After Labour’s victory in Wakefield, where does the party go from here?

Thom Brooks
Wakefield, West Yorkshire. © Dawid Dobosz/

Labour won a historic by-election in Wakefield, our first such victory since winning Corby in 2012. This success was a huge collective effort won by a great candidate, positive campaign, energised supporters and a Labour Party on the road ahead to government that should make us all feel proud. When Keir Starmer became Labour leader, he took on a massive task to make Labour a party of government again. He deserves enormous credit for transforming Labour so comprehensively in such a short period of time, a task few thought possible.

Our Wakefield victory which saw a 12.7% swing to Labour. If this was replicated nationally, this swing would be enough to see Starmer enter Downing Street to lead the first Labour government in over a decade. This success represents a historic turnaround for a party that has lost four general elections in a row.

Labour is winning again, but there remains much hard work ahead to maintain the positive energy from the Wakefield win. As we head into the next annual party conference after the summer recess, Labour needs to maintain its vibrancy and velocity. I recommend three ways this could be achieved…

1. New logo

A picture speaks a thousand words. Our symbols – and political logos – give expression to who we are and what we stand for. A transformed Labour Party should have a new logo to signal this change. Make no mistake about it, David Cameron did not become Prime Minister because he decided to change his party’s logo. But that is not the point; party logos are important symbols that can signal change.

While he was widely criticised for changing Margaret Thatcher’s so-called freedom torch to a crayon coloured oak tree, Cameron sent a message that the Tories were under new management. His rebrand helped sell that message to voters and they’ve won every general election since. It is time for Labour to do the same. Our logo has not changed in decades. If we want voters to look at us differently, a new look that captures our transformation is essential to help this stick in voters’ minds.

Labour should strongly consider whether a new image, predominantly our familiar dominant red, but laced with white and blue might better communicate the new, patriotic vision for Britain that we offer. Unveiling a new logo at the annual party conference would be a powerful way of making visible the new look Labour is ready to compete under and help us write the next chapter in Britain’s political history.

2. Making messages stick

The government is roundly criticised for endlessly repeating short mantras, typically consisting of only three words. We can rightly reject these as empty promises or simply nonsense. But this approach has the strong advantage of offering a simple message that voters remember – not unlike when Tony Blair handed out pledge cards or claimed Labour’s priority was education, education, education’.

To make our message stick, it need not be long – but it must be memorable and relevant. Labour’s values of ‘security, prosperity and respect’ are the right ones to form the interlocking golden thread that should run through and connect every major announcement until the general election. In my recent Fabian pamphlet on immigration policy, I set out how we can build a new and fairer system that promotes this theme. We need to see this replicated across all policy areas – and I am happy to start cracking on with it, if asked.

At conference, we need a simple set of pledges around how a Labour government will transform lives for the better that will stick. We should reflect on what ten big statements we want to champion, and then choose three to five of them. I would not propose bringing back pledge cards, mugs or similar, but a message so clear and consistent that we say so often that we find ourselves repeating them in our sleep.

What is important for us now is continuing to have a disciplined focus. In our social media-driven media age, less is more (and repeat). We need to make our vision tangible. The public has had many years of empty promises that the government has never has any genuine intention of fulfilling.

Labour must make clear to voters that we have changed and, most importantly, that we are different. A tangible policy platform is one that people can believe – and is costed properly. As I argue in my book, The Trust Factor, trust is difficult to earn but essential to securing public confidence on the sustainable footing Labour needs to form the next government.

3. Working together

Labour is by far the UK’s biggest political party. This is an enormous advantage. We need to maintain the positive campaigning spirit from Wakefield until the next general election and keep at it on the doorstep, meeting voters. Our party activists are a source of pride and a major asset.

But we should also pro-actively encourage all party members to contribute to the policy making process within Labour. The national policy forum is seeking new ideas right now. I would encourage all members to feed in their ideas and to comment on suggestions. There is strength in our numbers. Together, we can work towards the best manifesto for change in a generation.

The Wakefield result electing Simon Lightwood is a historic victory that should give every Labour member pride in what we’ve achieved and hope for the future. And it’s brilliant news for Wakefield who now have a terrific new MP.

We need to build on this wave of public support in the run-up to the party conference. This will help to ensure we capitalise on our progress as a unified Labour Party transformed under Starmer’s forward-looking leadership into a government in waiting. We have never needed a Labour government more than we do right now. If we maintain our progress, and discipline, we can achieve it together.

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