The polls suggest that Labour is unpopular with the electorate and not doing very well in opposition, this means the Conservative party looks as though it is walking away with the 2020 election already. However, there is a long way to go and with the right strategy, Labour will be able to rival the Tories. Here is a number of ways they can do it:
1. Labour must be united
Labour MPs have been focusing on internal struggles, as such they have not been focused on holding the government to account. Jeremy Corbyn was elected by a significant mandate of nearly 60%, a greater mandate than any other Labour leader. Due to this, it seems increasingly unlikely that Corbyn is going to go anytime soon, despite some Labour MPs hoping he will resign or be overthrown soon.
That means rebellious Labour MPs need to accept Corbyn is the leader of the party and work with him in holding the government to account. It is a two-way street, so Corbyn and the right of the Labour party may have to compromise on some issues. And if they can’t reach a compromise, shouting about it from the rooftops (or even in the tabloid press), is not the way to go about becoming an effective opposition.
2. Progressive parties must work together
While the Green party, SNP and Plaid Cymru won’t form a government representing the whole of the UK in 2020, all progressive parties must work together to hold the government to account.
In the follow up to the 2015 General Election, the Green party, SNP, and Plaid Cymru announced they would form an alliance in order to“battle the Westminster parties’ obsession with austerity”. The Labour leadership shares their views on austerity and should join the ‘progressive alliance’. All of these parties must speak in unison against the draconian policies of the Conservative government whenever possible.
3. Labour must communicate clearly
As Owen Jones points out, Labour needs to communicate its message clearly and effectively – something the Tories do successfully.
The Conservative party ran a campaign in opposition which said: Labour was “the party that crashed the economy, we are the ones with the long-term economic plan”, as Steven Swinford notes. This was something Labour failed to counter as the party failed to explain that it can’t have been to blame for a global financial crisis and did not over-spend.
This may come back to bite the Conservative party, after all, Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history. But Labour needs to show that austerity isn’t working. It must highlight that the government isn’t paying down the debt. Also, it needs to focus on key areas such as the NHS, housing, education, and inequality – all of which are becoming real problems under this government and issues that are real worries for ordinary people.
But the only way it can do this, is by developing clear, convincing messages being repeated at every available opportunity.
4. The message must be one of hope
Whilst Labour must highlight the failures of the government, it has to provide an alternative message of hope whilst in opposition. It needs to show what it would bring in government and how it would benefit ordinary people. It can’t just be that ‘the Tories are bad’, but why ‘we are good and a force for change’. Richard Angell is right when he asserts that:
Whether it was 1945, 1964 or 1997, Labour only wins when it contests the national message, is positive about the future and is the right mix of radical and credible.
Therefore, it must come up with some positive policies that it would enact that would benefit people from all classes within the UK. The difficulty here is that the Conservative party’s rhetoric is constantly provided support in the mainstream media and rarely challenged. However, with another term of austerity many people will be looking for a party that will: save the NHS, reduce the gap between rich and poor, and provide people with housing. It will take a positive campaign to win those people over.
A successful campaign relies on unity, the Tories may become disunited over the EU, in which case Labour should take advantage. But it can only do this if it is united. It can only work with other progressive parties and campaign on a clear, hopeful message if everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet.
Featured image via Wikimedia
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