The atrocious results from last night clearly show that the Blairite strategy, revived by Gordon Brown, of targeting middle class votes while assuming the working class would back the Party come what may, no longer holds. The working class are now staying home or voting for anyone other than Labour as an alternative to the Tories. Millions still identify with the Party but won’t back it because its policies and rhetoric is alienating them.
There is now no point trying to pile up middle class support in southern seats if our core vote is deserting us and destroying our voting base. At the same moment sections of the middle class are voting for the Tories for the first time since the late 1980s. On issues like civil liberties, well being and even audaciously on poverty – David Cameron is setting the terms of debate. This pincer movement is squeezing the life out of the government. The whole electoral strategy of New Labour is in tatters.
Compass has been saying this since 2005 when we analysed the data from that election. It was clear then, with 4.5 million voters lost since 1997 that the Party was heading for trouble. Only a change of direction will renew the Party’s electoral fortunes.
The issue is not whether Labour is a party of the middle class or the working class. It has to be both. That was the genius of the 1997 voting bloc. The leadership of the Party must now accept that the same issues affect voters in Reading as in Rotherham; insecurity and anxiety caused by flexible labour markets, the lack of affordable housing, sharp price rises, concerns about pensions, worries about securing places in local schools, immigration and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. But while this pervasive insecurity affects everyone it is the lower social groups who pay the heaviest price. A fresh start is not just an ideological necessity but an electoral imperative.
We must have a vision and a set of policies that unite common interests and concerns. Brown said in the autumn that he would delay the election to set out his vision for the country. Six months on no one is any the wiser. Instead he has panicked and pressed the rewind button back to the failed politics of Blairism. The working class have not just been ignored but attacked on issues such as social housing, benefits and now the 10p tax rate. Trade Union action in defence of workers rights and conditions have also been criticised. John Hutton says the rich should be celebrated! It is little wonder that these people don’t vote for us and particularly alarming that regrettably some seem to have backed the BNP.
And when the middle class face university tuition fees, long term care costs, white collar jobs being outsourced to India and when economic good fortune turns against us – the scale of the political and electoral task facing Labour becomes clear. If Brownism is just Blairism without the economic boom then the Party is finished.
Everyone is working hard and playing by the rules but a political and economic system that prioritises the needs of the rich over everyone else is always going to disappoint.
For a moment Brown did hold out the hope of change. The messages early on were about limits to the privatisation of health and education, affordable housing, a new moral direction symbolised by the cancellation of the Manchester supercasino, an emphasis on liberty and meaningful constitutional reform. But these were never followed through. It was the moment he became the Prime Minister for continuity not change that the polls turned against the government and has now led to this disastrous set of local election results.
The long term damage to the Labour Party is becoming clear. Jon Cruddas warned in the Deputy Leadership campaign that the Party was being hollowed out. Membership is at an all time low and will fall further now nearly another 300 councillors have been wiped out; as these are usually the only people who keep local parties going. Thousands of people didn’t even have a Labour candidate to vote for last night. The Party has huge and unsustainable debts because it chose to rely on the donations of a few rich individuals rather than building and engaging with a wider membership base.
At the time of writing we don’t know how Ken Livingstone has faired in London. The result will obviously be close. He has out polled Labour and has been dragged down by issues like the 10p tax rate. From the congestion charge to the environment he has been brave and pursued a more radical politics. But within the constraints of a City dominated by the distorting effects of financialised capitalism and a national Party that refuses to make society the master of the market Ken was always going to find it tough.
Can Labour recover? Only if the government once again embraces change. The move must be made quickly or the Party will suffer the consequences.
Change needs to be signalled through a new narrative and a set of supporting polices. The needs of society must come before those of the economy. New Labour is still trapped in the Thatcherite refrain that There Is No Alternative. But the fallibility of free markets is now apparent to everyone.
From Northern Rock, to the credit crunch and the Governor of the Bank of England condemning City pay excesses – the moment is ripe for Brown and his Cabinet to assert a need and a willingness to put the interest of society first. Nothing is holding them back than their own timidity.
A new narrative for Britain must be based on the eternal centre-left values of liberty, equality and solidarity. The trick is how we apply them in the world today.
In policy terms he must:
But Compass now refuses to wait for Gordon or anyone else. Later this month we are going to launch a vision and policy process that will engage not only every section of the Labour movement but progressives outside of Labour and the party political system in pressure groups, communities, academics, unions and other think tanks. It will be the biggest policy and ideas creation process the country has seen. Compass will be inviting policy ideas and proposals and then debating them throughout the country at meetings and on the internet. In addition we will be writing a narrative on the state of Britain called The Challenge of Living in the 21st Century. The two will come together in the autumn to provide an intellectual and organisational platform and new social bloc capable not just of returning a Labour government but building a progressive consensus for democratic, egalitarian and sustainable change across the country.
Reprinted from Compass
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry