What Jeremy Must Do To Win

05.02.16 / In: Comment / Tags: ,

By George Aylett / @GeorgeAylett

Some in Labour are pessimistic about Corbyn’s chances of becoming Prime Minister – I enjoy debate and discussion, so I want to make a case for the sceptics who say that Labour will not win with him in charge. I want to make the Corbynite case for electability – I say that we should be optimistic, because I believe Labour can win in 2020 if we target the key groups that we need to win back: many of these groups trusted the Conservatives over us in 2015. We must appeal to them if we want to swing the marginal constituencies.

Firstly, sole traders. In 2020, there will be more sole traders than trade unionists. These people lack basic rights at work – no sick leave, no maternity pay etc. Our goal should be to reassess social security arrangements for sole traders so that they have access to essential worker’s rights – so, for example, if they were to fall ill they would not risk their business going under. In 2015 Labour were portrayed as ‘anti-business’ – so we must win the support of those who run their own businesses – we must embrace the self-employed and ensure that they are protected.

Secondly, the middle class. An aspiration for many people is to own a home of their own – however, house building is at a 90 year low, the consequence of this means that more and more in the middle are struggling to buy their own home. It’s a housing crisis not seen for generations – and Labour must counter this by being the party of home ownership. A house building programme of 240,000 homes a year – affordable homes, so those who want home ownership can fulfil their aspirations. Commutes are also rising – they have risen by 25% since 2010. RMT claim public ownership can cut prices by up to 18% because privatisation has meant ‘£1.2bn a year is lost every year through inefficiencies’ – a publicly owned railway could mean cheaper commutes for millions of ordinary people. We must make the case for affordable transport and affordable housing – we must offer something to the middle class – they need to trust Labour over the Conservatives, so let’s offer them policies to benefit them.

In many marginals like Morley and Outwood, it was UKIP that split the Labour vote to let the Conservatives in. Many of these UKIP voters are working class, disillusioned with the Labour Party. So we must target the working class UKIP vote to win back key marginal constituencies. These voters aren’t necessarily in support of their leaderships’ ‘Thatcherite’ domestic policy programme – because the evidence says otherwise; 73% back public ownership of our railways; 78% back public ownership of energy; 52% back a living wage and; 66% back rent controls. These voters are economically sympathetic to Corbyn’s policy platform – we failed to offer these policies in 2015, so offering these policies to show that we are the party of working people can win back support in 2020. However the key issues for many of these voters aren’t the aforementioned, but immigration. The left should not be scared to talk about immigration to these voters – they have genuine concerns about employment, housing, healthcare and education, to name a few. Our goal is to say that; it isn’t immigrants to blame for longer waiting times in the NHS, it is the Tories’ failing plan to effectively run our health service which is causing these inefficiencies; it isn’t migrants to blame for the housing crisis, but successive governments for not building enough (if UKIP’s ‘a house built every 7 minutes because of immigration’ claim is true then that is 75,000 houses a year – we should be building 240,000 a year regardless). We tried ‘tough on immigration’ in 2015 and convinced nobody – we must change the narrative on immigration – instead of the ‘tough’ stance we must recognise the economic benefit from free movement – £25 billion every single year EU migrants contribute to our economy to invest in jobs, housing, healthcare etc. turning the argument on it’s head. It will be a challenge, but public opinion can’t change if an alternative case isn’t made.

Finally, pensioners. They are the voters who turn out en-masse – the vast majority of whom trust the Conservatives over us. What we need to do is show that we will look after the elderly better than the Tories. We must pledge to triple-lock pensions and point out Tory failures, pointing out the fact that 2 million pensioners live in poverty – and that many being treated unfairly due to government reforms, for example we should support campaigns like WASPI which aim to protect those who have been hit hard by reforms. We are the party of the state pension, the party of the winter fuel allowance… We must build on these achievements and show that pensioners can trust us over the Tories.

