A number of Labour MPs, known as the Red Shift group, are putting together what they call “the first route-map back to a majority for Labour in England”.
The group – whose members include former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne, Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander, former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Shabana Mahmood, Shadow Schools Minister Nic Dakin, and councillor and campaigner Caroline Badley – has come up with ten “red shifts” needed to build an English majority.
These are included in a report, called Looking for a New England: The Ten Shifts Labour Needs to Make To Win a Majority in England, which emphasises the importance of patriotism, English identity, reaching out to older voters, engaing with young people, the changing nature of work, economic trustworthiness, and championing Labour’s record in government.
“England is changing. A new England is taking shape. Unless Labour makes the ten shifts we describe, this new England will stay Tory. A majority in England will elude us. We will remain trapped out of power. So: our instruction to deliver is clear. Change or lose. So let’s get on and change with it.”
Here are the Red Shift’s ten commandments:
Fix our brand – it’s been badly damaged
• Shift 1: Fix our brand – from a party that has lost its way to a party that is clear, bold, and proud of our roots
• Shift 2: Embrace the ‘politics of English identity’ as a positive statement of national expression and pride in England – not as negative, divisive and dangerous
Fix the key issues – address the credibility deficit with a clear plan on the economy, public spending and public services
• Shift 3: From ‘avoid the record’ to ‘proud of the record’
• Shift 4: Money, money, money – our economic story must the beginning, middle and end of our offer
• Shift 5: Recognize how the world of work is changing – and become the party of high tech jobs, entrepreneurs and the union of the self-employed
• Shift 6: Invent a new statecraft – from 20th century gimmicks to a digital age vision for the state.
Dramatically broaden our appeal – to include the successful, the self-employed and entrepreneurs, and the over 55s. In addition, we need to change the way we work with and communicate with young people
• Shift 7: Older Voters – become the party of the silver majority
• Shift 8: The feel-good party – become the party of people doing well and the ‘new-builds’.
• Shift 9: Young people – educate and inspire our young people that power can be in their hands – if they are willing to turnout and vote
Change the way we campaign
• Shift 10: The ground-war – from ‘can I have your vote’ to an evidence based and innovative
The last time Labour won a majority of English constituencies was in 2005. To win a majority in England now, Labour needs to scoop up an extra 106 English seats – a rather formidable swing of 11.5 per cent. The report points out that this means winning back seats such as Milton Keynes North, which currently has a Tory majority of 9,753:
“We have to be clear about who we stand for, be consistent, bold and proud of our roots and our mission. We have to embrace not dodge the politics of English identity. We have to reclaim Englishness. We need to clear up our story about our record – and stand proud of it. Perhaps we argue yes – we made mistakes – but we got it at least 70% right, changed our country for the better and stopped a worldwide recession becoming a global depression.
“We need to weave a fundamental respect for taxpayers’ money throughout our language, our narrative and our political mission – and talk in simple language about what our plans mean for spending. We need to become the party of high-tech jobs, entrepreneurs and the self-employed, and create a new, bold, visionary plan for public services in the digital age.
“Crucially, we need to radically broaden our appeal. We need to redraft a new plan for older voters, many of whom now work and many of whom hunger for a return to the contributory principle in our social security system. We need policies for those doing well – the voters who live in the ‘new build estates’ in seats like Milton Keynes.
Crucially, the report makes only one mention of new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – and even then, only in quoting an activist who expresses that Corbyn has the “feel good factor”. Though Red Shift’s analysis of what Labour needs to achieve is a sensible one, perhaps the one thing the group has neglected to tackle is the biggest obstacle of all: the party’s new leadership.
After all, how do you prove you are a party that isn’t embarrassed about Englishness when your leader was filmed failing to sing the national anthem at a war memorial service days after he was elected?