Choose human, and change tactics

There is an untestable theory in some Labour circles that a donkey with a red rosette would have won in 1997. This attitude towards Tony Blair stands in contrast to what is being said about Ed Miliband. Either those that lead matter, or they don’t. Much like that favourite question “who was the best Labour Prime Minister ever?”. Clement Attlee fans need to be reminded that whilst he achieved a thumping majority in 1945 and his first term saw much done, he was out of office by 1951.

I do not buy the timidity argument for the first Blair term either. Look at the 2001 result, a second landslide almost as good as 1997. Say what you like about Blair, voters liked him. If it was a timid administration, timidity clearly worked.

I am no Blairite – I am in no particular wing or faction. However, I do like Labour governments. I sometimes wonder whether some on the left share my fondness for Labour victories; you could believe that vainglorious opposition is preferred. Doing it in administration beats any shouting from the sidelines, in my opinion.

We are embarked on a journey that will lead to the unveiling of a new leadership team in September. I am less bothered at the moment about policy (our 2020 manifesto is some way from being written yet) when choosing a leader and deputy than I am about the mechanics of success. We have to win, and I am looking for a winner.

Let’s choose human, and whilst we are at it let’s re-assess our campaigning methods. I am less than keen on our targeting strategy which plays right into the laws of diminishing returns. Besides, talking just to friends is not only easy, it is a recipe for disaster.

Those who support us at our electoral nadir require little persuasion to stick with us. We have to find new support, and this means finding out what those who either abstain or plump for the alternatives really want.

Too many times I am advised not to speak to ‘againsts’ or those who our records indicate don’t vote. Too often have we abandoned whole tracts of the country as unwinnable, ignoring not only the stalwarts there who pay their dues and deserve some activity in return, but also the possibilities of new activists acquired as well as those conversations we are desperately in need of.

Whether we like it or not, our campaigning methods have brought us to where we are today. We have to be expansive if we want success in future, we have to listen and be prepared to compromise or change course, and we have to be led by someone who can connect with voters.

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2 Responses to Choose human, and change tactics

  1. Rob Brown says:

    There is expansive and there is wastes of time. I sit somewhere in the middle. I would advise against spending too much time on an obvious againsts doorstep (even I you can convince them) in return for speaking to wavering don’t knows. This is still expansive.

    We have spent too much time speaking to our own supporters a legacy from defending seats rather than attacking them since 97.

  2. Dave Bodimeade says:

    I agree with a great deal of what you’ve said, Julian.

    We have a find a leader that can communicate with the whole electorate and those who can be persuaded to support us.

    Leadership does matter. If the punters can’t imagine someone in Downing Street then they don’t tend to get there. (Thatcher was the exception there.) Blair’s 3rd win, after Iraq, with a majority of 66, is a great result for any PM compared to the close results that followed.

    It’s all about winning. Any Labour government is better than a Tory government. Keeping the Tories out of power is an end in itself. 1997-2010 was the longest period of non-Tory government for about 200 years.

    Blair’s 3 wins make me a Blairite I suppose. Had someone else won 3 times then I would be a something else-ite. We need a winner. If in doubt do what your opponents want you to do least. We need to choose the leader the Tories most fear. We did it in 1994. We can do it again.

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