I’ve already made clear that Labour cannot be a one-man team when it comes to their bid for power in 2015; Miliband must delegate and share responsibilities and campaign appearances with his Shadow Cabinet, in particular Andy Burnham with regards to the NHS. One minister-to-be who would be absolutely wasted on the side-lines of Labour’s bid for power is Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, and her impressive conference speech gave us an insight into the kind of minister she can become, what she can do for our country, and on the political side of things, what an asset she is to the Labour camp. This shift in strategy, elevating the roles of the Shadow Health and Home Secretaries may be the answer to Lord Prescott’s criticisms of a ‘timid’ campaign, and most crucially, give Labour a greater chance of securing that all-important majority next year.
Cooper has the ability to restore Labour’s credibility on the issue of immigration if she continues to attack the Tories on their recent record. Theresa May has overseen a net migration target missed by a country mile, a passport shambles that’s caused countless delays, a border checks scandal highlighting lacklustre security, and a cover-up with delayed release of an independent migration report which found EU migrants had ‘little to no’ impact on British jobs. Not only did Cooper capitalise on May’s shortcomings, but she also managed a neat political manoeuvre; blaming high immigration – usually seen as the fault of the liberal left – on the free market right, seeking exploitation of cheap labour. By pledging stricter border controls, proper entry/exit checks, a reduction in unskilled migrants and abuse of the system, Yvette Cooper provides a composed voice of reason to the immigration debate, clarifying that being concerned about migration isn’t racist.
It is not only this sort of sensible rhetoric on immigration that is required in contrast to inflationary UKIP scare tactics; Labour can no longer be afraid of talking about immigration. Cooper offers them credibility they previously lacked on the topic, and her tactics are paving the way for Labour to reclaim the issue from the right, and since it is an issue that will be spotlighted in the election countdown, Cooper must be allowed to step up and continue with her onslaught on the right’s comfortable territory.
Cooper’s reasoned approach to divisive issues isn’t the only reason she has the ability to garner Labour’s wider support. Her intense focus on issues of morality can penetrate the voting intentions of anybody with a conscience. Besides her scathing attack on the Tories’ morally bankrupt ‘Go Home’ vans, and UKIP members’ racist outbursts, her conference speech pointed out injustices ingrained in our society that would disgust any decent citizen, and prescribed legible remedies. For example, shocking the hall with tales of migrated slave labour, mind-boggling statistics about the disparity between rape incidences and convictions, telling of a startling increase in child sex offenders working with children and staggering numbers of owners of abusive images of children going unpunished.
These sad realities in Britain are rarely talked about, by bringing light to them offering credible statutory solutions; Cooper has the potential to win over any number of undecided voters. Her pledge to never turn her back on those fleeing persecution abroad, pointing out Labour’s pressure on the government resulting in Cameron’s U-turn on Syrian refugees last year, is another example of the moral pull she gives the Labour Party. Likewise, her stand against slavery and sweat shop labour at home and abroad is something no voter can ignore.
Besides reason and morality, Yvette Cooper has promised to scrap the experiment of Police Commissioners and ‘clean up’ the British Police Force, whom the public have lost trust in as of late, as well as retaining the 1100 police officers May would cut. On top of this, she offered the fiercest and most convincing attack on UKIP I’ve heard from a Labour figure, reminding everyone of Farage’s policies, for example, charging people to see GPs and even more millionaire tax cuts, and how they will hurt working people, not help them. She is one of the only leading Labour figures that is truly willing to take the fight to UKIP, beyond the tiresome and unconvincing ‘more Tory than the Tories’ line run by the leadership.
Ms Cooper has shown us at the last conference that she has the ability to cut into Labour’s opponents with her emotive power of speech, that she can offer believable and practical policies to improve our domestic problems, and that her morality is perhaps her greatest weapon. The Shadow Home Secretary certainly possesses the power to restore Labour’s credibility on issues it polls weakly, which can go a long way to claim back disaffected voters who turned their backs on the party during its last tenure in power. Plus, her ethical arguments can certainly sway undecided voters, as well as grab the attention of the youth in our country, enticing a demographic of first-time voters. Her appeal can doubtless gain Labour votes outside of its core support bloc, and for this reason, it seems senseless not to utilise her more.
But despite the promise of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, some in the Labour ranks still need to provide a strong and coherent voice to the 2015 campaign. Somebody I haven’t yet mentioned is Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. He is the chief campaign strategist, and so much blame lies at his door for Labour’s lacklustre poll lead. His tactics must change, and the strategy of relying on Miliband’s left-wing credentials to restore Lib Dem defector voters back to the Labour camp, as well as appealing to core voters, must be supplemented by popular Shadow Ministers alluring non-traditional Labour voters.
For example, Chuka Umunna’s proposals to reform the House of Lords and mirror the Spanish Senate system for the Upper Chamber may not be so universally embraced, but its intentions will at least be appreciated by all who favour an enhancement of Britain’s democracy. Even Yvette Cooper’s tough and bold stance on the protection of women and girls from domestic abuse is hardly a position that the left alone will support, but rather one that will garner sympathy universally from all morally decent people across the political spectrum. Meanwhile Tristram Hunt’s criticisms of Michael Gove’s flagship free schools, primarily that they allow unqualified teachers into classrooms, are concerns shared by most parents.
Team Ed must become Team Labour, and use its Shadow Ministers, particularly those aforementioned, more vigorously in order to gain wider electoral appeal and edge closer to a majority in 2015.
By Nathan Phillips