Earlier this week, I wrote of the popularity problem our party currently faces, especially in comparison to the opposition and the line up they offer. I believe it appropriate to thank all those who commented on my first ever blog post, and to simply note that I expected a slightly more Tory-aligned readership, which led to some of my bolder comments (not that critique by the Vice Chairman of Birmingham University Labour Students isn’t welcomed!). In future, I will happily respond to comments, but I won’t engage in a long-winded, Jolitics-style debate over a broad range of issues, so please do not try to drag me into one.
So the question today:
How do we make our comeback?
For me, three are three key issues which we have to get right: Europe, the economy, and our party image. If we can nail all three, I believe we can ensure a majority, and a comfortable one at that, in 2015. So how do we tackle each one?
Firstly, Europe. Before we leap in ham-fisted, lest us not forget the problems that this institution inflicted our party in the 1990’s. We don’t want to campaign on a strong anti-EU platform, only for it to split the party and thus present a totally divided image to the electorate. We must maintain party unity, as much as the European situation makes our blood boil.
However, as an ardent Eurosceptic myself, I do believe it is time for a referendum. But before I’m savaged as being wholly contradictory, do hear me out. Promising a referendum on our membership does not mean we have to campaign on a strongly Eurosceptic note. I actually believe it might be the best way to manage the growing tension in our party over the issue, especially if we allow members of our party to campaign for either side, in a similar manner to Labour in the AV referendum. In the interests of democracy, we shall let the British people decide.
Furthermore, by promising a referendum outright (rather than the constant subtle hints we’re hearing now), we should be able to tackle the UKIP problem, which will benefit our party in no less than three ways. Firstly, we will attract considerable one-off support from current UKIP voters; if they really want a UK out of the EU, rather than to just protest against us, they’ll choose a choose a party which actually has a chance of getting into government and bringing about a referendum. Secondly, it will limit the number of marginal seats we lose due to splits in the right-wing vote. And thirdly, if the British people do choose to leave the EU, it may just finish off Farage and his party, or at least reduce them considerably in size, influence, and disruption. This said, many UKIPers have other problems with our party, not just its simple hot-cold Euroscepticism, which we may need to address.
Now, the economy… I think the party’s problem is not our policies, but our communication of the facts. No matter how much mud the left throw at Osborne (tax cuts for millionaires, pasties and grannies, robbing the poor so the rich can have more…), it doesn’t change the fact that unemployment is falling, and that we nearly have the levels of employment seen at the height of the last boom. Our 10 year-bond yields are also remaining at a nice 1.9% (rather than 5.5% seen in 2007), sending a strong message to global investors (FDI into the UK rose 7% in 2011, according to the UN).
Our problem is getting this message out to the electorate. The British economy is definitely going in the right direction, we’re recovering, but the people don’t know it. And this poor communication and public relations is what I’ll be covering in my third post on our fight-back. Along with the issue of gay-marriage, our image as the party of the middle-class toffs, and the number of blunders the Parliamentary party have got into the habit of making. And can we draw any lessons from good ‘ole Mrs T?
Please feel free to comment; I did manage to wash the blood out from last week. Just about.