There has been a lot of discussion on the direction Labour is heading and the direction it should go. There have been some very valuable contributions by Mike Smith, Rob Salmond, Jordan Carter and Josie Pagani.
I don’t have much to add to this other than, I think, they are having the wrong conversation. There are few votes in going left and few votes in pitching to the centre in the way we are doing now. People vote for a myriad of reasons that can’t be confined to a linear spectrum.
I hear activists tell me over beer after collecting signatures that we need to shift to the left to pick up the non-voters that stayed home. I am undoubtedly of the view that this is wrong. As Rob Salmond points out no one has produced any evidence to suggest that this would be a vote winning strategy or that those who stay home do so because our policies won’t help them or that their views differ from the “centre”. The act of voting or not is much more complicated than that.
However, similarly, I am adamant that there are no votes in pitching to the centre in the way Shearer is doing now and the way Pagani et al want. It is inauthentic and meaningless.
You can’t get people to think about policy unless they buy into the project. What is missing from Shearer at the moment is the articulation of Labour values. The articulation of a vision. The articulation of a narrative about where we are, where we are going and how Labour’s values best realise that. Only once you get buy in on that can you start getting buy in on how you get there. If approached this way- I think you will start seeing the centre and some of those who did not vote come with (note not to) Labour.
Without this, it’s just two products competing for an otherwise meaningless act in three years time. Voters want to know that we get them. We understand their struggles and successes; that we are part of their personal journeys; that we understand their lives. People don’t want silver bullets or lists of policies. Our voters just want to know we’ve got their back: that our future is their future, that our guiding values are theirs. Only a strong narrative can do that. Everything else is important: but only insofar as it contributes to the sense people have of you. Policies are important. But you can’t replace a narrative with lists of policies or dog whistles.
Labour needs buy in to the project. Not inauthentic sound bites to the perceived views of a entirely made up segment of the population. The centre is a very unhelpful construction; it’s really intelligent people with alot more to offer than a nod to the old beneficiary bash. “Centre voters” have very different and contradictory opinions on a range of issues pretending they are this homogeneous group to be placated by a few remarks just highlights how out of touch our leaders are.