focuses solely on Labour’s ‘core vote’, but pursuing it means meeting voters head on in every area which might shape their voting decision next May.

Labour still hasn’t done enough to address its weaknesses. It has talked an awful lot to the party, but not enough to the country.

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47 Responses to “Labour must address its weaknesses”

  1. osho

    Labour has to drop its obsession with gender, race and identity politics. It has to stop tolerating the intolerable in minority communities, regardless of short-term electoral expedients. It has to speak about wealth creation, rather than just about distribution. It has to accept that fraud at both ends of society, the wealthy bankers and the welfare dependents, hurts the ones in the middle. It has to ensure that there is a reciprocal relationship between effort and reward, crime and punishment, and rights and responsibilities. It has to stop being PC or cowing others by PC. It has to have politicians who have worked in something, produced something, ran something, delivered something, created something. In short it has to a reinvent itself.

  2. Guest

    You are lashing out at the poor, again, never mind the very low rates of welfare fraud, as you demand ever-more conditionality on a system which is already by far the most conditional in the Western World, and demanding more unpaid labour for companies.

    And that’s ignoring the illegally low rates welfare is paid at.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re talking about further moves right and shadow-boxing with the Tories for marginal voters. It’s a policy of failure.

    Labour will lose support if it tries to say “we’ll be Tory but worse” on the economy, and rightly so. They need to talk about investment, about services, about community…

  4. osho

    Absolutely. But there has to be money to invest in services. And there has to be a sense of community. How do you get the former without economic growth? And how do you get the latter when you segregate communities by playing identity and racial politics?

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    The segregation we’re seeing is primarily due to the rise of the far right, rather than – in this case – what Labour are proposing.

    Your Tories (and if you had your way, Labour’s) moves right are what are destroying communities as you force people to relocate and into dire poverty. Moreover, appeasing the right will just empower them.

    Neither has neoliberalism lead to economic growth here, the only sector “growing” is the city, which is in another bubble while we’re seeing a vicious and very dangerous downwards spiral in wages and productivity, at the same time as benefits are falling rapidly in real terms.

    But you reject calls for change. And blame the isolation your policies are causing for not having growth, when it’s your economic policies.

  6. osho

    I suspect that when you stop thinking of me as the enemy with some sinister policies, you will find that we agree on a lot of things. The bankers are parasites, and perhaps the only sensible thing Ed Milliband ever said was about predatory capitalism being different from productive one. The growth of the city is bad news indeed, as is the London-centric Uk economy. And Milton Friedman’s neo-liberalism will turn out to be a global disaster. As will globalisation whereby capital knows no national boundaries, restricting the ability of politicians to look after the national interest. But that does not mean that the left has arrived at the right answers.

    Who destroyed grammar schools, the one way poor kids could climb up? Who insisted that all must have prizes, every one must go to university, when what we needed was kids with vocational skills? Race and identity politics were a created by British left. In fact you can date it precisely to Ken Livingstone’s time in GLA.Who sold the gold reserve? Who was in charge in Rotherham when industrial style abuse was taking place? What do you think will emerge from Bradford, Burnley, Derby….?

    I dont resist change. We badly need it. And none of the current lot have an answer. But we don’t need left/right dogma. And of what I have seen of current British politics, I find labour has a lot more to answer for.

    And please lets not get angry.


  7. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Thats a question that Labour fundamentally does not want to answer. Its absolute and momentous weakness are as a result of its ideology being totally missaligned to the current times. The public cant trust a party with so many ideological issues. Examples:

    A normal person would say, get me the best health service for 100Bn. Labour on the other hand would say no private sector blah blah….

    The left refuse to learn the lessons of its past and the failing of left wing intervention around the world, France is on its knees and Ed was very proud to cite how the neh sayers would throw Venezuela in his face. Well the truth is that is fundamentally the issue. Both of those countries have been killed by ideological socialist leadership. He cant stand up and say its worked here and there and thats what I’m going to do.

    Labour have taken the votes of the working class for granted, its coming back to haunt them. Ordinary people aren’t fixated with Unions, socialism and Class War. Labour is losing the support of ordinary people as a result and there is no going back. Labour is a movement for the crass metro fools at its head, the apparatchiks and others who are averse to getting on with life in general (JB). If you dont agree you get called a Tory, as if thats a insult.

