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NEWS this week has hit of Labour’s plan to focus on flag and patriotism to win back voters in the traditional heartlands of Britain.
The feeling that we are ultimately left with here at No Holding Back is how desperately sad and misguided this whole situation appears to be.
There is obviously a will of sorts from the leadership of the Labour Party to deal with the electoral problems that we undoubtedly have – with them investing heavily in focus groups and rebranding consultants – but with only a matter of months before local elections there definitely needs to be a realisation that hollow efforts will not be enough.
The tragedy is that the strategy is at this point so empty, so absent of bravery and ultimately in our opinion wrong with little hope of building the coalition of voters that is needed if we are ever to win and see the back of the most cruel, callous and incompetent Conservative policies we have arguably ever been faced with.
As three politicians who live and breathe our communities, the communities that we were born and bred in. The communities that we worked and raised families in. The communities that our friends and loved ones live in. We are left frustrated by how little seems to be understood about what is required to breathe life into our streets again.
People are crying out for real, meaningful change. They want politicians to invest their time and energy in what matters to them.
Healthcare that is available for them and their loved ones at the point of need. An education system that is well resourced and equipped to build the future generations.
A transport system and infrastructure that is reasonably priced and well maintained. Housing that is safe, secure and affordable.
Critically, jobs — quality jobs to provide incomes to have a decent quality of life and to help the local economy flourish with security and good terms and conditions. Enabling our post-industrial heartland to deliver the jobs of the future that will be required to tackle the climate emergency. A system that people can flourish and feel appreciated in, one that looks after our elderly and most vulnerable.
Many have felt completely alienated from Westminster and politicians of all parties. The mantra of “you are all the same” and “nothing ever changes” rings loudly. Until meaningful change can be seen in these held-back communities, no amount of flag waving or tokenistic patriotism will change that.
During our No Holding Back Tour that resulted in the Challenge for Labour report being produced we listened to thousands of people from across Britain explain their thoughts and feeling of the current political landscape and what the election defeat of 2019 meant to them.
And yes, the issue of being seen to be anti-queen and country came up.
As we reported back in our publication it was perhaps a failing on the part of the leadership at the time that we did not reinterpret what patriotism really means in a progressive sense.
Jeremy Corbyn was a solid trade unionist, and his core principles of solidarity, social justice, anti-racism and community spirit were very much aligned with the British public. Unfortunately, we did not turn that narrative to our advantage.
We should have constructed a progressive patriotism that was not about bending the knee, and who has the biggest flag, but about strengthening workers’ and trade union rights, celebrating racial diversity and promoting equality amongst all identities.
It is possible to love your country and learn and reflect on its history proactively and critically. The key is to build meaningful pride in our communities. That cannot happen just by making “use of the [union] flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly”, as this leaked report suggests.
Politicians should come up with policies and solutions that are bold and transformational. At a time when ordinary people are being hit hard – this is not the time to hold back.
And make no mistake, sadly worse is to come. That is why we think the country needs a National Recovery Plan in the style of the post-war Marshall Plan that transforms Britain with good jobs and decent pay for working people through massive investment in people, turning our held-back towns into places that build again: electric cars, wind turbines, solar panels and jobs in the care sector, NHS and schools.
That’s why investing in a national social care system is critical and an education that banishes Etonian elitism and invests in all children to thrive.
And Labour councils already under enormous pressure should not be left to shoulder the burden of Covid. But we have said all this. It was published last November and after initial interest from the Leader of The Opposition’s office we have heard nothing.
There is no quick fix to Labour’s problems. And as Aditya Chakrabortty accurately put it in The Guardian this week, if voters are faced with a choice between Coke and Diet, voters probably will prefer the real thing.
Ian Lavery, Laura Smith and Jon Trickett are the founders of No Holding Back.
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