Labour needs to go on the attack

“We have to stop holding back. No more politely or apologetically pulling our punches”

Boris Johnson and his team are incompetents who are fuelled by, and are themselves fuelling, blustering false optimism. They can, and must, be shaken up.

These are testing times but we need to come back in the New Year, re-energised, with a fire in our bellies. We need to work hard to be a light in the darkness for the country – not for the sake of politics, but to give people genuine hope through a tough winter and spring.

With dwindling faith in those who govern us, Labour should seek to inspire the optimism our country needs to get us all through. We need to relentlessly batter the Tory government on their never-ending shambles.

Sometimes you just need to hammer them first and finalise the strategy later. The time for over-caution and lack of self-belief is over.

We can’t wait for the approval of the Mail, Express and Telegraph. They will always be outraged at what Labour does.

But we have to stop holding back. No more politely or apologetically pulling our punches.

We should start with developing shadow frontbencher Rachel Reeves’ work on exposing crony government contracts into a forceful, public-facing party campaign. Drive it through local and regional media.

We must pitch our party’s vibrant local and regional voices against the tired old ham actors of Whitehall spouting their meaningless and insincere three word phrases.

Labour voices rooted in the communities they represent carry more weight, more trust and more believability than Westminster Tories with their top-down politics.

Show side-by-sides of the government’s shoddy treatment of local jobs and businesses, versus Tory cronies profiteering from the pandemic. Keep the spotlight on the friends, family, donors and neighbours making super profits from a health crisis.

Expand the ‘one rule for them, another for us’ message and compare this profiteering to the pay freezes for key workers and real-term cuts to public services. Our key message must be of fairness and competence.

Labour should tie in criticism of the government’s discovery of a Magic Money Forest for handing out billions of taxpayer money for crony contracts to a message of how the money would be so much better spent investing in the country and rebuilding our way out of the pandemic and the recession.

Paint a picture for people of what could be done to create quality jobs and revive high streets, spark a modern renaissance in arts and culture, rebuild the economy and support local community, and bring education into the 21st Century. Keir Starmer must keep on with the message of hope which he delivered on Sunday morning – this too shall pass, and one day we will be reunited with our loved ones.

The government has asked so much of the public throughout this pandemic, and we have delivered. The vast majority of us have struggled through since March for the sake of public health, and will continue to make very difficult personal sacrifices to protect each other.

But this Johnson government will not deliver for us in the way they have delivered to their profiteering chums.

Their approach to the pandemic continues to be to do too little, too late, too badly. The plan is to have no plans, no preparation.

And people are getting sick of it. A Government with no plans rips up our personal plans.

The dither and delay means they always end up dumping on us. Our schools, teachers, students, lecturers, carers, medics, and millions of families.

We have watched whatever limited competence they claimed to have dissolve before our eyes. The pandemic has been turned into a profiteering racket for their friends, family members and donors.

If anything is going to politicise people, or turn swing voters who opted Tory at the last general election against the government, it will be this.

As a party we must unite around an effort to be the country’s beacon of hope. Our leadership, across the Shadow Cabinet, our key campaigners, our Mayors and councillors must – more forcefully and passionately – build a narrative of the alternative we offer.

Labour’s national polling figures have shot up since electing fresh leadership. Those figures – nearly 30% behind in some polls – had us staring down the barrel of electoral oblivion.

We’re now competing with the Conservative Party’s electoral coalition which delivered a devastating 80-seat majority. That’s a hell of a journey which should not be dismissed nor taken for granted.

Let that give us the confidence in the New Year to be a louder, bolder and much more aggressive political force.

Tessa Milligan is Co-Chair of Open Labour. 

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