As well as appealing to these groups we must show that we are economically credible, and that our alternative plan is more viable than the current Tory plan. Firstly, we must point out the Conservatives’ failure in office. They have doubled the debt, borrowed more than every single Labour government combined, lost our AAA credit rating, aimed to wipe the deficit by 2015 but missed their target by over £70 Billion. They have failed to meet every single target, and we must hammer this home every single week until 2020. Secondly, we must defend our record in government – every time we are attacked on our record we should defend, every ‘it was Labour that caused the deficit’ – point out that the Tories’ backed our spending pound for pound up to the global economic crisis. Point out the absurdity of the Tory claim that Labour are to blame for the collapse of Lehman brothers and the US sub-prime mortgage crisis – and every time we are criticised for ‘spending too much’ we must say that it wasn’t spending on nurses, doctors, soldiers and firefighters which caused our problems – but a global economic crisis which was unavoidable. Finally we must show that our alternative is fully costed – audited by the Office of Budget Responsibility and audited by economists. An anti-austerity economic plan isn’t ‘incompetent’ but a viable alternative to cuts to public services – that we can eliminate the deficit, but not off the backs of ordinary people – but by ensuring those that dodge tax pay their fair share, that the 50p top rate will bring in an extra £2.6 billion a year, that efficiency savings can be made in the £93 billion we spend on corporate welfare. Our plan is to invest to grow – an economy that offers incentives for workers in the form of co-operatives, where workers own shares in their workplace – this plan will increase productivity and boost our economy. Our plan will benefit small businesses; freezing business rates; capping rents to ensure small businesses won’t be priced out of expensive cities; public investment to improve our digital infrastructure; a national investment bank to help start up small businesses – to name a few. Our plan is viable – let’s sell it to the electorate.

It is important that we are credible with defence. The Conservative’s have been effective when saying ‘Labour are a threat to security’ – and we haven’t countered it. The Conservatives have cut our armed forced by 48% since 2010 and have cut 17000 police officers – yet this is rarely pointed out. What we must do is defend where we agree – it is Labour policy of spending 2% GDP on defence, in line with the NATO recommendation. On Trident – Corbyn should offer a free vote. Simply put, it is not worth losing an election over – we must be a united party as well, it’s not an issue worth a split over. It can be argued an aggressive multilateralist position in this parliament (still holding a free vote on Trident where those who disagree vote against renewal, e.g. Corbyn) – where Jeremy Corbyn as PM would immediately engage in disarmament talks with other nations would be more effective than a whipped unilateralist position – which could split the party and potentially lose an election.

Finally, we must improve with communication. Our strategy has failed – too many times the attention has been on Trident rather than issues that people care about. If Corbyn is asked about Trident, of course he should respond with his honest opinion – but we must move on to the issues that people care about. Our media strategy seems to be to ‘avoid the media’ – I’m sure that’s not what the communication team are doing, but that’s how it appears to those campaigning for Labour who see Trident and divisions headlines consistently. I would say we need to get our leader on television as much as possible – of course the talents of the shadow cabinet should appear too – but the electorate are placing their confidence in the person they want to see as the next Prime Minister – we need to aim to get Corbyn on television consistently so people can see the real him – rather than the image spun by his opponents. Taking the media head on – working with the media to change Corbyn’s image for the better. Also, the Conservatives’ short, simple and coherent messages e.g. ‘long term economic plan’ resonate with the public – we tried this, but kept on changing our message from ‘cost of living crisis’ to ‘squeezed middle’ to ‘one nation Labour’ – we must have a consistent message for the next five years – e.g. ‘invest to grow’, ‘for millions, not just millionaires’, ‘prosperity not austerity’– or something along those lines – a simple message that connects with the voters which can be repeated over and over again.

In conclusion, I believe Corbyn can and must appeal to the swing voters in marginal constituencies we need to win in 2020 – we must establish a policy platform to look after sole traders, the middle class, working class UKIP and pensioners. We must show we are credible with the economy with an alternative economic plan, show that we can be trusted with defence and that our communication strategy must be to work with the media and hammer home short, simple messages. We must be a united party – and we should unite. We can win with this vision.

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