>Labour Must Talk Up For The Silent Majority Who Are Waiting To Shout From The Rooftops

>VN is delighted to welcome its second guest blogger, Michael Payne*. Michael  is the former President of Lancaster University Student’s Union (the only person to achieve two terms in this role,) as well as a Labour Party member and activist.  He blogs regular at http://michaelpayne.org.uk/ and tweets as @micpayne.




The reality of Labour’s position, despite the euphoria about the Leadership election and the London Mayoral candidate selection from party apparatchiks, is dismal and there is no point pretending otherwise. It is dismal because carping from the sidelines however effective you are at is is no way to change people’s lives for the better. Like it or not power is the way to make change and not having power really hurts. In opposition you can influence things, you can delay policies and you can criticise but change you don’t agree with is quite often inevitable.

There will be those who suggest simply working for power at every cost should not be Labour’s strategy but those people would have you believe holding dear to your principles and gaining power are mutually exclusive – they are not.

But there is much, much more Labour has to do before the next General Election to prepare itself for the fight of its life and buck the trend of decades out of power post a period in government. The coalition is providing Labour with perfect and legitimate dividing lines to campaign on; the ConDem approach to tackling the budget deficit is perfect campaigning ammunition for Labour and should be used with both barrels by our Party.

A fundamental principle that must lie at the heart of Labour’s tenacious fightback in the Autumn is: nobody voted for this; nobody voted for the ConDems’ approach to tackling the deficit, that is evident speaking to people everyday from all different walks of life. It is a matter of fact that the Tories campaigned throughout the election on a pitch to cut faster and deeper than Labour’s (Darling’s) pledge to half the deficit within four years, and the Lib Dems took a totally opposite stance (to the Tories), with their leader warning of the effects of cutting jobs and budgets too quickly. Cameron may be the Prime Minister and the ConDems may be in coalition government but it is a simple fact that they have NO mandate for the policies they are now enacting.

In order to articulate a credible economic alternative (totally plausible) Labour must unashamedly join with trade unions from across the spectrum in defending those who are living each day with trepidation (worried about when not if they will be made redundant). What is equally shameful as cuts to public sector jobs is Cameron and Osborne’s tough talking while they allow the banks to continue governing their affairs as they like and whilst Chief Executives and bosses (e.g. University Vice-Chancellors, Council Chief Executives) continue to take home pay increases and reprehensible bonuses.

Bashing the banks and fat cats isn’t populism or pandering it is just plain and simply the right thing to do.

Labour must return to its roots as a movement and build a coalition (not necessarily party political) to question why those who are not responsible for the ‘mess’ we’re in should pay with their livelihoods and vital services.

For every dirty political stunt by Cameron and his cronies attacking traditional Labour supporters – ‘Council homes crackdown’, ‘benefits clampdown’, ‘axing Building Schools For Future’ Labour must bust the myths and half-truths spun out: Labour should be arguing benefit fraud may cost £1bn but tax fraud from the most wealthy cots £40bn-70bn, Labour should point out that cutting 1/4 of the Ministry for Justice budget (the same size as the entire prisons or courts system budget) will bring our law and order services to a grinding halt in certain areas, Labour must turn a spotlight on Council’s like Tory ran Nottinghamshire preparing to rid of 3,000 (a quarter) of all their staff over the next three years (an act which will definitely impact on local services such as SureStart and meals on wheels).

Pub politics is often a derogatory term utilised in elections to undermine your opponents flaky policies and megaphone diplomacy tactics but what Labour needs to practice right now is some good old fashioned soapbox pub politics. The hoards of public sector workers, families and middle income earners who spend a Friday night enjoying a pint to get away from BBC News at Ten’s doom-mongering announcements of further threats to peoples’ livelihoods from the grinning duo Cameron and Osborne should be spoken to and listened to. Most people in the UK only have to walk 500 yards or so on a Friday evening to hear the real problems facing society and to hear the frustration of those who feel betrayed by the LiB Dems,  irate at the same old Tories and let down by Labour. Labour must realise the latent potential of these pub politicians who are the silent majority (in public and in their workplace) but are just waiting to be given the platform to stand up for their livelihoods and to protect their local doctors surgery, new school building, local hospital or recently cancelled new police station.

If Labour want to be back in the business of changing people’s lives they must set out a clear plan for a fightback and must begin doing it now:

1. Campaign Against the ConDems as one entity
Labour must campaign against the Coalition in local elections (May 2011) – making the public realise when Cameron says ‘we’re in it together’ he means the Tories and his useless props – the Lib Dems.

2. Create a credible economic alternative
Labour must draw up and begin articulating a clear economic alternative as soon as the new Leader is elected. A mixture of taxation (it’s not all about income tax – see Robin Hood tax, wealth tax, inheritance tax etc) and spending reductions is the answer, where stimulation to the economy and support for vital public services plays a key role in boosting confidence.

3. New Leader/ Trade Union Leader Talks & Trust
The new Labour leadership must hold immediate talks with the major Trade Union leaders and begin planning a strong campaign of unity in the lead up to next General Election. A new Minister for Trade Union relations should be appointed as a direct and key point of liaison. Labour should be unashamed of its relationship in support of the unions; a relationship of trust is one where disagreements can be dealt with maturely and quickly rather than becoming a pubic spat of airing dirty laundry.

4. Prepare for real radicalism if needed
We must be unafraid of supporting strikes as a last result – they may not be popular but they may in certain instances prevent further catastrophic damage to our economy and a growing queue of people in the unemployment line.

5. Re-engage young people
Labour must re-engage the youth of society – the Lib Dems’ treats to young people (axing tuition fees, anti-Iraq war, opposing free schools) have been proved not to be worth the paper they’re written on and we must capitalise on this.

6. Member Policy Ballots
The Labour leadership should be unafraid of balloting our members on major policy issues – we will need CLPs, local unions and members to drive the change and fightback for us not to be the minions of our leadership’s wishes.

7. Expand Cabinet government model
Labour must expand on ideas expressed in the Leadership election thus far; Labour councillors should be represented along with MEPs around the shadow cabinet, as should representatives of the Youth wings of the party.

8. Party finance and funding must be stabilised and scrutinised intensely
Party funds will increase as Labour begins to formulate credible alternatives to to the ConDems’ regressive approach to tackling the deficit. Funding should be targeted from big donors as well as Obama style multiple individual small donations. Once the Party finances are stabilised they must be prioritised – running a colossal Party debt is crippling.

9. Community organising should be part of everyday work for CLPs, working with local unions, community groups and churches

10. Party membership must be increased
Only by doing all of the above and making our Party a credible alternative to the ConDems will membership begin to reach its former levels of the early 1990s.

Although these proposals aren’t perfect and aren’t the answer to all our problems, what is certain is that Labour must fight back and fight back hard if we are to take power again soon and begin changing the lives of the many not just the few.



*The views of guest bloggers are entirely there own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employers, virtuallynaked.com, or C.A.H Multimedia.

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