A Labour government is not inevitable, but here’s how the party can leap to power.
The latest ICM/Guardian poll puts Labour on 43% - just one percentage point ahead of the Tories. This is typical of polls since last June’s election and it’s unlikely to change until something major happens like a switch in leadership in either of the two main parties or the official act of the UK leaving the European Union. Labour might also receive a post-election bump following May’s local authority votes in which the party is widely seen as likely to make significant gains.
However, last year’s election shows that successful campaigns can alter the outcome of elections.
No matter how volatile polls get over the next few years, the last few months of campaigning are likely to be far more important.
Of course, we don’t have all the facts about the next general election. Will it take place in 2022 or will the government collapse before then? Will Theresa May still be prime minister or will someone like Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg or Amber Rudd be in power? Will the UK still be in a post-Brexit transition period or will it have a full-fledged free-trade deal with the union? And what will be the main issues of the day?
One big obstacle to Labour’s victory is that it is not trusted on the economy. The party defied expectations to win 40% of the vote last June, but if the Tories retain support of roughly 4 in 10 voters as well, Labour will need to reach out of its comfort zone to progress.
Polls consistently show support for many of Labour’s key economic policies like the renationalisation of key industries, progressive taxation and the closing of tax loopholes, yet the party is still associated with the financial crash in the public’s eyes. For instance, the latest ICM/Guardian poll suggests that the Conservatives are significantly more trusted on the economy than Labour.
For Labour to win the next election it needs to tackle this image. The party needs to emphasise its fully-costed manifesto and line up economists and other business and finance experts to support its plans. It needs to reach out to voters who favour individual economic Labour policies, but who trust the Tories overall on the issue.
Furthermore, the next election will be held somewhere between eight and twelve years after the genesis of 21st century austerity. A campaign that combines economic credentials and the need for more funding for public services, particularly the NHS which Labour consistently leads on, will help take Labour to power.
Of course, no political commentator can predict the future. The social world is messy and full of surprises. But if Labour are to make advances, they must make progress on the economy in general.
Without that, the Tories could be in power until at least 2027.
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