“The “strategy” of targeting those who opted out of the democratic process ten years ago is so flawed that I cannot even write the word “strategy” without placing inverted commas around it, just to warn readers that I use it in a purely ironic sense”
Tom’s polemical style as ever gets points for quality of writing but suffers from an uncharacteristic lack of cleverness – and is also mildly rude to those trying to think differently aout how Labour wins. Simply put, as Tom knows full well, you win elections by creating a winning coalition of voters. Come 2015 Ed will need ex Tories, ex LibDems and ex voters in general. One hallmark of good strategy when you’re still years out from your goal is that your strategy opens up options rather then close them down. That’s why Ed was right to call at Progress conference this Spring for “the largest voters registration drive in a generation.”
Now I’m sure Tom didn’t have our own Leader in mind when he wrote:
“the defining characteristic of non-voters is this: they don’t vote (stop me if I’m going too fast here).”
Because if we just abandoned others who have stopped voting we’ll be abandoning a rich potential pool of voters who in large part have previously supported Labour (actually, they disproportionality supported NEW Labour so I’m further confused by Tom’s criticism of the pursuit of these voters given that he so enjoys his “Blairite lickspittle” status) and who make up a huge chunk of the Squeezed Middle suffering under this government.
Targeting lost voters in all their forms is *not* a lurch to the Left. The data on their views is anyway quite clear that with top concerns beyond the economy in the areas of immigration, welfare abuse and crime – these (non)voters aren’t exactly crying out for more Leftiness.
What it is however is an attempt to create the biggest possible pool of voters from which a majority can be constructed.* It’s a false choice to say we win by either targetting Tories or non-voters. We win by flipping Tories, holding onto our new found LibDem converts and upping turnout in key constituencies.
An ‘all of the above’ strategy means taking the best that comes of both the Smith Institute’s work on Labour’s lost voters AND Hopi Sen’s clever breakdown of the C2DE voter shift. ‘All of the above’ mean marrying a grand design strategy as outlined by Anthony Painter with aggressive targeting of voter pools by organising on the ground. And it means flipping Tory votes as Tom says and holding on to LibDem votes as Andy Harrop has argued. Navigating these approaches and their potential trade-offs is difficult enough without us needlessly creating dividing lines and falling into Left/Right camps.
I don’t really think Tom wants us to just target Tories and I really hope Tom doesn’t want our politics to be mired in low turnout elections forever. But if he doesn’t then it would be nice if he could try to show just a wee bit more pluralism in the debate over how Labour wins. We are all trying to win after all.
* = it’s also a chance to reengage people who feel abandoned by politics and politicians but I’ll leave the moral argument for higher turnout to a later occasion
Marcus Roberts is the Deputy General Secretary of the Fabian Society. He writes here in a personal capacity.