As Labour starts to prepare for general election, it’s time for members to switch to positive campaign mode

Party’s outstanding policy platform will be ignored by ‘mainstream’ media – it’s up to activists to make noise

Comment

The announcement that Labour will soon give the green light for members who wish to to commence parliamentary selection procedures, to start preparing for a general election, means a switch of mindset is urgently required on the part of Labour members and supporters.

The extent of attacks upon the party and its leadership can make it easy to get set into a defensive mode – but voters need to hear about the positive difference Labour government is going to make in their lives and communities. Outside a formal general election period, the Establishment media is never going to give Labour’s outstanding policy platform the coverage and analysis it deserves.

So it’s up to Labour’s members to make so much noise about it that the public can’t miss what’s on offer – and there are a lot of reasons to be positive.

Membership and movement

Labour will soon announce the appointment of a new membership director whose key focus will be to build and retain membership through organising and political education – with the aim of realising Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of building a social movement.

This will require every Labour member to focus again on building the movement and resisting the temptation to be inward-looking or to ‘circle the wagons’. The prize if we succeed is huge.

The alternative of continuing to let anger build is understandable – but exposes the party to attacks on the project for no gain. This does not equate to appeasing the right, but focusing on what needs to be built – and the building blocks Labour’s leadership has. This is not a time for indulging individual ambitions, but for putting into practice the principles of collective action and responsibility that the Labour movement is founded on.

Brexit

An obvious example of this need is Brexit. The focus of Establishment media and politicians on Brexit/Remain is intentional – and it distracts from the real, everyday issues we all face. Labour’s policies to rebuild Britain’s social and material infrastructure are lost in the noise.

So those who believe in it need to make more noise.

Using public procurement to build more of what we need in Britain and to create quality, well-paid, unionised jobs and apprenticeships – and generate revenue – will have a transformative effect on the UK far beyond merely leaving, or remaining in, the EU.

Building, not pulling down

Building our manufacturing capacity, using – for example – British steel and not cheaply-dumped imports; public ownership of our national assets; simple things like producing public sector vehicles in facilities based in this country, whether through UK firms or others basing manufacturing here just be based here – these are just a few of the steps the Tories will never take, but that Labour can.

And they’ll transform, protect and unite our communities – with equal openness and opportunity in all of the UK’s nations.

Most importantly, Labour will not only implement policies conceived at the top, but will harness the ideas of its hundreds of thousands of members, as an email sent this week by John McDonnell about public ownership makes clear:

Below is just a small selection of Labour’s policies already confirmed – more than enough to be excited about with the prospect of change approaching, but just a small sample of Labour’s vision and its plans – as always fully costed.

Rebuilding our economy

  • Labour will create high–skilled, high–wage jobs – and make the UK a world leader in the environmentally-friendly technologies we need to protect our planet. Climate change is a class issue
  • the party will invest £250 billion to upgrade the UK’s energy, transport and digital infrastructure
  • government contracts will be awarded to support UK industry and good employment practices

Rebuilding our communities

  • Labour will create a new national bank to invest in local businesses and revive local communities
  • the party will undertake the biggest house-building programme in three decades
  • Labour will deploy 10,000 extra police officers, bringing security to our neighbourhoods
Labour’s message to communities

Rebuilding our public services

  • Labour will bring energy, water and rail back into public ownership – running them for the people, not profit
  • Labour will build the NHS back up and fund it properly, reversing the decline imposed by the Tories
  • Labour will create a National Education Service, ensuring the best education for all
  • Labour will introduce universal free school meals for primary school children and bring class sizes under thirty for all 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds

Tackling inequality

  • Labour will rebuild the UK’s social security system, lifting the huge burdens piled on our most vulnerable by callous Conservatives
  • Labour will reduce the minimum voting age to sixteen, enfranchising and empowering young people to contribute to our country and its direction

On top of all this, Labour’s policies for security, defence and development, human rights, internationalism and more mean that Labour’s supporters and activists have a huge amount to be positive about.

