The Labour Party has forgotten that aspiration is attractive. During the recent election, huge, swathing chunks of middle England were uninspired by a monolithic organization (appropriate term, especially given the ‘Edstone’) that chimed and chirped about doom to come for the NHS and other caring services in the hands of the Tories. The Labour Party forgot about hope and strayed into the familiar Conservative-territory of fueling fire with fear.
Policy-mongers nit-picked over the same ground as the Tory and Lib Dems – “We’ll offer 25 hours of state-subsidised childcare” / “Ha, well we will offer thirty hours” etc – and for the layman or laywoman out there it seemed as though the Labour Party had forgotten how to be brave; it had forgotten to be visionary and it had forgotten that in order to have aspiration, people need inspiration. The Labour Party now needs to inspire people to want to change. Policy needs to be bigger and braver.
Middle England was – and indeed still is – more inspired by Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath (if you don’t know what that is, you will never win the next election) than anything they heard from a Labour politician. People too busy working, too busy caring for children and elderly relatives or just too busy caring about how to get by, were not tempted by what Labour offered. Dan Jarvis was right in his recent speech to the Progress conference ‘[those ordinary people] are voices that we didn’t have with us at this election. They are the people we need to reach’.
But Jarvis was wrong when he claimed that ‘the arc of history [always] bends slowly towards a more just and equal future’. It doesn’t. We cannot rely on the very fact of the future to serve our children well. After all, England forgot how to make gunpowder for 300 years, until that knowledge was ‘re-discovered’ by Roger Bacon. The Dark Ages can happen again and this time, if Labour doesn’t find itself, it will be a Dark Age of a different sort; it will be a time when ‘me’ becomes more important than ‘we’.
So this is the ‘missive from the middle’. This is the metaphorical call to arms to a party that must not neglect the centre. Hopefully, this first post for LabourMum is not the first note in the “Last Post’ for a party that forgot how to appeal to the ordinary person. I am that ordinary voice and I will write again.