Labour’s poll lead has been stubborn yet unconvincing for the past four years, the nation seemingly unmoved by party’s overtures to amass widespread support. With 2015 rapidly approaching, we have some advice for the Labour leadership on how they can concoct a winning formula.
1. Having drawn Tory blood on the NHS, go for the kill
Ed Miliband landed a serious blow on David Cameron at PMQs last week when he attacked the Prime Minister over his government’s record on the NHS. In particular, the Conservatives’ election strategist Lynton Crosby’s links with tobacco companies hit a nerve with the PM.
4,000 senior nursing positions have been lost since 2010 and the government target for treating people diagnosed with cancer has been missed for the first time since 2009. The NHS is traditionally a policy area where Labour do well over the Tories, so Miliband should ramp up the pressure on Cameron and force him to defend his party’s dismal record.
2. Use the ShadCab to its full potential
The way in which Labour uses its Shadow Cabinet is really quite bizarre. For all the haplessness and infighting, there is some serious talent in Miliband’s ranks. Three potential future Labour leaders immediately spring to mind in the form of Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna and Rachel Reeves, with rising stars Stella Creasy and Luciana Berger shining all the more brightly by the day.
Yet Miliband’s insistence on an overzealously hands-on approach, where he does absolutely everything himself and refuses to delegate any serious responsibility, has left Labour in a desperate situation. Only the keenest students of British politics are aware of who the big names in the ShadCab are, and that is a problem. More delegation would mean a broader appeal and, correspondingly, more votes come May.
3. Harness Ed’s weirdness
Bacon sandwiches, attempts at political stunts which backfired - Ed Miliband is not your definitive smooth-talking PR politician. He’s weird. But this can be a good thing. Ed isn’t into football, or soap operas and sounds like the Speaking Clock when he tries to sound like he is.
He’s into things like baseball, which isn’t exactly something you’d call cool, or marketable, but he should use these features to his advantage in order to boost his dismal personal poll ratings. Ed should be absolutely clear that he is, in fact, an everyday working person, with as many imperfections and idiosyncrasies as the rest of us. It’s got to be worth a shot.
4. Completely ignore UKIP
UKIP are now a force in British politics, like it or not. They are like that kid that used to sit behind you in double Geography on a Wednesday afternoon and kick the back of your chair; the more attention you give them, the more power they have over you.
The Tories are running scared of UKIP and are dedicating a fair amount of time and energy towards dealing with their ‘UKIP problem’. This is a golden opportunity for Labour. UKIP went in hard on Labour in the Heywood and Middleton by-election, going with the attack line of ‘how many more times are they going to let you down?’
This is exactly why Labour should completely ignore Farage’s persistent pressure. UKIP’s threat has been created entirely due to the failings of other parties. Engaging with them merely draws these failings further into the spotlight.
5. Make sure your sums add up - and fast
The main reason why Labour are not currently 20 points clear in the polls is that voters don’t trust them on the economy. This is not a popular coalition government, yet the reason voters are turning to UKIP is the same as why Ed Miliband is not a shoe-in for PM. Labour are not seen as a better alternative to the Tories due to their past failings, particularly on the economy.
The problem is, the sums of Ed Balls and the Labour Party still do not add up.
They have put all their eggs in one basket with the mansion tax, which by the end of September had already paid for an increase in NHS funding, a reduction of the deficit and a freezing of the winter fuel allowance.
Balls was not Miliband’s first choice as Shadow Chancellor and we are beginning now to see why. With every Ed Balls-up, Labour’s economic credibility worsens and it looks less and less likely that a man in a red tie will be walking into Number 10 in seven months’ time.
6. Drop the ‘Tory toffs’ narrative - no one’s listening
Yes, it’s true, the present Cabinet are largely a collection of white, middle-aged, public school-educated men.
As such, Labour have been banging on about evil Tories giving tax cuts to millionaires since Cameron first became PM. Yet, despite this, the Tories took a lead over Labour in the polls for the first time in two years.
Labour’s narrative is childishly simplistic, and the electorate aren't buying it.
Miliband will not win this election purely on the basis that the government are a bunch of posh boys, and Labour needs to realise this inherent fact before it’s too late. A narrative on policies over personalities must encompass everything, including background.
7. Take the initiative on Scotland
The Labour Party in Scotland is in disarray and has been pretty meaningless for some time. Indeed, the majority of Scotland, not just The 45, are pretty cynical about the likelihood of Westminster delivering on ‘The Vow’ for further devolution.
There are votes to be won here and, handily enough, there is absolutely no UKIP threat (Scotland isn’t big on righties).
Cameron isn’t talking about Scotland at all, Scotland (not unreasonably) thinks he’s given up on them. This is a golden opportunity for Ed Miliband to show his PM credentials and evidence that he has what it takes to be a Prime Minister for the whole of the United Kingdom, not just London and a small village in Oxford.
And, if all else fails, Labour can at least fall back on their dancing skills…