Labour Won't “Sneer” At Ordinary Voters In Run-Up To General Election
Labour want to use lessons from the local elections to inform their general election campaign (Alamy)
Labour's National Campaign Coordinator Shabana Mahmood has said the party is “not here to sneer at people” as the party works to persuade new voters and win back old ones at the next general election, after a tumultuous few years.
As Labour shifts into a major campaigning phase leading up to the next national poll, due in 2024, Mahmood has insisted they are “not here to talk to ourselves” and need to ensure they are persuading those who might otherwise vote Conservative that Labour can represent them.
Local elections in May saw Labour regain councils in Brexit-voting areas that had previously been written off for the party, and Mahmood and Labour HQ will be analysing the results closely to try to replicate this in national polling.
Labour had previously faced criticism that it had alienated a significant number of potential voters in recent years, particularly in its traditional working class heartlands. Former Downing Street Director of Communications for Tony Blair Alastair Campbell reflected in his recent book that Facebook ads excluding anyone who “watched Top Gear, played bingo, didn’t have a degree, or liked Piers Morgan” had proven fatal for the People’s Vote campaign for a second Brexit referendum.
While Labour did not officially endorse the People’s Vote campaign, the current party remains closely aligned with Blairite figures such as Campbell, and lost support at the 2019 election for being perceived as not pro-Brexit enough. Labour leader Keir Starmer has faced criticism from the Tories for previously being supportive of a second referendum.
Tory opponents also regularly frame Starmer as an "elite" North London lawyer, and even some left-wing figures, including former Labour Party chair Ian Lavery, have accused Labour pro-remain campaigners of “sneering at ordinary people” who hold pro-Brexit views.
Shadow cabinet minister and Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywell Mahmood told PoliticsHome that this kind of exclusionary campaigning is categorically “not what we do”, and said there has been a “cultural shift” under Starmer’s leadership towards talking to voters who are not “natural Labour supporters”.
“We're not here to sneer at people or make judgments about what sort of people they are, if they watch Top Gear or not, that’s very much not our approach,” she said.
“We are trying to persuade those people to vote for us, so we meet them with humility, we meet them with respect, we talk about the issues that we know matter to them.”
She added that it is important to show that Labour wants to “change” the country and have “credible” answers to the problems facing people in their daily lives.
As the cost of living continues to bite across the UK, Mahmood said she believed the Conservative government is overseeing a period of “managed decline”, rather than offering a positive vision; something she hopes Labour would change.
“The way the Tories have been approaching governing the nation is essentially to beat the hope out of people,” she continued.
“We reject that completely, and all of our plans are building out from Keir’s five missions, about making the long term changes, long term decisions, the things that other administrations have put in the box marked ‘too difficult’.
“We believe that we can make change, we will make change, and it will set the country on a different path and give our country's future back.”
Starmer’s pledges include securing the highest sustained growth in the G7, building an NHS fit for the future, making the streets safer by reducing violent crime, reforming childcare and education systems, and making Britain a clean energy superpower: the last of which Mahmood was keen to emphasise. She said that Labour’s detailed energy plans will be published over the summer, with a focus on distributing energy infrastructure and jobs across the whole of the UK.
But before Labour can try to make these missions a reality, Mahmood has to set her sights on a general election win. When parliament returns after this week’s recess, Mahmood will receive the initial review into the local elections campaign, which she and her team will go through “line by line”.
“Much of the political terrain on which these local elections were fought maps very neatly onto the seats that are going to be crucial for the general election,” she told PoliticsHome.
While claiming success in winning back councils in the Brexit-voting areas of Plymouth, Dover, Swindon and Medway, Mahmood admitted some results were not as strong as they wanted them to be, for example in Hull or Stockton-on-Tees.
“We'll be making some decisions about what support those areas need ahead of next year's set of elections,” she said, adding that the campaign team and the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party will not be “complacent” in strategising how they distribute resources, campaigning support, and key people to battleground areas across the country.
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