Politics is about the voters, right? I have always thought that in order to be a successful politician, one must be curious about people. Hungry to find out what drives them, what inspires them, what they worry about and what they wish for. The most dispiriting aspect of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has been the tin ear the leadership has so often shown to the electorate. Not the Labour Party electorate, but the people that decide who governs the country. The political chefs in Labour HQ conjure up a one-course, non-negotiable policy menu and slap it, unseasoned, under the noses of a doubtful consumer. Take it or leave it. And should we the voters choose to say no? A shrug of the shoulders, one assumes. More fool us.
But something is afoot. This week Labour has put forward policies that seem designed to attract voters. Free school meals, a big hike in the minimum wage, support for small business… Might Team Corbyn actually want to win? I imagine the fine details of Labour’s Easter policy blitz will have passed many readers of this column by. After all, with Trump, Putin, Boris, Brexit and all vying for column inches, the news environment is not particularly friendly to a party that many journalists have already given up on.
The pitiless logic of the polls shows that Labour is, in fact, not battling to be in government but battling for survival. Remember Scotland? Once immovable, Labour came unmoored. Now, recovery can at best be plotted in decades, not years. Who is to say the same may not already have happened in Labour heartlands all over England and Wales? We will only know for sure at the next general election.
For Labour activists with their backs so much to the wall, a few new policies may only be straws in the wind. But it will come as a relief simply because next time they are on the doorstep, next time they are confronted by the people who will decide their, and their party’s fate, they can say “We’re listening.”
“There’s no comparing atrocities” was a lesson learned the hard way by Donald Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer after suggesting the Holocaust was in some way not as bad as the crimes carried out by President Assad against his own people. Having worked as journalist and ministerial spokesman at different times in my career, I know that if you are not properly prepared while representing the government, the stakes are high indeed. Spicer often seems to improvise, a recklessness to which his hit parade of horror is not the only testament.
This piece originally appeared in City AM’s Guest Notes section. You can read the full article here.