But the public will get next to none of this from the Establishment media or commentators. Announcement after announcement by Labour’s stellar Shadow Cabinet team have received barely a mention from the so-called ‘mainstream’ broadcasters and press.

Labour’s message will only cut through with a huge effort from the party’s members and supporters. It can’t be done from a defensive stance – which is why Labour’s opponents are working so hard to keep us in one.

It’s time to stop letting them.

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21 responses to “As Labour starts to prepare for general election, it’s time for members to switch to positive campaign mode

  1. I’m SWP, but aside from increasing police numbers, there’s little for me to disagree with here, and I will be supporting Labour whatever their eventual position on Europe. It’s small potatoes compared to the poverty, pain, misery and death caused by the f**king Tories and their idiotic Victorian fantasies and their Mickey Mouse economic strategies.

    For an insight into a truly sick Tory mind, I recommend Jacob Rees-Mogg’s unlettered account of the period in question. Know your enemy. Warning: it is truly sickening. It’ll probably be available for 10p in The Works pretty soon.

    Of course, in the long run, there has to be a focus on international socialism. Otherwise corporations will do their best to cripple any single authentic socialist government. The UK is also very weak because Thatcher decimated the productive, industrial base of the country. This needs reconstructing. It will work though. In the words of Dennis Skinner at conference, “You do what the private sector do. You BORROW the money.”

    I argue for a Brexit-based internationalism. Maybe then a Corbyn government could force corporations to actually pay their tax or take their business elsewhere – the EU currently turns a blind eye to the massive levels of corporate tax avoidance going on, and I don’t see that changing. That’s what the EU is actually there for. Cracking down on tax havens is a key internationalist strategy for achieving the transition to global socialism. To quote my hero(!) Margaret Thatcher, There Is No Alternative.

    As well as public sector ownership, I would also argue for no compensation.

    Sadly, there is no establishment voice in the UK for an anti-austerity, anti-racist, pro-migration, pro-democratic Brexit, although there are plenty of people who voted Brexit Party who adopt significant parts of that position. Farage is NOT the voice of Brexit. He is a money-grubbing racist riding on the coattails of a much bigger plebiscite rebellion.

    For that reason, I would have preferred Corbyn to have been stronger on Brexit, and Labour members should have more power to deselect all of the unreconstructed “centrist” chaff and dead-weight in the party. But you can’t have everything I suppose.

    I look forward to the Labour landslide and the end of neoliberalism.

  2. I’d like to see Labour adopt an anti-regressive tax stance: get rid of council tax and replace it with a land value tax, get rid of VAT, tax unearned income – rent, interest, dividends, etc. much more highly than earned income, merge NI and income tax or get rid of cap on NI payments, introduce much higher marginal tax rates. I’d also like to see a policy of adherence to the spirit of tax law not the letter, and a policy of permanent investigation of all corporations funded by a specific tax on those same corporations. I’d also change the law so that boardroom members are required to either be aware of and prevent tax avoidance/evasion, or be held criminally negligent if they cry ignorance. I also want to see policies of maximum ownership, to end landlords owning hundreds of homes – needing a place to live should never be someone else’s opportunity for rent-seeking – and also maximum land ownership – no-one needs thousands of acres (a progressive LVT would help with tax bands and high marginal rates), people buy land to avoid tax. I’d also like to see a requirement for all unused land to be re-wilded at the owner’s expense, or sold to the state and held in permanent public trust (re-commoning). The problem with the labour party is its status quo-ism. It refuses to tackle the underlying problem of the mal-distribution of land and property in the UK. This is inherent in the move to build social housing, which does nothing to address this. In fact, it’s kind of sickening because, whether your landlord is the govt or private you still fork out a chunk of cash just to have somewhere to live. It’s exploitative either way.

    • Your point about the neglect of the land issue is absolutely correct. It has always been treated simply as a sub-division of ‘capital’ in general – which confuses it’s nature and the history.

      Scotland has made an important symbolic move in its provisions regarding access rights, which essentially puts down a marker that questions the accepted conflation of ‘ownership’ and ‘stewardship’.

