Amidst the wreckage of an overwhelming electoral defeat, there is one point of light to inspire Labour activists in the months to come: the chance to shape the party. The Labour movement is just that – a movement, driven onwards by thousands of people from across the country, north and south, rich and poor, young and old. We are the movers. The party’s future direction is ours to define.
The Labour party is a party of government, not one of opposition. It should seek the support of voters of every class, creed, and colour in order to govern for the whole country – not the 10% at the bottom nor the 10% at the top, but the 100%. ‘Together’ should mean “all of us”, not “all of us except bankers, homeowners, and entrepreneurs.” If we are serious about winning a governing majority that can deliver aid to the most vulnerable and tackle inequality, we must get serious about winning over Tory voters, as well as UKIP and Green supporters.
To do this, we cannot set a ceiling on people’s ambitions. Labour’s mission should not end with an £8 minimum wage, or even a statutory living wage. It has to offer a cohesive vision for people whose lives are set on a range of trajectories; a vision that resonates with the suburban homeowner as much as it does with the inner city renter.
I believe this starts by placing equality of opportunity at the heart of Labour’s offer. We must be relentless in pushing home the message that no matter where you come from or who you are, you have a place in our society and have as much a right to get on, do your thing, and earn your money as the next person. We must promise to tear down all barriers that stand in the way of people achieving their potential. This extends beyond the individual too. Whole communities should feel they have the power to realise their ambitions, and that a Labour government will help them on their way.
Labour should also talk about building a more resilient society, one where individuals and families are able to bounce back from their misfortunes faster and stronger than before. We will never see the end of ‘boom and bust.’ The economy will ebb and flow according to its own rhythms regardless of government action. What government should do, therefore, is fix it so that when the economic tide rushes out, everyone is able to keep afloat, and no-one is left to flounder for their lives. This means equipping people with support networks, contacts, and services they can call on in times of need.
Finally, Labour should also talk about the opportunities of the future. Better writers than me have already made the point that Labour succeeded only when it has set out a bright, modern vision for the years to come. In 1963 that was the ‘white heat’ of technology. Today it is the unlimited potential of digital. I find it unutterably bizarre that a Conservative party fundamentally resistant to change should time and again be elected to take our country into the future. Labour needs to re-capture its mantle as the party of modernity.
I am painting the future of the Labour party in broad strokes. The period of reflection we are now in is ill-suited to detail. What is needed instead is a narrative framework that can reach out beyond Labour’s emaciated heartlands and turn the sea of blue seats on our electoral map red. We must speak for Britain again. The party, and its supporters, should demand nothing less.
Louie Woodall is a Young Fabian Executive Committee member, he tweets @