5 key aims for Labour in 2013

1st January, 2013 1:00 pm

Tags:

By Mark Ferguson and Marcus Roberts

2012 was the year that Ed Miliband secured his leadership of the party and began to define himself and his philosophy. 2013 though will be a much harder year for the party and the leader – because now he needs to put in place the building blocks of a political and organisational strategy that can win an election.

Here are 5 ways he can do that:

1) County council elections – this year will see Ed Miliband’s most difficult electoral test yet in the County Council elections. How well Labour performs in England (outside of London and especially in the South and East) will set the battlelines of 2015. The 2009 County Council election results were a nadir for Labour – and for most Labour activists it was the point we knew for certain that the 2010 election was lost. The 2013 election could be the point at which Labour activists really start to believe that winning in 2015 is not just possible, but probable. We need to win seats in places like Essex and make inroads across the South if Labour is to have a working majority. As the pre-1997 Southern attack strategy Operation Toehold proved, winning council seats now will help us win Parliamentary seats later.

2) One Nation – 2012 was the year that Ed Miliband gave his brand a name. 2013 needs to be the year that he – along with Jon Cruddas and others – put meat on those bare bones. Anthony Painter asked a few weeks ago if One Nation Labour could survive clarification – now is the time to find out. Miliband has already promised “concrete” ideas this year on business, welfare and education – but we’d add to that something unashamedly populist – common ownership of the railways. (Perhaps not rentionalisation per se, but certainly deprivatisation). Housing too would be a way of showing that Labour is willing to make big calls on the major issues of the day, and that the party is listening to members, which brings us to…

3) Activists – we’re at the halfway point in the Parliament, and the Labour Party still has the same major disadvantage that it had in 2010 (ie the Tories have way more money). The only way to get around this is to ensure that you have an active and engaged membership and supporter base who will be your evangelists and activists in communities. So far, despite Refounding Labour and many positive noises, the average experience of most party members is the same now as it was in 2005. That’s not good enough – members need to be respected, empowered and included. If Labour is to mount a 2015 ground war against the Tories, 2013 must become the year of the activist, so that the troops are ready for the upcoming battle. 2014 would be far too late.

4) Candidates/organisers – similarly to the last point, elections are won on the ground when a party is organised. Miliband/McNicol pledged to have 100 candidates and 200 organisers in place by 2014. That job was stalled by the coalition’s fortunate spat over boundary changes, but must continue apace in 2013. There are still hyper-marginal seats without either a candidate or an organiser – which is unacceptable as we hit the second half of the parliamentary fixed term. In short, all 100 target seats for Labour should be filled by Summer 2013. However, as LabourList has argued repeatedly, Labour Party selections must be far more open and transparent, rather than the status quo – a set of opaque and confusing internal rows that look like stitch ups.

5) Strategy not tactics – the final point is organisational too, but in a political sense. In this middle year of the Parliament, Miliband needs to avoid easy opportunism (except where it corresponds to his core narrative – vested interests, the squeezed middle and responsibility at the top and bottom of society). He needs to hold his nerve, and focus on putting strategy over the day to day knockabout of political tactics. That’s something that the Labour leader can certainly learn from the New Labour years. Pick your issues, grid the year and stick to your plan – don’t be so easily buffeted by the winds of news and political trivia. Because you can’t define the debate that way, and Miliband’s entire strategy is based around changing the political discourse.

Marcus Roberts is the Deputy Director of the Fabian Society. Mark Ferguson is the Editor of LabourList.

Yesterday Marcus and Mark outlined the 5 biggest events for Labour in 2012. You can see that post here.

  • telemachus

    Tebbit used to be Essex man. Now we need to show Essex Man is One Nation Man and drive to enrol paying members. Talk was of an IT driver. If there ever was a need for such it is this.
    As to strategy we have won the media war vis a vis the disorganised Tories and the PMQ’s war against a defensive Cameron. The Strategy in broad brush must be to show Ed as a Statesman above sqabbling Tories and use Exocet Balls to further destabilise.

