Towards a core vote strategy……
I am told, by people who actually listened to it, that Ed Miliband’s appearance on Radio 5 Live today did not go swimmingly at all. Not only was he battered like a cheap fish (or a Mars Bar, in certain parts of the country) but he was comprehensively handed his cards by Labour voters. It is a basic law of human nature that if you persistently treat people like garbage and take them for granted, they will eventually rebel, and when they do, their vengeance will be bitter and sustained. This is pretty much what has happened to Labour’s core vote. During the Blair and Brown years they were ignored, trodden-on and spat at; now, they are having their revenge on a leader whose politics should ostensibly sound much more appealing to their ears. This past abuse means that Ed, as a face many will remember from those days, will struggle to get the hearing many feel he deserves.
Ignore the right-wingers who say it’s wrong to have a core vote strategy. You need one and you need a highly motivated core vote to be electorally successful; not only because they put that magic x in the Labour box if they are but they provide a potentially broad base of activist support that the Party can draw on at election time. Of course you need more but that is motherhood and apple pie. As far as the right are concerned we should continue just ignoring these people and they will duly continue to hiss and spit at the Party and generally not turn out to vote.
Successful election winning coalitions are built on the foundations of a strong and solid core vote. It can be done, I wont name names, but I know of at least one candidate in this years upcoming local elections in Peterborough who is doing exactly what I describe above and I am sure she will demonstrate the electoral dividend that can be paid off by implementing this approach.
By no means am I saying this strategy should be ‘agree with everything our core voters think and feel’. This is not least because I simply don’t agree with what I suspect the majority of its opinion is on issues like immigration, welfare, and crime. I suspect I am well to the left of a majority of core Labour voters on these issues and if I am honest I feel in some ways Blue Labour does accurately articulate its politics. However, we cannot treat our core vote as a fixed-homogenous bloc but ultimately what we need is a strategy of acknowledgement and engagement which starts on an individual level, in our CLP’s, but is led clearly from the top and finds its reflection in our pronouncements and politics. Obviously, this will require a party that is far more democratic and flexible than Labour is anywhere close to being. We need to engage with our core vote as individuals who we, as a Party, have persistently used and abused in the past and open a dialogue in the spirit of rapprochement and winning trust. So, we can’t have a nodding contest where we listen very sincerely and earnestly and then go away and ignore everything we heard; nor we will win respect if we say things we don’t believe just to garner a hearing or a clear ‘Labour promise’ because then we will go away and betray that confidence once again.
This would be a much better use of our time and resources than Refounding Labour‘s goose-chase after the legions of phantom supporters that apparently are gagging to sign-up but in the main don’t actually exist. If Ed were to try this approach, he may, just may, start having an easier ride from his own voters and he can continue to build from there. However, if he listens to our right-wing and continues the bad behaviour of our time in government then he will find himself and the Party continually ignored and justly slated by this key constituency.