THE BLOG

Labour's Task Will Be Harder If We Continue To Fight Over The Wrong Schism

25/08/2016 11:56

Labour has got its priorities wrong. Embroiled in a bitter leadership contest, the party is losing credibility and its historically loyal working class voter base are flocking elsewhere. The Labour party should be focused on bringing these people back. Instead it is looking inwards and is engaged in an internal struggle led by an ideological minority who have harnessed anti-establishment populism against the existing broad church.

The leadership of the Labour party is in turmoil. This summer's events are causing huge damage to Labour's credibility, and we should not be tempted to believe the resolution of the leadership contest is going to be a miraculous fix for the party.

However, irrespective of support for Jeremy Corbyn, Labour activists are guilty fighting the wrong schism, and it is taking us further from power. If the party focus on the voters, this can be a great time of change - we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of new voices into the membership. A strong Labour needs to bring both our new members and our traditional supporters together. Now is the time for Labour to unite and become a credible and formidable opposition party.

Labour must become relevant again. The findings from John Cruddas' independent report on the Labour general election loss in 2015 have been forgotten in the aftermath of Brexit and the crisis that has followed in the party. The report found that Labour was failing to connect with social conservative voters from Labour's traditional base, coupled with the rise of UKIP support from 2005 onwards.

The path Labour is running down is a dangerous one. By focusing on internal politics, Labour is diminishing its capability to reconnect with voters. We are wasting our intellectual capital, and undermining our remaining credibility with cosmopolitan liberals.

Party activists must understand the importance of the traditional labour voters that the current chaos is alienating. As concluded in a 2013 IPPR report, these social conservatives show more "tribal loyalty" to their political party of choice, and once disengaged are the most challenging group to get back. This is of particular worry in Yorkshire, the North East and Wales which have both a high proportion of social conservatives and growing UKIP support. The importance of engaging with these voters cannot be understated, if Labour lose these people now, it will be a prolonged journey to rebuild trust. Stemming their loss from our traditional base must be our first priority.

This task will be difficult. The electorate no longer conforms to the traditional left-right identity, and polarisation away from the centre ground has made messaging difficult. Both the Miliband/Cruddas' One Nation and Maurice Glassman's Blue Labour tried and failed to respond to the changing demands of the electorate, but this didn't cut with voters because these broad concepts failed to address the dehumanised establishment they were born in.

To move forward, Labour have to end this preoccupation with this manufactured divide by the hard-left. There are many members of all shades of red who understand that the party cannot continue as it did before. The hard-left does not have a moral monopoly. The established broad church of the party need to reach out with a message of working together with new members, and not relinquish this to the hard-left elites. It does great disservice to continue to allow new members to be lost to the hard-left minority.

To keep it simple as possible, we can find unity in the party by focusing on the simple core message, redirecting our energy on the bridges that need to made.

Every member from the established broad church needs to build their own bridge with a new member. Together they can share a focus on good jobs, quality homes and wellbeing and help spread the values of responsibility, community and fairness to the voters we have already lost or are at risk of losing. If we can do that, Labour may stand a chance.

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