      It would be a mistake to see the era of extensive ‘common’ land as a time of Eden. It wasn’t like that – but the theft of common rights by enclosure was real enough, and it’s time to move in the reverse direction, even if there will be devils in the detail.

  3. Totally agree about Brexit drowning out important policy issues.

    What to do? How to stem the flow of votes to LibDems and Greens? Get it out of the way by saying explicitly :

    ‘We’ll ditch it. Three years is more than enough time to prove its impracticality and that it will handicap our ability to deal with the rest of the mess that the Tories have left …. We agree with our supporters that it’s a total distraction ”

    … then into a progressive program of reform.

    Keep farting about with the Tory Leave policy, pretending guff about ‘respecting’ an uninformed choice by a minority, that has been revealed to have no rationale – and the white noise will just continue to get in the way.

  4. Totally agree about Brexit drowning out important policy issues.

    What to do?

    Quite easy – how about you and the others put brexit on the very back burner, let it run it’s course and start concentrating on far more pressing, domestic issues?

    • ” how about you and the others put brexit on the very back burner”

      Simply – it won’t happen, and we don’t have that in ‘our’ gift.

      In practical terms, that swathe of previous supporters who recently deserted the Party aren’t going to look at Skwawkbox and the like and decide ‘That’s OK then if you say so. Brexit is just an irrelevancy’.

      Of course – emphasize the main domestic issues – but Brexit just isn’t going to fade away.

  5. Great article. Let’s sell the party’s fantastic policies as if lives depend on it. Because they do.

  6. agreed RH that Brexit is not simply going to disappear, however the sentiments of what the The Toffee says is very pertinent and relevant to the thread of the article ” put it on the backburner ” It might not be within our gift to make brexit disappear but it certainly is within our gift to stop talking about it , leave or remain, and instead Focus upon the immense damage that the Tories are doing to our Society and vulnerable in our Society using the whole brexit Fiasco as a smokescreen to very effectively deflect attention.
    IMO we should all try at every opportunity to turn the conversation away from brexit and onto how labour can help those less fortunate in our Society in other words away from the negative and more to the positive.

    • My comment, rob, is simply an observation based on the fact that ift is clearly Brexit that is doing the most damage to Labour’s electoral support : it would simply be the elephant in the room if not addressed.

      I suppose it is also worth highlighting how the tactic of focusing on other key domestic issues has, in fact, been the official tactic. Bluntly, Brexit did not just go away.

      The final aspect is that it is not possible to discuss wide-ranging reform without getting into the economics,which ineluctably leads to the effects of Brexit.

      I’m not at all against the narrative being other than it is – I just cannot see it happening in reality.

  7. We can’t not talk about Brexit, it’s the greatest issue facing us and if it goes ahead it will have a drastic effect upon the well being of the Country.

    Skwawky doesn’t want to talk about it because he can see his policy of going ahead with some form of Brexit without giving the electorate another chance to see if it’s what they really want, falling apart.

    We have been handed a double barrell shot gun with which to shoot ourselves, one barrell has the IHRA definition and one barrell has Brexit. We have fallen into the trap and have turned the gun upon ourselves because of those those in the machinery of the Party who are either complicit or too blind to recognise the dangers.

  8. I think that you’re right in linking the IHRA definition issue with that of Brexit. Both have shown major miscalculation – and those miscalculations can’t just be wished away.

    The proof of the pud is in the elections. No argument. It just is.

    Let’s be clear – this isn’t to deny the unprecedented level of attack that the Party has been under – from both internal and external instigators. The legacy of Blair has had baleful effects, and rebuilding was never going to be easy.

    But the irony is that, in fact, the disastrous ‘triangulation’ (aka attempted avoidance) of those years has been continued in relation to these key issues.

    Re. antisemitism : the official strategy has been to admit *some* guilt, apologise – and never, ever go on the attack. That has put defenders of the Party in an impossible position (see Pete Willsman’s suspension) as the hierarchy effectively sides with the villains in the vain hope of being patted on the head.

