Former life-long Labour supporter, Frances Dickens, CEO of Astus Group, outlines what the party needs to do next to win back business leaders and the wider electorate.
Dear Labour Party,
The past three weeks have not been happy ones. As a previous life-long supporter of the party who voted Conservative for the first time on May 7th, I hope the following to-do list is constructive. A strong Labour party is vital to an effective, healthy democracy and to ensuring that the Conservatives deliver on their election promises. So here are five next steps:
1. Retrieve the Ed Stone from the Woolwich warehouse.
Clean off the pledges - God were they embarrassing - and replace with the following quote from Albert Einstein: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Install it in the reception of Labour Party HQ.
2. Think about how the quote applies to the current leadership process.
OK, so the three-way electoral college system that saw Ed Miliband elected thanks to support from the trade unions, has been replaced with a one member one vote (OMOV) system designed to give ordinary party members more of a say. But with the current leadership battle shaping up to be a showdown between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, two prominent members of the team that just lost the election, the rule changes seem unlikely to effect any real change.
3. Remember that personality trumps policy.
Pick the right leader. This means someone who will appeal to UK voters, not just to the party or the unions. And if the forthcoming election doesn't deliver her/him, be prepared to get rid of them and elect someone who can win in 2020. If the Labour Party can't be ruthless, the British electorate will be, so pre-empt their decision.
4. Make friends with business.
The current crop of candidates are making the right noises: Liz Kendall has argued that the party should stop supporting high taxation just to make a point; Mary Creagh taught entrepreneurship at the Cranfield University School of Management; and Yvette Cooper wants to consign the party's anti-business image to the scrap heap. Meanwhile Andy Burnham has said Labour needs to adopt a pro-business approach. But the party as a whole needs to accept that the last five years did a lot of damage to Labour's standing with business. Repairing that relationship, one business leader at a time - starting with Lord Sugar - is the first step towards being trusted again with the economy.
5. Focus on the battles of the future not the past.
It's time to ditch old labels and divisions like New Labour, Blairite, Brownite and to concentrate on what matters to voters going forward. For example:
• Creating the conditions for an entrepreneurial culture where people from all backgrounds can build successful businesses and create jobs
• Balancing prudent fiscal management with protecting society's most vulnerable
• Fighting for a better deal from the EU for entrepreneurs, SMEs and UK taxpayers
• Ensuring the next generation of workers has the digital skills and business acumen to match anything coming out of the BRIC economies
The Labour Party is at a crossroads; either it can learn from the mistakes of the past or repeat them. If it is to stand a chance not just of being in power in the next decade but of continuing to be a relevant political force, the first of these two paths is obligatory.