The key things that Labour must focus on can be split broadly in two. First, the policy areas that need to be broadcast, and, second, the way in which these policies are broadcast.
On policy areas, whether we like it or not, the economy is going to be a huge issue. If the economy picks up, or even just appears to be on the up, Labour will have a very difficult battle indeed. Without a moment’s hesitation, it appears that the majority of voters would trust the Conservatives more with the economy than Labour, regardless of past achievements, policy or any analysis at all. It is an immediate assumption, and one that Labour must fight very hard to overcome. We need conviction and we need a plan.
To do this, we must deflect these assumptions towards policy areas that Labour is traditionally strong in by making these issues relatable to the ordinary voter. The campaign on the cost of living is a great example, drawing people away from the traditional view of Labour harbouring benefit-scroungers to Labour instead being the party of the hard-working families trying to live a dignified life.
The same can therefore be said on the economy. One, we need to make the economy relatable. £10,000 personal allowance, 10p tax rate, cutting VAT – these are also issues that will affect everyday people, so we need to highlight these. Two, we need to be more ruthless when the government adopts ideas that were Labour’s in the first place – the living wage campaign for instance. Ed Miliband was talking about predistribution over a year and a half ago. Awful name, and I am sure Ed would be the first to concede that, but it was the right idea, and it was ours. Jump on the Tories – show how we were right all along. Finally, we need to do more to portray the Tories as the party of the wealthy. Bankers’ bonus tax, financial industry regulation – we need to show that Labour will commit but the Tories will not – a simple game of compare and contrast.
The points on the economy can all be applied to other policy areas which are hugely important, including education, healthcare and housing, where the way in which we win these battles is to be clear in our message and distinguishable from the other parties. Furthermore, despite good intentions, we need to be pragmatic – so stay away from marginal issues where our policy differences are not clear.
When it comes to broadcasting our message, I believe we have to go back to our grassroots. Labour is the party of mobilisation and we should capitalise on that. Use the local elections as the dress rehearsal, and use local politics as the run-up to the national campaign. Local politics is more relatable so we need to be versatile in making sure that each constituency can campaign on issues core to their constituents – things like housing, jobs and transport being priorities for London, for example. Social media is equally a very important form of grassroots activation and one which could help mobilise the youth vote. Barack Obama used it – so should we.