Ways to win in 2015: 5 lessons from Chuka’s Progress speech

6th June, 2014 2:04 pm


One Nation Labour has had a rough ride. First it was deemed a fluffy vision with no policies. Then the reverse – a series of scattergun policies with no end goal. To many it is just another meaningless political sound-bite.

But on Saturday at Progress Annual Conference (or on #PAC14 for you Twitter hermits) Chuka Umunna gave a speech that went to the heart of One Nation’s potential. Without overusing the One Nation slogan Chuka articulated how a One Nation approach could shape Labour’s future. His speech showed that, at its best, One Nation can be New Labour reformed and refined – taking forward the successes of 13 years in power, while tightening some screws and filling in the holes.

Below I’ve outlined five key messages from Chuka’s speech that Ed Miliband must take forward.

1. Champion hope over fear

I recently blogged for LabourList on how Labour needs to outline a positive, inclusive vision that offers something for everyone. Given that so many other supporters are also making this plea I wasn’t surprised that ‘hope over fear’ was a common theme at the conference.

In his speech Chuka talked of the importance of offering people“hope and optimism for the future, ensuring every family and every community feels they have a stake in Britain” and, in the following Q&A, reiterated his call for a long-term 2030 vision. It was refreshing to hear a shadow cabinet member understand that the electorate isn’t drawn solely by promises of short-term financial gain.

2. Burst that bubble

“The people we represent could not care less about Matthew Oakeshott [and] the Westminster soap opera”, said Chuka. “The sense that we are more concerned with political partisanship than their concerns is partly why some voted UKIP in the first place.”

There is no quick fix to the disconnect between politicians and the public, but at least by openly acknowledging “the Westminster bubble” we can take forward steps. Chuka signposted the devolution of power from central government, and specifically Andrew Adonis’ plan for regional jobs and growth, as a positive step towards bringing people closer to politics. He also talked of a new approach to doorstep campaigning. And most tellingly he did nothing to play down the recent car-crash of a political broadcast. “You live and learn” said Chuka. Let’s hope he’s right – if there’s one thing the public despise, it’s sneering, playground politics.

3. Be seen as the party of aspiration

In a breakout session at the Progress conference Matthew Doyle, Tony Blair’s former aide, said that Labour was at its best when it appealed across geographical and class boundaries. Chuka echoed this view and a plea for Labour to be “the party of aspiration” was core to his message.

“We’re not just about providing a safety net, but also about giving hope and creating opportunity for people to realise their aspirations… Not just about alleviating a future of stress but going beyond it to create a future of opportunity”, he said. He’s dead right. This is the one part of New Labour that One Nation can least afford to leave behind.

4. Be seen as the party of business

Unsurprisingly, given his front-bench role, Chuka spoke about the need for a “sustainable and balanced economy”. He added that Labour needs to “back businesses that innovate in the sectors that are going to be valuable” and ensure that businesses are equipped to “compete on the world stage.”

Labour must understand the need to be more pro-businesses if it is to win in 2015. That’s not to say we should let the city run riot, but it is crucial that we show we understand the square mile’s value. A recent LabourList article pointed to how Mark Carney’s speech on inclusive capitalism could easily have been delivered by Ed Miliband, yet if it had it would have been considered anti-business. But it’s all about perception and Mark Carney has spent his whole professional life establishing his economic credibility and appearing ‘pro-capitalist’. Ed Miliband has spoken little, if at all, about the benefits of the financial services sector and is a self-declared ‘socialist’. To gain public confidence in his ‘responsible capitalism’ agenda, Ed must spend time highlighting the existing virtues of capitalism.

5. You can’t out-UKIP UKIP, but neither can you dismiss the voters

There is a major polarisation within Labour on how to handle immigration and Europe. UKIP is here to stay and Labour is paying the electoral price for a decade of dilly-dallying on immigration. The split in the party was clear to see this weekend. On Saturday the Guardian published a letter from seven Labour MPs demanding that Ed Miliband limits worker movement within the EU. Yet Progress Conference appeared united by the view that, to paraphrase Diane Abbott, ‘talking more about immigration means moving to the right and running scared of UKIP’.

Thankfully, Chuka took a more nuanced approach. In a Guardian article he wrote that “Labour has been right to change on immigration” and that “although UKIP plays on fear and stokes prejudices” people have “understandable concerns that can be neither ignored nor labelled racist”.  He then told Progress that “the issues are real”, yet wisely warned about the perils of trying to “out-UKIP UKIP” by offering “false” answers, such as leaving Europe.

It is this approach that Ed Miliband must take. He need not deny the positive benefits of immigration nor fly in the face of globalisation, but he must approach fears over jobs, housing supply and pace of change with empathy. 75% of the population want tighter controls on immigration and they can’t all be racists. As Chuka says, the public is waiting to see how Labour responds.

Joe Jervis works in media and communications and tweets @joejervis89

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  • Daniel Speight

    Where’s that Luke boy when you need him. You know that one that liked underage Brazilian girls. He could do this party of business thing far better.

