The road ahead for Labour (UK)

September 28th, 2011

Published on total politics, by Nick Pearce, 25 Sept. 2011.

… Over the longer term, however, Labour’s prospects depend critically on whether it can set out a new, post-Blair/Brown strategic direction for its political renewal, secure economic credibility and connect with changing currents in British society that are reshaping the electoral landscape. While the policy review process toils away behind the scenes, the ‘two Eds’ have a huge task to show not just that Osborne’s Treasury is getting the recovery wrong, but that they have learnt the right lessons of their time in Brown’s Treasury.  

Chief among these must be the need for the economy to be restructured away from debt-financed private consumption, housing market bubbles and over-reliance on the City, towards wealth creation that secures higher real wages for the broad mass of the population and a sustainable trade balance.

Rethinking political economy is the key to regaining credibility on the public finances. The deficit was due to a calamitous drop in tax receipts, as the collapse in the housing market, business failures and the City crash revealed the weak, thin base of government revenues. To ensure greater future resilience, and to prepare for an ageing society, the country needs new sources of wealth creation, to broaden its tax base and back public service and welfare reforms that support full employment. The VAT rise is here to stay, and tough choices are needed to prioritise public spending on services that increase the employment rate. Public service reforms must produce greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness if demographic pressures and popular expectations are to be met.

Labour needs a fresh ideological agenda alongside an electoral strategy that widens its base of potential support, and must appeal ethically to younger, graduate and liberal voters, while simultaneously protecting cherished institutions and ways of life. It must break free of the psephological straightjacket that trades off caricatures of ‘core working-class’ and ‘swing middle-class’ voters. The vital economic coalition is between the expanding professional class and a resilient ‘working class’ that is increasingly female, part-time and service sector.

The party must also confront the cultural dimension to modern politics. IPPR research analyses the British Values Survey and identifies three core values dispositions: 41 per cent of voters are ‘pioneers’, globally-focused, innovative and self-actualising; 28 per cent are ‘prospectors’, valuing success and status, ambition and the esteem of others; one third are ‘settlers’, with a strong need for rules, localism, are wary of change, and seek security and belonging. Crucially, these dispositions cut across different classes and regions.

Miliband faces a political juncture where the future is genuinely up for grabs. Unlike in the 1980s, the Conservatives seem capable of no more than tactical manoeuvres in response to volatile public opinion. That provides a historic opportunity: Labour can not only win power, but also transform politics. To do so, it must understand the new sources of energy in society to recast its ideological agenda and redraw the electoral map. (full long text).

(Nick Pearce is director of the Institute for Public Policy Research IPPR, the UK’s leading progressive thinktank … ).

some Links:

on wikipedia: Left-wing politics; Left–right politics; Right-wing politics;

Top 100 left-wing blogs, the full list, Sept. 13, 2010;

Left, right, left: how political shifts have altered the map of Europe, a funny interactive tool showing changes in European’s left-right-left-right landscape, on The Guardian, July 28, 2011;

The Political Compass, a multi-aspect website, also with a test;

Out of the Crooked Timber, with this article: Left Neo-Liberalism and Theories of Politics, July 19, 2011;

Marc Stears: Everyday Democracy, 66 pdf-pages;

How To Tell Left Wing From Right Wing In Politics, on Tell Me How.

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