    It is a ‘strategy’ that doesn’t deserve the name – it’s more of a ‘surrender’.

    At least on this one, most here will be in agreement.

    On the other, there are deep divisions in the Party – the most serious being between the leadership and the membership and wider support. The problem is that pretending that ‘compromise’ is realistic (aka ‘triangulation’) does nothing to hide the uncomfortable schism that exists in reality. The results – as seen in elections and polling – were always forseeable.

    Unless these essential contradictions are resolved, it will be impossible to simply focus on new social/economic direction – let alone *get elected*.

  9. If no deal and no referendum were taken off the table then what kind of Brexit would you want to see
    Answer Labour brino
    On a positive note Universal Credit is actually an important part of the solution, it negates the need for a Universal Income if funded correctly
    Then sign up to the concept of Opportunity cost, which means we have to agree what government funds, you cant have it all,
    So student fees, social care, housing, pensions, nationalisation
    Then you need to lose Trident, HS2 and Hinckley

    • Doug, there is no such thing as Brino, it was a term coined by the right wing to show their displeasure at it not being THEIR form of Brexit. It is still Brexit and there is no form of Brexit which will be beneficial to the majority of the Country.

      Let’s not talk ourselves into another fudge.

      • Both no dealers and neverenders are living on fantasy island, its not going to happen

  10. Great policies. Went to Labour Grassroots Labour event today. Very good but as a former university & adult education worker, I offer some feedback.
    Started bit late, too many speakers – should just have had PPC, T Unionist, grassroots campaign and Shadow. Small workshops too short (15 mins) and only 2 key points allowed.
    So cut down on speakers, have 45 mins for working groups (ideally in seperate rooms) and ask for 6 key points.
    I suggested in the ‘Nationalisation Workshop’ we should use the socialist language of the 21stC and call it “Democratic Public Ownership” we want to give staff, workers. and communities more say!
    I also suggested we should be flexible re our democratic public ownership models – rail, mail & water should break even but we could treat Gas & Electric like a Cooperative with a Divi to customers (which could be used by those in fuel poverty to offset against bills) which would nail it down!
    I also said we need to consider land in the longer term.
    Another attendee suggested bringing back buses under council democratic control to which I added yes and free public transport for all – it will be free for under 25s and IS FREE for Over 65s (under threat from the Tories) so let’s go the whole hog and have it for all – attract people out of cars & address climate change!
    So a very good community engagement event and the Shadow was very good and the DEAL parent (disabled 16+ transport unite community trade unionism grassroots led campaign) was excellent!
    Well done Labour!
    Solidarity!

    • You can forget nationalisation of rail, mail, gas and electricity if we stay in the EU Bazza, since it would be contrary to the market access provisions of the liberalisation directives governing those sectors.

      The only lawful option for public ownership in the EU/EEA in those sectors is the “competitive public ownership” which luminaries of the Labour Right like Hugh Gaitskell and Tony Crosland used to peddle in the 1950s, i.e. a publicly owned company in competition with private firms in a capitalist market.

      Mind you, no doubt even Gaitskell and Crosland would have baulked at the EU competition law principle that government cannot discriminate in favour of the publicly owned market participant.

  11. Labour’s new message must be Building a Better Britain Without Brexit

    Another Europe is Possible
    The European election results were grim for the Labour Party, and they come after local election results that weren’t great either. We need to face the reality that 45% of Labour’s 2017 voters who went to the polls on Thursday opted instead for Remain parties, while just 15% gave their support to The Brexit Party or UKIP.
    Ironically enough, the Euro election results aren’t really a verdict on our relationship with the European Union. Rather they are a damning indictment of Theresa May’s chaotic government and her inability to deliver her Brexit unicorns. Take note, though – what we have seen at the ballot box must also prompt those within our party to drop their own unicorns.

