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Labour Party Must Leave Behind Internal War of Attrition and Start Talking to Voters

13/01/2016 11:01 GMT | Updated 12/01/2017 10:12 GMT

If you think you've been hearing entirely too much about Jeremy Corbyn's "revenge reshuffle" over the last few days you wouldn't be wrong. Labour's prolonged internal war of attrition is taking attention away from the burning issues the country faces and all the while providing the Conservatives with a welcome sideshow. Worst of all, the feuding is robbing Labour of its chances to capitalize on its strengths.

Admittedly, Jeremy Corbyn has had anything but a smooth ride in domestic politics so far. From Blairite smears originating within his own party to seemingly endless unforgiving (to put it mildly) media coverage -- in his first three months at the helm, the theme of "chaos" has prevailed. But for Labour to have a chance to regain power in 2020 it's imperative that they get over their leadership culture shock and start to think about regaining a vision that appeals to the wider population. There are several ways the Party can come together and avoid entangling itself in yet another "civil war" that will mortally damage its credibility.

Time for Labour to Make its Case

First, the Labour Party must reinforce its economic credibility. A lot of this is about finding a balance between sound economic policies and an effective public persona. Labour policies are not as "radical" as they are characterized and there is substantial support for many of their strategies.

Labour should make a strong case for what sort of economy it wants to build: creating high-tech jobs more geared towards the future: tackling the housing crisis; dealing with the high cost of education and the erosion of the NHS; most importantly, establishing a coherent message on the economy that is focused on rebuilding industries to create secure jobs across a population that has been feeling tremendous financial and psychological pressure .

People by nature want to have meaningful work. If Labour communicates its solutions intelligently it could build a new voting bloc of mid- and low-income voters.

What is really at stake here is the undoing of the Thatcherite paradigm of taming the Labour Party. It is time to restore public confidence in an alternative political process.

Opposing the Age of Austerity

After the financial meltdown of 2008, Western governments quickly set about cutting and saving. In 2012 the International Monetary Fund stated that austerity is not good for economic growth and does not help pave the way for meaningful recovery. It can also be a tragically false economy.

Opposition to the austerity regime is happening all over Europe on both the left and right political spectrums. Austerity programs are plainly not working; rather, they are causing suffering across the continent.

We see this reaction repeating itself, most recently in the Spanish election where the era of two-party dominance was shattered overnight. The Labour Party should take advantage of the same sentiments by assuming the role of formidable opposition to the Tory public spending cuts. For instance, they could point out that a little monetary investment in the flood protection recommendations the government has been ignoring for years under the guise of thrift might have saved a lot of heartbreak during last month's flooding.

The Labour establishment needs to keep the Tories on the defensive over their disastrous housing bill. They could also use the success in the reversal of tax credits and their definitive victory in Oldham as solid cornerstones for the reconstruction of the party's reputation. This requires showing some political courage by challenging the traditional association of anti-austerity with radical left-wing politics.

A Chance to Challenge the Conservatives on Foreign Policy

Labour can put pressure on this government's foreign policy and push for reassessment of British international objectives. They can point out how this government offers military support to Saudi Arabia while ignoring their consistent gross human rights violations. The close relationship with the Saudi monarchy that spreads international extremist ideology should be addressed as a real threat to national security. One thing the Syria vote taught us is that UK foreign policy is incapable of being dynamic. Labour should challenge such rigidity, especially when it relates to the Middle East. You have to conduct foreign policy in accordance with the values you aspire to; if you don't, you lose an enormous amount of moral authority.

Time to Acknowledge Immigration Issues

The left should stop ignoring the issue of immigration, an issue that often lies at the top of the voters' list of concerns, but they are hardly ever informed of the real data. What helps parties like UKIP thrive is ignorance about immigration. Labour must formulate a plan to differentiate itself from the other parties. They can set the terms of the debate by working closely with local councils to help integrate immigrants into communities. They can articulate their positive outlook on immigration by pointing at UK higher education economic benefits with international students flocking into the country, providing significant benefits to the UK economy through the post work study visa program.

Rebuilding Trust

Challenging the Tories on their failed policies isn't the only way to gain momentum. One of the things Corbyn has going for him is that he has galvanized grassroots movements. Thousands of young people disengaged with the political system have been brought into politics because of him. This is the perfect time to rebuild political trust where it's been lost in working class areas and to create the "new" type of party Corbyn has advocated, one which reaches out to activist groups and their wealth of knowledge. This must be combined with support from the party members who voted in huge numbers for Corbyn's leadership as well as from those who are not huge fans of his politics.

Labour MPs can speak to all these issues, provided they can sit together in the same room for long enough to construct a cohesive message. Labour has a chance to present itself as a credible and cohesive opposition that can speak to the aspirations and spirit of British society; it has to formulate an inspiring alternative fitting to Britain's character and true to Labour values.