A Britain with decent homes and decent jobs for all

Marcus Roberts and Mark Ferguson makes some good points on Labourlist though I can’t agree with the idea that Labour activists as a rule ‘don’t want to talk about immigration,’ though of course can only speak from personal and local experience. I certainly imagine this may be the case in particular areas with certain kinds of Labour people (that is, the liberals that seem to persist, New ‘Labour’ is dead get over it and fuck off will you?). I don’t want to put too much party political stuff on here as it’s boring but this is brief and might be of interest to people about setting an agenda for wider debate generally in 2014. The Scottish point is particularly worth accentuating. By the way Labourlist is having a birthday bash tonight upstairs at the Westminster Arms from 7pm and apparently drinks are on them for the first hour. If I could afford the train I’d be down there if not for the political craic then for the free booze. Have a good one:

“The year might be a week old, and MPS may have been back in Parliament for two days – but today has a real “first day of school” feel about it in Westminster. Because today is the first PMQs of the year. Ed Miliband and David Cameron will joust at lunchtime today, but except for the political anoraks (and if you’re here, you’re one of them) those “debates” don’t resonate. So we’ve taken the opportunity to pick five things that Labour must get right in 2014, if a Labour majority is going to still be on the cards in 2015:

1. Immigration will be the top issue (surpassing even the economy) – if you’ve been living in a cave without access to TV, radio, the internet or newspapers for the past few months, then it may be news to you that Bulgarian and Romanian citizens can come to live and work in the UK. UKIP are having a field day and will continue to do so until at least the European Elections in May. The Tories have delved into the nasty party bag to try and appease their voters, but what is Labour’s answer on immigration. Ed Miliband – lest we forget, the son of immigrants – will not demonise those who come to Britain. But he’ll need an answer for how Labour would act. His move to block low pay agency workers from driving down wages is a good start but more is needed. Calling for “integration” and “managing worker flows” is one thing. Translating that on the doorstep is another – especially with an activist base who don’t want to talk immigration.

2. Scotland will remain part of the Union – If the polls are in any way reliable, then Scotland will end 2014 as it began – as part of the United Kingdom. But what is the positive case for the union? Does ‘just say no’ work? What is Labour’s answer to a no vote? Because if it’s to pretend that this is a ringing endorsement of the union and that everything can continue as normal that will be a grave mistake. And it might mean that independence continues to linger on as an issue regardless of the referendum result…

3. Doubling down on “cost of living” – Ed Miliband’s New Year Message made it clear that he plans on “doubling down” (to use a fashionable phrase) on the party’s narrative about the “cost of living crisis”. But talking about the cost of living isn’t enough alone (although voters seem inclined to believe that Labour have more answers on it than the Tories do). When trust in the power of politics to change people’s lives is at a real low, Ed Miliband will need to do more than talk about how bad things are, and how change will be with people not just to people – an important difference from the top down approach of New Labour. That’s the long-term value of the movement politics Arnie Graf’s work makes possible. Which means…

4. The politics of the long-term – The urge to deploy short-termist politics in 2014 will be overwhelming. Everyone will want the quick tactical move that will wrong foot the Tories, or the policy that’s easy on the eye (but light on evidence). The imbalances and structural weaknesses in the UK economy are so great that we can’t be thinking only about what will make people a little bit better off in 2015/16, we need to be thinking about how we ensure that by 2020 and 2025 we have a fairer, more balanced economy that works for everyone. That means a focus on banking, childcare – and the big one – housing. To do that, Labour will need to address tough questions like what budgets get cut to pay for vital infrastructure growth, what does an emphasis on preventative spending/predistribution mean in practice for Jon Cruddas’s policy review and what legislation is Miliband dreaming up to make responsible capitalism a reality?

5. The importance of optimism – One of our favourite lines in Ed’s opening speech as leader was his bold claim to the mantle of hope as well as change when he said: “we are the optimists now”. In attacking the “cost of Cameron” Miliband must not lose sight of the importance of that quality. Discrediting the Tories is only half the battle. Labour stands a far better chance of winning with a message based on hope than by entering a dutch auction of despair with the Tories. A Britain with decent homes and decent jobs for all and cheaper bills and fares. That’s the optimistic vision that needs to be built in 2014. (http://labourlist.org/2014/01/5-things-that-labour-must-get-right-in-2014/)

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