Where Labour should go in 2012

Published on Labour List, by Marcus Roberts, December 28, 2011.

The problem with glass half full, glass half empty analyses is that its all too easy to sit on the fence agreeing with both. That’s how I felt reading Anthony Painter and Luke Akehurst on Labour’s year. I’m pretty happy with where the party is in terms of policy, organisation and Ed’s vision. But I worry about the politics (after all, I read the numbers like every other political geek) and I think we need to put it all together better. So here’s my thoughts on 2011 and some suggestions for where Labour should go in 2012.  


Balls’ strategic judgement that the way to beat the Tories on the economy was a sound one. It may not yield dividends yet but it will as there is only so long any government can go on blaming others before the electorate simply blames those in office.

In substance terms though, Labour is still grappling with the deficit and our response. Re-framing the issue to jobs and growth is key here because as Osborne’s Austerity Britain has proved, you can’t cut your way back to growth. Thus the most important economic policy development of 2011 was not the minutiae of the Five Point Plan but rather the fact that it accepted the idea that borrowing for investing in jobs and growth is a hard nosed economic necessity not a cuddly social democratic nicety. And as earlier this month Fabian General Secretary Andrew Harrop demonstrated with his ‘Labour tax cuts’ call, Labour needs to add drama to its economic message to achieve the much fabled ‘cut-through’ that means our position resonates with the electorate.

But, to be blunt, the tension between getting to growth, tackling unemployment, getting the electorate on side and regaining economic credibility is very, very far from being resolved within the party at any level. The biggest challenge of substance Labour has next year is balancing these competing claims in a way that will prove popular, effective and credible. Good luck. Even the impressive ‘In the Black Labour’ chose to dwell more on what spending should be like after growth has returned then on how to get out of this mess. Next month’s Fabian new year conference with a keynote by Ed Balls should focus on how this gordian knot can be cut.

Policy: … //

… Leadership:

2011 saw Ed Miliband rightly praised for his intervention on phone hacking, his shadow cabinet reshuffle and a series of intellectually impressive and politically savvy speeches on responsibility, the squeezed middle and breaking up concentrations of power. But some of his low individual leadership numbers need to be boosted throughout 2012. To achieve this he should continue to eschew quick fixes, gimmicks and triangulation and instead begin connecting the big themes of his leadership as he outlines what, as Peter Mandelson has said, his “project” actually is. These themes then need to be translated into far more aggressive attacks on a no-growth government, price gouging energy companies and, yes, even the 1% who seek short term profits for themselves over society’s gain as a whole. Such attacks will both resonate with swing voters and boost his own ratings. After a year of multi-coloured Labour debates Ed can now move from being the Party’s Intellectual-in-Chief to it’s Campaigner-in-Chief, offering a coherent and optimistic vision of the Britain he will build, whilst excoriating not just his political opponents but the pro-Tory vested interests from banks to energy companies who prey on middle England. (full text and related posts).


The campaign was about talking to the party – now it’s time to talk to the country, December 17, 2011;

Balls: Labour’s opportunity starts now, on Next Left, by Kenneth Way, December 21, 2011.

Is it time the money men took over the euro asylum? on total politics, by Darren Ennis, December 20, 2011.

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