Progressive Futures

A new Labour majority

22 November 2014

A new Labour majority: Economic revival and the new politics of production

Patrick Diamond

The aftermath of the Scottish referendum and the growing threat posed by the UK Independence party shows that Labour can no longer rely on increasing its share of parliamentary seats in its so-called ‘northern and Celtic heartlands’. Labour neglects, therefore, the English marginal seats at its peril. Recent polls in the marginals commissioned by Michael Ashcroft show the party has maintained a lead on aggregate voting intention. Nonetheless, according to recent polling evidence, Labour has been so distrusted on the economy that it is barely taken seriously as a contender for power by key target voters in marginal seats.

Moreover, given the trend towards an improved outlook following a protracted and painful recession, appealing to a pessimistic narrative about the economy, that is unremittingly depressing and downbeat, will produce limited gains for Labour. As circumstances change, Labour needs to adapt and refine its message for a new context. The party cannot construct an electoral majority appealing only to those hardest hit since the crisis. Labour’s challenge now is an existential one: it must demonstrate that British social democracy can achieve reforms in the name of a more equal and just society without higher public spending.

But, with only months to go before the election, the party is devoid of a compelling economic alternative. Re-establishing its credibility does not mean aping coalition policies, but it does require Labour to craft its own diagnosis and prospectus. Labour can strengthen its economic credibility by demonstrating its goal is not merely to redistribute a shrinking pie, but to grow the productive base of the economy, utilising digital technologies, investing in the human capital of the entire workforce, and establishing the UK as the best place in the world for scientific discovery, while translating innovations into commercially successful products. The party should harness ‘the white heat of technological revolution’ as Harold Wilson proclaimed in the 1960s.


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