The Labour Party appears to have a dilemma with who they appeal to, and on what platforms it is best to appeal in order to win the upcoming General Election.
The Tories assume they have the majority of ‘the grey vote’ and Labour appear to be taking them at their word.
So Labour are going after the younger person’s vote.
Will this work?
On the one hand, appealing to Tory-voting pensioners would probably be a waste of time as it would fall on deaf ears.
But on the other hand, many younger people are refusing to vote, as they feel that not only have they been marginalised by all parties, but that all MPs are sleazebags and don’t deserve their vote.
Appealing to either of these groups is going to take a real onslaught just to get the attention of closed minds, and then the likelihood of persuasion is low.
And time is running out.
Labour needs to convince hearts and minds NOW and continue to add more hearts and minds to the list right up to and beyond the impending General Election.
So, as well as going all out to convince new voters and fight off the conditioning of Tory voters, they need to be concentrating on the middle ground. And by that I don’t mean middle classes alone, or middle-aged voters alone (although these groups certainly come into it), but those voters who feel ‘in the middle’ of the political debates: those who can see good bits from both sides of the political argument.
It is voters like these that Blair persuaded back in the 90s, and kept on persuading for a relatively long time.
These are people who value The NHS and Education; who want the best for their children and grandchildren; who care about the unemployed and homeless, but are not among their number. People who, at the moment, feel reasonably secure, but are getting a sinking feeling that they could be next to feel the burden of austerity measures.
In the 90s, after years of a left-of-centre Labour finding themselves in the political wilderness under Neil Kinnock, new leader Tony Blair took a more centrist approach to help New Labour win the General Election. There were, quite rightly, strong misgivings from the left, but in 1997, most left-of-centre (and even centrist) voters, many having lived through Thatcher’s years of ideological ‘reasoning’, knew that there must be change. So, despite misgivings from both sides of the political field, Blair’s centrist approach guaranteed him a landslide victory. He even had a significant proportion of the media on his side – previously unheard of for the Labour Party – and this helped him gain victory.
But Blair’s approach was flawed. Not only did it rely upon courting big business to an unreasonable scale, but when the ‘WMD report’ emerged and Blair supported the findings, it also exposed Blair’s political inadequacies. The latter left New Labour badly tainted and Labour as a whole, deeply mistrusted.
Now Labour is in the same boat as they were before Blair, and they have Blair’s legacy as a further pit to climb out of.
Labour is proposing policies that would work and their campaign for saving the NHS has a majority of the electorate on their side. But they have a leader who is vilified and scorned in the media. It is like history from the Kinnock Labour years is repeating itself all over again.
So what can Labour do in the short time they have left to win hearts and minds?
Miliband will never be a Blair, and more power to him. But by the same token, he is not liked in the media. Like Brown before him, he is ridiculed in ways which make him appear an embarrassment as a leader.
Is that a problem? Surely people will see through the ridicule and vote for policies they feel are better for them, and by extension for their communities?
Well that depends on the thought processes of the electorate and how much they are affected by the issues, or by the facade. And sadly I think that we still have a long way to go before the facade does not hold sway.
One good thing about all this is that Tory leader, Cameron, is not being projected at his best either. And the scandal about rich Tory backers and Tory MPs’ links with wealthy businesses interests is definitely doing him no favours right now.
So the balance between ridicule on one side and corruption on the other appears to be holding out…at the moment.
It is now that Labour needs to go on the onslaught. While appealing to new voters, they also need to be emphasising the corruption infiltrating this Tory Government and how it is affecting ALL OF US. Not just the poor or the unemployed, because many voters will still have the attitude that ‘we would never get like that’. Labour needs to be spelling out to all of us that any of us could be the next unemployed; that any of us could be the next long-term sick, or need the services of the NHS; that any of us could have children or grandchildren joining the unemployed, through no fault of their own; and that any of us could be put into the position where we lose our homes.
Blair used the politics of ‘charisma’. He courted business and he wooed the electorate. With a hostile media, Miliband can’t do this. But that doesn’t have to be an insurmountable problem.
People are fearful. They feel that the Government is out of their control and there is little they can do about it.
Labour needs to find a way to (dare I say it?) use that fear and feelings of lack of control. And at the same time, it needs to show that people matter: that their lives are important; that their health and their well being comes above the needs of Capital; and to show them they can make a positive difference to their and their families’ futures by voting Labour.
It will be a hard struggle, but Miliband can lead Labour to victory at the polls.
If he and Labour as a whole, get their priorities right.