  • Doug Smith

    “In a breakout session at the Progress conference… (blah, blah, blah)… aspiration.”

    Goodness me, I’m glad I wasn’t present to witness the inhabitants of the Westminster bubble engaging each other in conversation.

    • Joe J

      Thanks Doug. Take a look at point number 2…

      • Doug Smith

        “bringing people closer to politics”?

        They could try opening the door but I suppose there’s not enough careers to go round.

        • gunnerbear

          “They could try opening the door but I suppose there are not enough careers/safe seats to go round.”

          Brilliant….top notch.

      • treborc1

        It’s called spin surely you can see that, the fact is Progress is a right wing group which still see New labour as the way forward, change the name from new to Newer is not going to work when the ideology stinks.

  • Tokyo Nambu

    ” 75% of the population want tighter controls on immigration and they can’t all be racists.”

    I think you’ll find that in the eyes of a lot of Labour activists, they are precisely racists.

    • Steve Stubbs

      Which, in itself, is a form of inverted racism.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      ‘I think you’ll find that in the eyes of a lot of Labour activists, they are precisely racists’.


      • Don’t you read the articles and the replies on here m8?

        Lot’s of them say that ppl who want to see immigration stopped are racist and that Ukip is racist. I have seen loads in the past two weeks but you put after any message you dont agree with

      • Tokyo Nambu
      • Rex Hale

        You demand evidence from others quite often as an aggressive tactic – I’ve seen you do it so often I’m concerned you have a sort of Evidence-Demanding Tourettes. And yet…and yet…you don’t like it when someone presents evidence that conflicts with your own views. Hmmm. Interesting, that.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          Providing evidence to support one’s argument not important then?

          • Rex Hale

            I’m going to rest my case here, Bill. Those who’ve read your comments on this site and the seen the way you deal with contrary ideas to your own can decide for themselves whether you’re reasonable in your dealings with other posters.

    • gunnerbear

      Yep. Anyone who questions immigration seems to be – in the eyes of some on the Left – an out and out racist.

  • Daniel Speight

    Sorry Mark, looks like I shouldn’t have mentioned the person I did in my previous and now censored comment. Still this ‘party of business’ line really does deserve the same ending in ignominy as that LL contributor I previously mentioned.

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    Like a lot of these articles, it sets out these high level aims or visions which are mostly re-hashed concepts that have been known and talked about for years.

    It doesn’t get us anywhere though because it doesn’t actually contain any concrete analysis, measures, proposals that help us to fulfill those aims.

    Visions are ten-a-penny, finding ways to achieve them is the difficult bit, we need less show, more substance.

    • Rex Hale

      Absolutely right. It’s political mood music. And while I agree with all Chuka’s points, but he’s basically trying to insert New Labour into Ed Labour, and we know that isn’t going to happen.

      • treborc1

        We will see I suspect the next few years will be interesting, we will see if Miliband is big enough whether he wins or loses Labour are in for a battle of the right wing Progress group.

        New labour is dead and then this, unbelievable..

    • Joe J

      I thought I’d replied at length to this – but the comment’s not showing up. I listed 10 of Labour’s very popular policy ideas. They are the ‘concrete’ you’re looking for – and there are loads of them.

      But they’re not ‘sticking’. And that’s because there’s very little underpinning them. If you look individually at the policies, they (on the whole) are excellent.

      It’s how the public views Labour as a party on the whole (5 points above) that’s holding us back.

  • Hope over fear? When all that’s on offer is austerity economics from, whoever is likely to win, then I’d say it is indeed time be be afraid! Very afraid!

    • Joe J

      Money doesn’t grow on trees unfortunately. Money needs to be spent in the right places – that’s the important thing to remember. Investment in the future of businesses and people, rather than simply spend spend spend or no spend at all.

      • It would probably cost the Government more to collect, if money did grow on trees! Especially if the orchard workers had a decent union!

        As it is, the government can create money with a few taps on their computer keyboards. Note: I say can, not necessarily should. They do need to match their currency issuance to the available real resources within the economy.

  • David Morton

    “Progress’? From where? Towards what?

    So it’s ‘lessons’ with the ‘we’ve got to be nice to the City of London’ views of a Labour front-bencher who: receives from global accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) the free services of staff on secondment from the firm worth £90,000 a year; and worked as a solicitor for RBS lawyers.

    And this is progress?

    Too busy weeping to laugh.

    ‘provides Umanna with the free services of PWC staff on
    secondment to his office, worth £90,000 a year

    • Doug Smith

      Today’s Labour politicians: too busy enjoying corporate largesse to be bothered with those dependent on food banks.

      Their priorities are obvious.

  • treborc1

    “One Nation can be New Labour reformed and refined – taking forward the
    successes of 13 years in power, while tightening some screws and filling
    in the holes.”
    Not after the lies of two wars or the use of ATOS no good telling me ATOS were wrong you could have sorted it out you did not because they did what you wanted.

    Be done with it come on call a meeting over throw Miliband or maybe he’s already joined and call the Party the Progress party let us have the labour party back.


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