The Way Forward
I have worked for Labour in every General Election since 1966, Sadly, I have more experience of disaster than of triumph.
If it were easy to achieve a socialist party elected to Parliament in the face of a hostile media, a hostile state, lying Tories, and division within our ranks, we would have done it generations ago.
It is not easy.
Whoever is Leader of the Labour Party is subject to the vitriol of the media from the moment of their election, if not before. From Keir Hardie onwards, the attacks on the Labour Leader have been unrelenting. Whoever is elected as the new Leader will face the same.
One can fault any Leader for failings, but chiefly for failing to deliver. Many of those who today criticise Jeremy Corbyn would have been fawning for favour had Labour won the General Election.
I cannot think of any Labour Leader who could attract huge crowds, who could have young people singing his name, who could galvanise the under 25s to vote, and who could virtually treble party membership as Jeremy Corbyn has done.
Jeremy Corbyn has restored the finances of the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn has enthused a new generation to political activity and rekindled hope in many who thought that the Labour Party was too arthritic ever to change.
It looks, though, that Jeremy Corbyn was the warm up act rather than the star. He has left a better inheritance for his successor than most new Leaders leave. But fewer Parliamentary seats.
The Labour Party will have to choose a new Leader. Given that two thirds of the Labour Party voted for Jeremy Corbyn, the new Leader is likely to be left-leaning but possibly less obviously Left. Within two weeks, whoever it is will be “Labour’s New Stalin”.
There were those who said that the Corbyn experiment would end in tears. At the moment they think that they have been proved right.
Many of us believe that their disregard for Leave voting Labour voters contributed. Disloyalty and deliberate sabotage by some of them also contributed. We could not possibly have contributed to our own electoral failure.
We can always find reasons why our message did not go over well enough. That is so much easier than examining the message that we communicated or thinking about the voters whom we were trying to influence.
After every election, we realise that there is a pool of voters with whom we have not communicated effectively. If they do not use computers at all, our keyboard warriors and our clever memes get nowhere with them.
According to the Office of National Statistics (May 2019): “Virtually all adults aged 16 to 44 years in the UK were recent internet users (99%) in 2019, compared with 47% of adults aged 75 years and over. 7.5% of adults had never used the internet in 2019, down from 8.4% in 2018. 91% of adults in the UK were recent internet users in 2019, up from 90% in 2018.”
This population can only be communicated with through leaflets. This means developing a network of people who will deliver say four leaflets a year, and a supply of really good leaflets that are worth delivering. The leaflets should try to develop a basic understanding of sociaism because many people do not know what socialism is.
Cartoons and relevant examples from daily life are key. There may also be a “current” piece on whatever iniquity the Johnson Government is up to.
We need a steady drip of socialist propaganda that resonates with people who normally vote Conservative, not just galvanising the existing Labour vote. There is a philosophy of “cradle to grave” socialism that can be attractive to those who are in need of social care but who cannot afford it, and to their families.
Alongside this we need to build up the party organisation. Those CLPs that do not elect a “Campaigns Coordinator” or “Agent” each year should give serious consideration to creating such a post. It means that each General Election will begin with an organisation in place.
As a matter of urgency we must organise postal votes for Labour promises who did not vote.
Some local authorities have council elections in May 2020. We must gear up for that now.
We need to raise money for our CLPs so we can afford to be delivering leaflets regularly. Monthly standing orders is the obvious route.
In terms of our policies, our comfort zone is NHS, education, austerity, and public services generally. We must be more aggressive in terms of green industries, industrial training, investment, and higher quality jobs generally.
Harold Wilson warned his Labour Conference audience that if the country was to prosper, a "new Britain" would need to be forged in the "white heat" of this "scientific revolution". We need a statement that will resonate in the same way.
We will have to decide a policy on the European Union. Is our policy to accept the 2016 and 2019 decisions of the British people to leave, or are we intending to be a Remain or Rejoin party? Given that many of us believe that Johnson’s Brexit will be a disaster what stance should we take?
Why did lifelong Labour voters not vote, or voted Tory? Why not ask them in a “listening canvass”? It will hurt but we need to know now.
Given that our policies were generally popular, but there was 'fear of Jeremy Corbyn', what do we do? Whoever we elect will be attacked and abused and lied about to create the image that he or she is 'just like Jeremy Corbyn' – or worse!
I am an optimist.
It will not be easy but we can win.