    Upvote to agree.

  8. The_Average_Joe_UK

    The trouble is that there are too many in Labour ranks who see any mention of fraud as an attack. Dismissing it as irrellevant etc… Labour cannot make the right decisions, Its to ideological to do a good job. QED they screw the economy up every time they get in.

  9. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Spot on. There is nobody at the head of Labour with any understanding of business, experience or the credibility.

    Changing that is a nightmare as there is no plan in play to do it.

  10. The_Average_Joe_UK

    He’ll be back in a mo to call you a right winger.

  11. RomJim

    It seems to me that the basic Labour Party approach to the economy should be about investment and fairness. The current impression is that it is about austerity-lite i.e. we can do the same as the Tories/Lib dems but fairer. This is not what people want to hear and it will be impossible to get people out to vote for it. The Labour Party needs to be saying it will invest £2.5bn in the NHS at the outset not after it has raised the cash from taxes. It needs to be saying it will invest in housing up front and then we will have economic activity with people working and spending.
    Let’s not forget that there will be a boost to housing completions in the months before the election because the grants are geared to completions in the quarter up to the end of March 2015. The government cut the housing grants and ensured that it was going to be conditional on completions before the end of March 2015 – a typical piece of message management by the Tories.
    Labour needs a robust unit which responds to any message from the government which is untrue and there will be a lot of them – I don’t know who Ed Miliband’s equivalent of Alastair Campbell is but he needs to start earning his corn and quick!!

  12. Chris Kitcher

    What we need is a real person so come on Alan Johnson make a go of it and challenge for the leadership NOW.

  13. Matthew Blott

    You’re spot on. Identity politics has killed the Left’s ability to get a hearing with vast swathes of the population. This article should be posted on Labour List.

  14. The_Average_Joe_UK

    So thats one What about the rest of the uber weak and detached shad cab? Will you deal with Balls? the vacuous Chukka and his mirror, the hopeless Reeves, who is so far away from pension age that she thinks she has a right not to know? The Eagles have never taken off and wouldn’t know a landing if it was sat in front of them. Perhaps Yvette, ignore all the criticism and stay on message no matter how flawed all through the interview? Is Harriet still denying Pie? Perhaps Tristram who was humiliated by Gove when he pointed out all the inaccuracies in his new book?

    Alan isn’t stupid enough to walk into the disaster created by Miliband.

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    No. Depersonalisation is a sickness in politics, and I have very little in common with the right.

    Streaming is bad for kids, the evidence is there in studies. You want to downskill the UK radically, meaning we would either need to import Graduates like Germany, or face seeing a massive loss of business (we need *both* a high graduate *and* vocational training), the UK does not need your politics of hate against the Other or your far right causing problems all the freaking time…I fully expect your allies violence to rise in towns, yes)

    You want to make things worse. You try and deny your right wing dogma, trying to have an argument which is dishonest and hence disallows debate from the start. Simply saying “bankers bad” while not doing anything about bankers, but instead trying to take away education etc.

    And why would I not be angry with those who would wreck this nation? We’re in a downwards wage/productivity spiral and you’re STILL lashing out at Labour and assigning blame to a moderate right wing party, for not being strongly enough on your side!

    No, the problem is people don’t care enough.

  16. Guest

    Facts, so inconvenient in your world to your narrative.

  17. Guest

    You mean they won’t give you enough of a tax break that you can get the fifth mansion? Right.

    Keep arguing against democracy.

  18. Guest

    Keep dictating what other people must do, as you lash out blindly at all non-UKIP approved politicians.

    You are indeed trying a moonshot, UKIP Eagle. Blast away, ignoring what’s under your jets, as you ignore your disaster zone.

  19. Guest

    You are talking far right nonsense, as usual. You keep dictating what “the public” are allowed to think, as you scream that moderate right is not far enough right, that only one type of view is allowed.

    You keep saying that we must stop the average person having access to healthcare so the rich can have better. You keep ignoring the problems which are a result of cults of personality (like your UKIP) and waffling on economics, not the left.

    You keep saying normal people don’t want basic rights, when the problem is Labour has moved right away from it’s former core base, and should move left.

