What does Labour do now the Tories are not seen “the nasty party”?
The front page of this morning’s Guardian is dominated by a report that groups of Labour modernisers, including cabinet minsters, are planning to tell Brown to offer a more radical reform programme to help beat off the Tory threat in the centre ground.
Linked to a paper from the Progress thinktank the group is arguing that the political landscape has changed, that the opposition is perceived differently and, pointedly at Gordon, that economic competance is not enough as a platform. Labour needs a stronger message.
The report notes that ” Labour cannot win the next election based on its previous tactics, because the Tory party has changed.The public no longer view the Conservatives as the ‘nasty party’ of the 1990s. We are now engaged in a serious fight for the centre ground with a party which is socially more liberal and constantly engaging in counter-intuitive positioning….Winning the argument with the public for a fourth Labour term cannot rest on a characterisation of our opponents which the voters really don’t recognise.”
Amongst the Labour figures said to be linked with the document are Hazel Blears, James Purnell, Tessa Jowell, and Alan Milburn.
As you would expect it is being emphasised that this is not “factional plot, or a move to undermine Brown” but in that great shorthand of the Labour movement “an effort to stimulate debate”. I doubt if the Prime Minister will quite see it that way and he will be right.
The problem, as I was arguing here on Wednesday, is that Labour has won three general elections with essentially the same strategy of demonising the Tories. At some stage the potency of that was going to wear off. It now needs a new narrative that is based on its values. Labour will not hold onto power simply by not being the Tories.
General Election betting is here.