    • David B

      I see you are proposing the techniques of Blair/Campbell/Mandelson, play the
      man not the ball and keep it a policy free zone. The oppositions position is taken to
      maximise the political discomfort of the government without reference to the
      consequences or the validity of the argument, or the reality of the situation

      We wonder why the public are cynical of politics and politicians, well you have just summed
      it up

  • AlanGiles

    “one nation” – for the many, not the few, eh Bruv?:

    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/world-of-sport/sunderland-pay-miliband-125k-15-days-142617551.html

    One nation – oh yes!

    • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

      It’s a funny old world now that the Labour Party has become a job-creation scheme for wannabe multi-millionaires while the ordinary folk who vote them into office are reduced to poverty.

      Just think – if David Miliband had a proper job like, for example, a coastguard – providing a crucial 24 hour/365 service keeping our coasts and sea-ways safe – he’d be doing 12 hour shifts and wouldn’t have had a pay rise for five years.

      No wonder there’s such an unseemly scramble/stitch-up whenever a safe seat is up for grabs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.kenyon.169 Peter Kenyon

    Don’t forget the City of London Common Council elections. Here’s my take in the last issue of Chartist magazine http://tinyurl.com/c6f4wgo

Latest

  • Comment Featured We’re strangling our Party with structures, processes and bureaucracy

    We’re strangling our Party with structures, processes and bureaucracy

    During this leadership campaign I have been clear that the Labour Party needs to change – but that’s not just about politics or policy, it’s about how our party is organised and run too. There are many things right with our Party. At our best we are a vibrant movement full of passionate, engaged people determined to change our country for the better. Yet too often we insist on strangling our Party with structures, processes and bureaucracy. I’ve lost count of the times members have told me that their local meetings seem to care more about changing […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured What will happen at Labour’s Annual Conference?

    What will happen at Labour’s Annual Conference?

    With everyone focussed on Labour’s announcement of the leadership election result on 12 September it is easy to forget that just two weeks later the party will assemble in Brighton for Annual Conference. In between, the new leader will presumably have had to assemble a Shadow Cabinet, though it is not 100% clear whether this will be appointed as it has been since Ed Miliband persuaded the PLP to waive its traditional power to elect it in 2011, or whether the PLP might […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Would calling for a ban on private school be electoral suicide?

    Would calling for a ban on private school be electoral suicide?

    If I’d had a vote in the last election I wouldn’t have voted Labour. I thought its flagship policies were too boring. Any government will invest money, regulate business and adjust taxes to nudge Britain in the direction it wants. Freezing energy bills may have been a good course of action, but what will win my vote are the policies that make a lasting impact. For me, Labour’s choice of leader is insignificant if the party’s biggest promises aren’t reformist […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour needs its centre-left more than ever

    Labour needs its centre-left more than ever

    I’ve decided who I am voting for, but for a lot of this campaign I’ve wanted to abstain, or go on holiday. It has been a pretty difficult time to be on the centre-left of the Labour Party . The quality has been low, and nobody fully reflects people on what we might call ‘the soft left’. Lots of people I respect, generally from the left of the party in some shape or form, have been hugely inspired during the Corbyn […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Sajid Javid could be the sign the electorate is looking for that the Tory party has shed its ‘nasty party’ reputation

    Sajid Javid could be the sign the electorate is looking for that the Tory party has shed its ‘nasty party’ reputation

    This article is from the new Progress pamphlet ‘Face-off’, examining the potential successors to David Cameron as Conservative leader. You can read the full pamphlet here. Few leaders inspire true fear in their opponents. Those that do, do so because they force people to think again about the party they represent. Britain’s most electorally successful politicians, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, were able to reach such heights because they confounded the electorate’s expectations: Blair believed that wealth creation was not […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit