How Labour Can Win in 2020: Part 4 of 5

Broadening the base of support for the Labour party must include significant political reforms to attract former Lib Dems as well as establishing a better political settlement. Making a pitch for disaffected Lib Dems would involve constitutional reform but also by adopting socially liberal positions on a variety of issues, whilst retaining left-wing economic standpoints.

Part 4: Capturing Disaffected Lib Dems

Broadening the base of support for the Labour party must include significant political reforms to attract former Lib Dems as well as establishing a better political settlement. Making a pitch for disaffected Lib Dems would involve constitutional reform but also by adopting socially liberal positions on a variety of issues, whilst retaining left-wing economic standpoints.
The 2015 General Election personified
The 2015 General Election personified. (Jonathan Cusick)
Electoral and constitutional reform has long been at the forefront of Lib Dem policy but cementing their 2015 collapse in support cab only come about, in my view, by taking on support from people wishing significant changes in these areas. Devolving powers to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland in equal measure would be an easy way of Labour illustrating its desire to rule on behalf of the whole UK rather than just Northern England, London and South Wales.
A similar devolved parliament for the people of Cornwall would be politically advantageous as a 2014 Survation poll showed 60% support for greater devolution from Westminster to Cornwall with 49% supporting the creation of a Cornish Assembly; its creation would also show former Lib Dems that Labour, despite historically not returning many MPs from the region, cared about the concerns of the South West of England.
As a way of shaking up Westminster more substantially Labour should commit itself to having a totally elected House of Lords or the abolition of the Second Chamber. Unicameral legislatures are present in the devolved nations and across the world and the abolition of the Lords’ place, which I personally advocate, would restore confidence in the democratic aspect of the British political system whilst substantively reducing the cost of government.
Lobbying reform would also give voters an understanding of who is speaking to their representatives and may explain their representative’s voting record on certain issues; public funding of elections who guarantee fairness during the campaign whilst preventing the influence of special interests dominating party finances.
Finally Labour must come up with a set of proposals to increase voter turnout. The current electoral system has to be replaced with something more representative such as Single-Transferable-Vote in order to to prevent the ‘Spoiler Effect’ and maintain the link between constituency MPs and voters. Automatic voter registration upon reaching voting age, which incidentally should be lowered to 16, in combination with the establishment of an independent body to redraw constituency boundaries would prevent gerrymandering by the government of the day.
By doing comprehensive electoral and constitutional reform Labour can solidify its hold over former Lib Dems whilst further reinforcing its campaign narrative of governing for the whole country in a system that is democratically representative.
So all we need to do now is have politicians decide to make their seats more competitive and to prevent exploiting fears about other parties.
All we need to do now is have politicians decide to make their seats more competitive and to prevent exploiting fears about other parties. Shit. (Electoral Reform Society)
Labour should also look to radically altering public services such as the police and education to create a much less restrictive society. By implementing more liberal policies in relation to the society implications of public services people wary of governmental overreach including many young people would flock to Labour.
Reforming the criminal justice system by shifting from punishment to rehabilitation, especially for non-violent offenders, former inmates would be able to leave prison with education or practical skills that would be beneficial to wider society. The decriminalisation of drug possession and use would reduce thee financial burden on upon the prison system and with addiction being treated as a health problem like in Portugal the chances of people achieving sobriety would increase as they would cared for in a compassionate environment rather than rotting in a prison cell.
As well as the wider decriminalisation, Labour should also look to legalise the recreational and medical use of marijuana; with a tax levied on purchases in the same way as alcohol duty, drug education programmes can be funded in schools to discourage the use of more harmful and addictive substances.
Labour's support among young people and Rastafarians would sky-rocket overnight if they embrace legal weed.
Labour’s support among young people and Rastafarians would sky-rocket overnight if they embrace legal weed. (public domain)
Education policy was the bane of the Lib Dems during their time in government particularly after the trebling of university tuition fees in December 2010. Labour should take the opportunity to use this political weakness to capture a high proportion of students by not only vowing to scrap tuition fee, but to also provide generous maintenance grants; only by doing these two things in tandem will more students from poorer backgrounds be encouraged to pursue higher education.
Finally on education, Labour must be bold enough to write off all outstanding student debts thus guaranteeing support among young graduates; not only would it reaffirm Labour’s egalitarian narrative but it would provide a boost in consumer spending as money previously set aside monthly or weekly for student debt repayments would become disposable income.
Nick Clegg:
Nick Clegg: “This will lock up the student vote for a while”. (BBC)
The final aspect of Lib Dem policy Labour should look at adopting is the strong focus in the 2015 manifesto around nature and the environment. Although it may have been an attempt to salvage the environmentally minded from flooding to the Greens, the policies put forward established the Lib Dems as credible in this policy area. 
Labour must be willing to take substantial action on the environment both practically to prevent and mitigate climate change and its impacts, but to shore up its environmentalist credentials, capturing former Lib Dems for a generation and dissuading environmentally minded voters from defecting en masse to the Green Party.
Strengthening pollution laws, investment in renewable energy, and combating ocean acidification would make a bold statement that a more left-wing Labour Party would have a strong environmentalist strain running through it.
Working with NGOs and internally government would also be a key part in pitching a potential Labour government as credible: decarbonisation targets for developing countries in Africa and Asia, a North Sea marine reserve and encouraging divestment from fossil fuel companies would capture the imagination and energy of environmentalists whilst affirming the left-wing principles of solidarity and internationalism.
Come to shake off that perception of being hungry for oil. COUGH, Iraq, COUGH.
Time to shake off that perception of being hungry for oil. COUGH, Iraq, COUGH. (churchcouncil.org)
Electorally, maintaining the current number of Lib Dem MPs should be not the priority; preventing defections from Labour to the Lib Dems and Lib Dem defections to the Greens is.
By systematically decimating the Lib Dem vote across the country, Labour would strengthen existing constituency MPs, put the party in a better position in Labour-Tory marginals, and create new marginals where the left of centre vote had been traditionally split such as in the South West. Appealing to the socially liberal wing whilst simultaneously focussing economically on the social-democratic sections of the Lib Dems would leave only the dyed-in-the-wool centrists, effectively neutralising them as a political force.
The catch-22 for Lib Dem voters is that the only way for their party to recover after defections to Labour would be to vote with the defectors for Labour’s electoral reforms, which could only be implemented if they too lent their support to Labour candidates to stop Tory gains.
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