    There will be no crocodile tears from me for the departure of the least strong, least stable Prime Minister since Anthony Eden. No commendations from me for a disaster-class PM, on whose watch Britain is condemned by the United Nations for increasing poverty across our country.
    My contempt for the sheer incompetence of this set of Conservative wreckers knows no bounds. Much of my day job is spent resisting and rectifying the effects of Tory mismanagement of our rail industry – that’s what unions do. However, fully overcoming the effects of Tory mismanagement of our economy, which sees one in three of our country’s children living in poverty, will take a radical Labour government.

    Be in no doubt – a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government is what our country is crying out for. And I’m confident that we can win the general election when it comes. But it’s not as simple as wishing for a nationwide poll to arrive.

    As our Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has wisely observed, turkey’s don’t vote for Christmas. Indeed, the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act makes bringing down a government very difficult – that is what it was designed to do. So how do we force an election? The surest way of doing so right at this moment is by sinking Brexit. Do that, and the Tories will split asunder.

    What we need now is a quick and honest stock take of these election results, which left Labour exposed and blamed for a Brexit policy that has never been ours to control. How can we when we are not the government of the day? It’ll come as no surprise that I hold our mixed Brexit messaging responsible for where we are after Thursday’s ballot box debacle. We sowed confusion where people on the doorsteps I stood on were crying out for clarity.

    Straight-talking is what we do best. We are straight-talking on our commitments to our NHS, on the abolition of tuition fees, on creating an economy For The Many and on our climate emergency. Yet on Brexit we were as clear as mud.

    It would be an outrage to blame Jeremy Corbyn for that. Let’s face it, he has tried to lead even though there are divisions within our parliamentary party and shadow cabinet, but remarkably he has so far stopped Brexit in its tracks. He’s been so successful in doing this that May was forced to admit she can no longer occupy Downing Street long before the outcome of these results were known.

    During the campaign, Jeremy restated his commitment to remain and reform. He even said a public vote could be the start of “a healing process”. So to those in our party who have failed to amplify our leader’s public words or gone against them, it’s time to follow his message.

    To those who have preferred to use Brexit as a proxy for an outmoded and unnecessary ideological battleground between our party’s left and right, these results should be the wake-up call to cease your political self-indulgence. One in three British children need us, and all of us in our Labour Party must urgently get a grip. We must join together in a disciplined, united opposition to this leaderless Tory Party.

    There are questions that remain unanswered about how we approached the EU election. I would like to know why this was the first time in my 30+ years of Labour membership that I did not receive a poster to put on my window. Why is it that not enough leaflets were produced on time for our activists to hand out? Cock-up, complacency, incompetence probably all have their part to play. Sadly, for our many wonderful activists it felt like our party didn’t want to win the European elections.

    This can never be allowed to happen again.

    The Tory leadership election is already an ugly spectacle; one fought out on the no-deal terrain of Nigel Farage’s choosing. The dog-whistle xenophobia and racism that will accompany the strutting of the wannabe PMs is already sickening me to my stomach. Yet whoever is elected will have no mandate to negotiate with Europe or to run our country.

    Labour has respected the three-year-old referendum result. We voted in parliament to trigger Article 50 and God knows our party sat in negotiations and tried to broker a deal that protected our workers’ rights, our environment, our food standards and our jobs. Labour has more than held that side of our bargain. However, as no-deal now becomes the mantra of those who would be PM, the only clear message available to Labour is ‘no Brexit’.

    Looking back, Theresa May did actually, for once, tell us the truth in December when she said there were three options facing parliament – her deal, no deal, or no Brexit at all. With her deal gone with her Premiership, is it perhaps time to consider this truth: Brexit is simply not negotiable. It’s a rock and a hard place: vassalage or deep economic harm. The squeeze on Britons whilst Theresa May tried to conjure the impossible has not been worth the juice.

    With the Tories changing their leader and gearing up for Armageddon Brexit, our generals must recalibrate too. This trade union general secretary is recommending Jeremy now leads an all-out assault on Brexit. A new election strategy committed to ‘Building a Better Britain Without Brexit’ is clear messaging. It’s the unifying message our party members want. Sink Brexit and bring on a general election – it’s Labour’s to win.
    Manuel Cortes

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