Now that the Labour Party conference has come to a close, here are a few key thoughts from the past few days …

 

Tories need a new argument vs. Labour’s spending plans

In pride of place, stuck to the wall of a classroom is a meme of the prime minister being depicted as eating the NHS, below the caption: ‘Jaws’. This is a microcosm of the problem the Tories face. Over the last few days John McDonnell has promised endless spending commitments, particularly over PFI, promising to bring the projects back in house. The Tories’ official response was that it was yet again another uncosted spending commitment. The problem here is that the Conservatives are using the same argument that failed them during the election.

Engraved in some voters’ minds, is the belief that Labour will spend and save some public services while the Conservatives will ‘eat away at them like jaws’. Until this belief is reversed, the argument that the promise is uncosted won’t work. Many voters are still convinced that the Tories want to destroy precious services, such as the NHS. Trust however is very hard to win back. This is not perhaps so much May’s fault but rather that Cameron and Osborne’s austerity measures are finally being felt on a larger scale, compared to 2015 or earlier.

Is passion the answer?

The majority of voters would prefer to listen to a rousing passion-filled speech, bereft of facts, than a well-planned lecture on the ins and outs of a policy. This is Corbyn’s chance to speak to his party faithful, to his adoring members. Expect endless videos, two or three minutes long, of crowds chanting his name or him passionately calling out austerity. This works. People share it, people watch it, and people listen. They don’t shut off the way voters did to ‘strong and stable’ during the election. From William Pitt the younger to Churchill, great speeches come with great prime ministers. Emotion beats facts, and passion is the most powerful emotion of all.

For Theresa May next week, sharing in the passion of Lauren Stocks (below) may help her win back some voters who see her as distant and emotionless. This video has already been turned into a social media success.

https://www.facebook.com/theguardian/videos/10155982523441323/

Scared or Strategy?

There was a bit of fuss this week when it was alleged that Jeremy Corbyn had snubbed Radio 4’s Today programme, refusing to be interviewed at the Labour conference. Some cried foul of the Labour leader, accusing him of running away from serious interviews. But why should he be interviewed on the Today programme like it’s some kind of obligatory ritual?

In the election, Corbyn lost credibility and momentum on the days of the campaign when he was interviewed by flagship political programmes. Whether it was Emma Barnett on Radio 5 live, embarrassing him, or Andrew Neil challenging him over his links to the IRA. Each time it resulted in  nothing short of negative headlines and a swing of momentum to the Conservatives. On top of this, it created something the Tories lacked throughout the election; watchable and shareable online short videos.

Corbyn is not running away. In fact he is showing political wit. Something that many, myself included, thought he had previously lacked. Corbyn doesn’t need Today to get his message across, he knows that the social media will spread his message regardless. Instead of running the risk of losing votes, Corbyn is playing the strings of political strategy to a very fine tune.

The Labour Optimism

Something that has struck me during this conference, is the positivity radiating from the Cabinet and Labour supporters on the conference floor. It is quite remarkable, when looking at this matter-of-factly, that a party well short of a majority is feeling this chipper. However, without wanting to be the pessimist, I will still say that Labour should be wary.

Voters have already shown their unpredictability when it comes to conforming to neat patterns that comply with predictions and focus group polling. They can and do act on a sudden whim and change their vote or view. The flood of support that came to Labour last election can decline again.

Politics is very much like the tide. It is up to individual parties to catch that tide as it comes in, and then reform to match the tide as it goes out.

Corbyn has successfully reformed the Labour Party to ride the tide of anti-austerity feeling amongst the public. But the public can soon shift focus, especially when Brexit becomes the issue that affects all our lives in obvious ways.

Voters are volatile and they don’t like parties that seem too confident in winning elections. Maybe Theresa May can teach Corbyn some lessons on that point.