The “Quiet” voters who Labour need to win back
On Thursday evening I attended a talk by Dr Rob Ford from the University of Manchester who came to talk to my local Labour ward meeting about where the Conservatives won the last election. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t make for easy listening for the party faithful. The forecast appears bleak- current data shows that the Labour Party did not manage to tap into an all important “Quiet” demographic (note I didn’t say quiet or shy Tory) and by Dr Ford’s estimation, the vote share is likely to decrease with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell at the helm.
Such critical, data driven and factual analysis of the current challenges facing Labour is exactly what those at the top of the party need to consider when looking forward to next years local elections and ultimately to 2020 and beyond.
Despite these criticisms, the current leadership are here to stay, with a mandate that should protect against a rebellion- for now. As such, there’s no point just sitting back and accepting what some believe to be our inevitable fate over the next few years.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the groundswell of support for Jeremy Corbyn during his leadership campaign. It is however difficult to quantifiably measure the effect of ‘energy and enthusiasm’ through polling data alone. While many criticise the Labour Party’s apparent lack of economic credibility, they cannot deny that the sheer volume of new members offer something that would be the envy of any mainstream political movement. For too long, party politics has been the preserve of obsessives and those willing to accept the status quo both in terms of party structure and the wider political discourse. That has now irreversibly changed, or at least will be if those who have joined Labour since May stick around. How we communicate internally and externally must change, and with the influx of new members comes the new ideas we need to bring the party kicking and screaming into the 21st century (turgid and bureaucratic meetings OUT. On the pulse, dynamic digital communication through social media such as Meetup and Facebook IN)
Dr Ford mentioned in his talk about the possibility of a collapse in Conservative support should the economy fail to continue on its current course of slow but steady growth. We should of course continue to highlight the damage that Tory cuts (and broken promises) have on low and middle income families in this country. But when the government are at their weakest, we need to be ready to strike with a positive and coherent alternative that resonates with those across the political spectrum.
Sometimes it’s as straightforward as how we communicate our message. If we’re talking about homelessness and affordable housing (and we need to be), we also need to have the conversation about making it easier for young people to buy their first home- to support such ‘aspirations’ (eugh, there, I said it…) is not the preserve of the Right.
When we’re talking about zero hour contracts and attacks on our Trade Unions (and we need to be) we mustn’t forget to stand up for the self employed who lack the same protections as most workers, and unashamedly look to be the party that champions and supports these small business owners.
And when we’re challenging ideologically driven austerity (and we NEED to be) our alternative needs to be presented as a positive vision, clearly illustrating what Britain under Labour would look like. Just shouting about how evil the Tories are just won’t cut it, and as Rob Ford explained, the idea that there is silent anti-Conservative Party sentiment amongst the majority of the population is a fallacy.
So let’s spend the next few months consolidating our impressive new membership, steering clear of infighting and listening to these “Quiet” voters outside of the Labour Party bubble about the issues that really matter to them. As a fellow party member raised during the discussion on Thursday, we have a lot more in common with those voters than we may think.