The local elections were less than good for the Labour party (perhaps an understatement). Defeat in mayoral elections in the Labour heartlands of Teesside and the West Midlands needs to be a wake-up call for the party if it wants to prevent a disastrous defeat akin to the likes of 1931 or 1983. But how can Labour turn things around? How can Labour continue to be seen as the party of the workers, Wales, the North, progressives and the UK's urban population, as it has been for so long?
Fear not, I am not simply going to vainly ask rhetorical questions. I have five simple suggestions for Labour to improve its chances of putting up a good fight on June 8th. (Note: these suggestions are intended to be realistic, based on Labour's current situation, so don't come to me and ask why I didn't just blame "the PLP" or "the Leadership" - I'm looking at you, opposing wings of the party. You know who you are.)
1. Never brief against each other
People don't want a divided government, so people won't vote for a divided party. Simple as. John Major's government was riven with divisions and the voters responded in 1997 with a landslide against him - it took the Tories 13 years to get back into power. All I read in the newspapers is hard left MPs complaining about MPs further to the centre of them and centrist MPs complaining about MPs to the left of them. And all I read on social media is members calling each other "Blairite" and "Trot." Who is being persuaded to vote Labour by this? It's toxic.
Members who insult one another, stop. Every member of our party is signed up to clause IV. Every member is a democratic socialist. Every member wants the same thing - a Labour government. So stop calling each other Tories and Communists because it simply isn't true. Focus on fighting actual Tories, not playing out old party battles.
2. A clear line on Brexit
We need to stop pretending that this election isn't about Brexit. The Tories won't stop talking about it because they know that they win the argument. Labour needs to scream and shout to highlight the flawed negotiating strategy that May is advocating. Her dinner with Juncker has proven that playing hardball just won't stick! Labour need to lay out a strategy that people recognise as achieving the Brexit they want, that makes Brexit work. Sufficient access to the single market for middle-England supporters Labour risk losing to the Lib Dems but a deal which sees us leave the EU and impact immigration to prove to working class voters that Labour are listening and still standing up for them - because, for the first time in a long time, Labour are at risk of losing them to the Conservatives.
3. Stay on message
The party's policies are popular, that's a fact. People respond well to the "the system isn't working" narrative. So why aren't we winning? It's because Labour has embarrassed itself too many times. Whether it be Dawn Butler's "rig democracy", or Dianne Abbot's "£30 policemen... and women", the most coverage Labour politicians have received recently is when they have messed up. The media monster is fed by gaffes like this - and you will notice that the Tories don't really have them. Purdah rules mean the parties have to be provided with even representation - so when gaffes distract from policy launches, the message doesn't get through. Tighten the screws, and learn the script, because otherwise, our policy won't filter through. And that will lose us the election, make no mistake.
4. Deal with unpopularity
There are no two ways about it: Jeremy Corbyn is unpopular. But it's no good cursing the clouds because it's raining, get a raincoat and deal with it. There are two ways of doing this. Firstly, Corbyn needs to be seen to be meeting more real people. It's not good enough to only hold ticketed events for Labour supporters. Alongside those, Corbyn needs more and more airtime of him on the street, in workplaces, and knocking doors meeting real people. Corbyn is a notoriously good doorstep campaigner - let's use that to our advantage. Farron's heated encounter with a voter gave him a lot of positive coverage - and heaven knows Corbyn could do with some of that. Secondly, Corbyn needs to diversify his media appearances. Just news interviews and Sunday politico shows aren't good enough. Talk shows watched by middle England, middle-aged voters should be the target, because they are who Labour need to win the election - anything from Loose Women to Graham Norton, to show the human side of the leader.
5. Get members out
Labour is proud to be the largest political movement in western Europe. With 500,000 members, we outnumber the Tories 3:1 and the Liberals 5:1 - and yet ask any Labour representative whether that many people are out on the doorstep, and they will laugh in your face! Clicktivism that doesn't doorknock and leaflet won't win elections, but an army of volunteers can change fortunes. The best way to win people for the party is to speak to them face to face and contact them in the real world. If we want to have any chance of winning in June, we need to knock on as many doors as possible, host as many street stalls as we can and hand out an unbelievable number of leaflets. If you're a Labour member that is able to go and campaign, and you're yet to go and do it, then Labour's poor performance in the Locals is as much your fault as anyone else's. That's the long and short of it.
Nothing groundbreaking, I know, but only if we do those five things will we have a chance of avoiding obliteration. In the words of Frank Underwood, "You are entitled to nothing", so it's up to us to earn it.