Some Thoughts on What Labour Does Now
Labour is doing well in highlighting the main issues effecting people, without flirting with rhetorical and divisive language. The public want clear, tangible policies that they trust will convert the economy from something that is happening ‘to them’ into something that they are actually a creative and effective part of. However, media hostility, Labour in-fighting, and an increasingly populist Tory Government willing to dance to whatever tune the Daily Mail plays are damaging the clarity of this message and it’s ability to reach those we need to vote for us.
Labour needs to hammer home the fact that austerity has crippled this country, and that it is taking us back into the past reality of strenuous work, little pay, short lives and diminished community spirit. Paul Mason and the like have done well in highlighting how neoliberalism is on life-support, and that it’s days are numbered. We can either go with the tide and reap the benefits or we can become a backwater. Labour must be clear to the public that the Tories are THE PAST, and that public investment and a digital/tech and manufacturing economy are THE FUTURE. We need to convey this in an inspirational and aspirational message that will harness people’s discontent, even apathy, and turn it into positive, creative enthusiasm rooted in realistic economic certainties.
The promise of a properly funded and protected public National Health Service is first and foremost, as people know that without affordable healthcare, most other issues are secondary.
The ideas behind Corbyn’s movement to review the private-sector dominance in delivery of NHS and other public infrastructure/services is a necessary move as we move away from neoliberal economics which broke down in 2008–9. The Tories (and, arguably, some in Labour) are trying to halt the wheels of progress to preserve the wealth and prosperity of a few. This policy goes hand-in-hand with the fight against inequality.
As a Cumbrian who has seen firsthand the existential threat of climate change, action to protect Britain’s environment and lead the world in taking action to prevent the worst effects of climate change globally; this pledge, while maybe not the most important to the public, is one which must still be pursued. The electorate will hopefully find the prospect of energy self-sufficiency and green employment opportunities alluring.
My own community is somewhere that Labour is, to some degree, under threat. Both a rural and somewhat ‘left-behind’, stagnating constituency, Copeland experiences high levels of voter apathy and a lack of inclination to be involved in community-based projects from the ‘precariat’ of the towns. However, many people are not poor thanks to the nuclear processing plant, it’s good wages and active trade union membership. This economic safety allows people a certain degree of agency in engaging with politics and community affairs, yet also tempts people into thinking that they are ‘above’ voting for Labour. People in Copeland and elsewhere need to know that Labour seeks to strengthen this security, and is in large part responsible for it through Labour legislation and investment.
What Labour needs to do in places like Copeland is:
1. Engage with the young in the community, through the internet, workplaces and school/college campuses — offering real tangible economic alternatives and something to be excited about. Something to be involved in.
2. Really push for its support of retaining vital services at the mortally threatened hospitals and healthcare facilities such as West Cumberland Hospital — WCH, like many other places, has lost surgery units and is under threat of losing maternity and other services, as well as suffering from extreme under-funding/under-staffing. People in this area, like the rest of the country, are very proud of the work done in the NHS and there are very strong community-led campaigns to protect our NHS services — such as the S.O.S (Save Our Services) campaign in Copeland. Labour must lead this fight to save the NHS, and galvanise itself to become the face of these community-run campaigns. Labour and NHS must become synonymous, it really is the only hope in saving health services from the Tories, and polling shows people do actually know this.
3. Encourage and nurture the grassroots campaigns that have begun to blossom in the last 18 months, and sister with sympathetic campaigns and organisations. Become an authentically ‘rooted-in-community’ Party, and convince the public the Tories are what they truly are: a party rooted in privilege.
4. Unify around a Brexit strategy that will allow us to give security to Remainers worried about ‘hard Brexit’ and allow possible electoral co-operation with the Lib Dems, but that won’t alienate UKIP-sympathisers. We need to go with the wind — if Brexit looks like its going to be a disasters, emphasise our pro-European contingent. If it looks like we might get a good deal, then stress our central role in getting that deal. We need to be the reasonable voice of the process, the Tories can take all the political cryptonite that Brexit will undoubtedly inflict while Labour looks like the Party of compromise. This might be our biggest challenge.
5. Corbyn, with his ‘old-school’ Bennite-Bevanite socialism certainly isn’t a messiah figure. But he is a symptom of whats happening on the Left, and in politics as a whole — he’s a means to and end, a trustworthy and dependable figure who encompasses perfectly the very anti-establishment sentiment people are feeling. Personally, I think its possible Corbyn won’t lead us into 2020, but he has certainly set the stage for someone with anti-austerity and strongly progressive credentials to do so. There’s no going back to the old ways, whether 1970s industrial socialism, or 90s neoliberal Thatcherism.