    And if you don’t consider being tied to falling wages and rising poverty to be an insult…it’s because you are loving it, and raking in the cash, as you attack democracy.

  20. Guest

    That’s your politics, not the left’s. You are determined to make sure that hate is the only focus, that everyone keeps moving right.

  21. Guest

    No, your fraud as a Banker is very much an issue.

    And keep saying that even the moderate right have it all wrong, and that the very concept of even okay wages and not massive crushing poverty is “screwing up”. Banker.

  22. Leon Wolfeson

    Labour would rather shadow-box with the Tories for marginal voters than risk centralist policies, it seems, never mind many of those policies and even quite a few left-wing ones are popular with an outright majority of the electorate.

    I’m not sure the “increase” in housing starts will be statistically significant, though.

    (And the mods here would rather allow constant right wing propaganda)

  23. Leon Wolfeson

    “Move right”

    Sigh. Alistair, it’s why you’re here with a narrow lead in the first place.

  24. The_Average_Joe_UK

    No just point out some awkward truths.

  25. The_Average_Joe_UK

    “You keep saying that we must stop the average person having access to healthcare so the rich can have better.”

    “You keep saying normal people don’t want basic rights”

    “You keep saying normal people don’t want basic rights”

    Copy and paste the sentence where i said that? Your are a blatant liar.

    “dictating what “the public” are allowed to think” Nope didn’t say that either LIAR.

    You are a complete and utter blinkered idiot.

  26. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Sixth actually.

    Or was that retort just as stupid as you are an your pathetic outbursts.

  27. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Liar, I’m not a banker. I work in services and NOT in the financial sector, or the public sector.

    I never said “And keep saying that even the moderate right have it all wrong”


    ” the very concept of even okay wages and not massive crushing poverty is “screwing up”.”

    Labelling me a banker just shows how low you’ll go – LIAR LIAR LIAR.

  28. The_Average_Joe_UK

    You mean the constant frothing at the mouth from the left and the failure on the world stage of left wing policies. That make the public think they’re mad.

  29. Matthew Blott

    What on earth are you on about?

  30. Matthew Blott

    I’d hardly say the economic model of the past 30 to 40 years we’ve been following was a left wing one.

  31. RomJim

    by mods – I assume you mean moderator of the site. It seems to me the comments on this site are not moderated – I wouldn’t allow the constant abuse shown between posters. This does not encourage open and frank debate – it is discouraging to allow the trolls to take over any website

  32. Leon Wolfeson

    Oh some stuff eventually gets removed like openly anti-Semitic ranting. Usually weeks later.

  33. Guest

    What left wing policies? Oh right, your attacks on anything further left than your hard right position.

  34. Guest

    Right right, you’re a stockbroker. Then you have a scream at nurses and teachers.

    Then you say you didn’t say things I did, when I’m talking about the consequences of your actions. Well done.

    You are indeed a liar, and thanks for admitting I’m an angel compared to you.

  35. Guest

    No, I am not you.

    I see I’ve been too nice. You don’t want normal people to have ANY rights or healthcare or to be allowed to think at all. There, now I’m telling the truth per your dogma. Thanks for that.

  36. Guest

    No, it’s not the truth that people must do as you demand, or that you’re not on your Moonshot, as you torch as much as you can.

  37. Guest

    Oh – I was being too nice as usual, as you call any disagreement with your politics (again) “stupid” and a “pathetic outburst” – your hatred for any disagreement is obvious. You’d have fit right into the CCCP.

  38. Keith M

    Evo Morales in Bolivia has followed a succesful and progressive socialist policy.

  39. Keith M


  40. Keith M

    How about the massive fraud of top capitalists? Non payment of taxes, exploitation of workers, excessive bonuses – I could go on.

  41. Keith M

    Agree – we need some radical thinking. Labour should be looking to create an alternative and succesful social democracy.

  42. Keith M

    If Labour could do it in 1945 why not now?

  43. Keith M

    Not worth arguing with him he’s obviously UKIP

  44. Keith M

    He sold the Unions down the river.

  45. Keith M

    Time to replace Balls.

  46. Keith M

    Labour needs to return to its roots.

  47. Chris Kitcher

    I don’t believe you. How do you come to this conclusion?

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