I cannot say I agree with everything Roy Hattersley says in The Times today, but I agree with a lot of it.
‘Fight for our beliefs. It is the only way to win.’ That is the headline on his opinion piece. The key word for me is ‘fight’. And he is right too that this is not just about Gordon Brown, but ministers and MPs at every level, and the Party as a whole.
As I have highlighted in recent days, the media has gone into one of its ‘everything Gordon does is wrong’ phases. He cannnot be expected to push back on this wave of negativity alone.
Ministers need to be out there making the case with conviction – not just that Gordon is a better Prime Minister than David Cameron would ever be. But that Labour has the right values for today and the right policies for tomorrow. They are the thoughts and the words. How you get that over to the public is what appears to be missing.
Of course the media environment makes it difficult. But not impossible. Of course it gets harder the longer you’re in power. Of course the polls are bad. Of course the Tories are getting more energy and more money flowing into their operation. All reasons to fight harder.
As Roy says ‘Conservative support is fragile – based more on dislike of the Government than on admiration for the Opposition. David Cameron lacks substance and the more he is forced to describe his policies, the less attractive they appear.’
He argues too that many ordinary Party supporters do not see the coming battle as having been lost. But too many of the senior figures in government now talk and behave as though the game is over.
Roy rightly points out how rarely we hear or read ministers making effective attacks on the Tories, or setting out in a way that arrests the media and the public what divides us from the Tories.
They can make speeches all day long but if nobody is listening, they cannot blame the listener, or simply say the media has lost the plot. At the coming party conference, the 24 hour news merchants will blather away about Gordon’s prospects and Gordon’s character and find innumerable ways not to focus on the real substance of politics and the choices facing Britain and the world. Let them. But while the downside of our media may be its size, scale, volume and negativity, the upside is its size and scale and the fact that if you have something interesting to say, you can get a hearing for it.
I am among the party supporters who genuinely believe that because of our record, our values, the public’s indifference to the Tories, and the fact that only Labour really wrestles with the big policy challenges of the future, the election can still be won ….. Provided ministers en masse start to make the case properly, with conviction and confidence, without constantly appearing to be cowed by the media and on the back foot.
The next few days are pretty vital in showing they are still up for it.