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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

How to win an election

So we got Corbyn. It's not great, it isn't a disaster either. To all those who think Labour can never win with this leader I can only ask: do you honestly think you were going to win with any of the others? Let's face it, they couldn't persuade  a majority in any of the party constituencies, so what hope the electorate? I had high hopes for Yvette Cooper - clearly the smartest of the 4 runners -  but her campaign was abysmal and only came alive in the last week, too little, too late. I think we have to draw the conclusion that she is a good team player (if she can get over her sulk)  but not leadership material.

So, looking on the positive side, at least we are now going to have an opposition that is actually going to oppose. It's also likely that there will be recognizable  alternative policy proposals. Naively, I've always supposed that that was what parliamentary politics was supposed to be about.

Everyone also has to do some growing up and deal with some hard facts. Firstly, it's perfectly reasonable to give your support to a party leader who advocates some policies you don't personally endorse. For G..'s sake, all parties are coalitions and not all policies are worth going to the stake for. Personally I don't think principled egalitarians - or indeed anyone who is aware of the empirical evidence - should be in favour of abolishing university tuition fees, but compared to mounting effective opposition to politically engineered deflationary austerity, the fate of tuition fees is neither here nor there. So I'm in favour of anyone who can do the latter regardless of their views on the former.

The same is true of Trident. We really need a mainstream Westminster party to argue the case that it is the height of foolishness to spend a vast amount of money on an "independent" nuclear deterrent that is er..., actually not independent at all. Can anyone come up with a scenario in which the UK would be launching its nukes without US approval? Can anyone tell me in what way is Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium... less protected from external threats than the UK because they don't have nuclear willy extensions? I'm under no illusions as to how hard this is going to be to sell to the typical Sun/Daily Hate Mail reader, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.

I could go on. Re-nationalization of the railways or anything else for that matter is probably not going to make anything any better - does nobody remember what British Rail was like? But its not obvious that it is a vote loser. The same argument applies to policy on the EU. Personally I think it is bonkers to be even discussing leaving the EU, partly because I believe that a UK cut adrift from the European social democratic and, lets be honest, christian democratic mainstream, is a UK that will march  towards US style market liberalism ie a society completely dominated by the preferences of corporate elites. But the EU is not a party issue and again its not obvious it is a vote loser.

So, what should Corbyn do? Well, like Simon Wren-Lewis  I think one of the major battles  will be about the shaping of the media discourse and that he has to  quickly get a media strategy together and a team of advisers who can help him to aggressively challenge  the framing of the economic agenda that the Tory party has so successfully sold to the newspapers and the BBC. It isn't going to be pretty and it is going to look confrontational at times, but Corbyn is actually pretty good at appearing reasonable and measured (it's pretty amusing to see Dennis Skinner calling out Emily Maitlis over her lazy juvenile cliches, but too much of that will probably backfire).

And they really do need some action here. The Today programme was running a vox pop this morning from "one of Liverpool's most working class districts" in which several  "hard working" citizens expressed some stereotypical views about welfare scallies. No attempt was made to contextualize their opinions with anything like the odd fact or two and the "balance" was provided by Frank Field who was so unfocussed as to be practically incoherent. If Labour are going to provide effective opposition they have to do better than that. It should be  possible, but they need to get the right people in the right places and those people need to well informed about the facts.

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