It’s conference season again. The Labour Party goes to Manchester in a buoyant mood, with the major polling companies registering double-digit leads, the government lurching from one disaster to another, and the sniping from the party’s hard right unusually quiet, for the moment.
Doubts still linger over whether Ed Miliband is the right person to lead Labour into the next election. Increasingly, however, those doubts centre around his effectiveness and assertiveness as an opponent of the government, rather than whether he passes various tests of ideological purity – mostly posed by the party’s right.
One key concern is that Ed speaks in the language of the policy wonk, the focus group, rather than the voter. Terms like “responsible capitalism” and “predistribution” are all very well, and signal a welcome change in Labour’s ideological direction, but they don’t speak to ordinary voters.
What Labour needs to do now is to solidify its opinion poll lead, by telling voters what, exactly, a Labour government will do for them. How do these noble theoretical ideas translate into the reality of government? How, moreover, do we win back voters on low incomes, feeling the squeeze of a financial crisis they didn’t cause and are now paying for?
There are some simple, achievable aims Labour can set out, to directly improve the lot of these people, with some modest policy proposals. Here are four of the most important – answering that most significant of questions; What will Labour do for us?
1. A Labour government will increase your salary.
We will do this by ensuring the national minimum wage is maintained at the level of a Living Wage.
2. A Labour government will reduce your tax bill.
We will do this by replacing council tax with a local land value tax, ending the unfair and outdated system of banding.
3. A Labour government will reduce your rent.
We will do this by introducing rent controls for all landlords, with increases in rents restricted to the rate of inflation.
4. A Labour government will reduce your bills.
We will do this by bringing energy providers back into public ownership, ending profiteering in the energy sector.
These four policies are straightforward enough, and speak to voters by directly stating how they will improve their lives.
Not all voters will be impacted by the introduction of a Living Wage, and homeowners won’t be affected by rent controls. But those on low incomes and private renters are voters we need to target; furthermore, a more progressive form of local government financing and reduced energy prices are policies that can have a broader appeal.
And even if the precise policies are ones that Labour can’t or won’t deliver, the premise is clear: we need to start speaking to voters, directly, about what a future Labour government can do for them.