March 10th 2016, the date where the ‘soft left’ of Labour, including myself, woke from our cocoons and spied a glimmer of sunshine in the distance. I use the word cocoon rather than hibernation, as the ‘soft left’ haven’t been sleeping. We have still supported the party, continued to be activists, and highlighted the problems in a shoddy Tory government. But for many months now, it seemed rather in vain. As I highlighted in my previous article, Corbyn and current Labour are typically seen as rather unelectable, both within the electorate, and also the soft left/moderate side of the party.
Today though there was some renewed hope for soft left/moderates, as Dan Jarvis made a speech seen by many as the start of a leadership bid in the near future. Jarvis’s speech to the Demos think tank was one that placed him in a position that should appeal to many of the members, and in a position that gives him a much larger chance of winning over ‘Social conservatives’, the voters who have abandoned Labour over the past 2 elections. Jade Azim in her article fashioned ‘fluffism’, meaning to ditch empirical evidence for abstractions, something the left has been guilty of lately. However there was no fluffism from Jarvis, but ironically it fashioned feelings of fluffism in the soft left. It gave them inspiration again. It gave them renewed hope.
As George Eaton highlighted, Jarvis was clever in criticising current Labour through code, rather than names. He not only hinted at current problems, but attacked the government, and highlighted problems with New Labour, as well as reminiscing on strengths. In fact he managed to gain himself a future narrative, based around inequality and welfare, and more than Corbyn/Labour have done in 6 months. Jarvis highlighted that ‘inequality on the scale we see today do not help our economy’, ‘working people’s real wages fell by £1,600 a year in the last parliament’, both which lead to dissatisfaction with mainstream politics. The Labour party was founded to aid and improve the lives of working people across the country, making sure no-one was left behind. Jarvis was clear in stressing that Labour must return to these values.
“To provide the dignity of work. Support for the family. Prosperity for the community”
“Labour needs to be tough on inequality, tough on the causes of inequality”
Jarvis also spent a large portion focusing on New Labour, a government he seems to be placing himself just to the left of. He highlighted the strengths of the Blair/Brown era; the growing economy, low inflation, home ownership increase, decrease in homelessness, and improving welfare. However he added that ‘New Labour were intensely relaxed about things they shouldn’t have been intensely relaxed about’, and ‘New Labour’s approach to tackling inequality did not go far enough’. This is sure to be a message that connects with the working class voters Labour have lost to UKIP/Conservatives, the people who generally think that Labour were too weak on factors such as immigration.
So how can Jarvis be the man to rally the troops? Firstly, in an article from last October, it was highlighted he is the potential leader the Tories fear most. He provides a doorway for younger people to get involved in politics, many of whom tend to be ‘soft left’ in nature. As highlighted by Azim in her aforementioned article young people have been betrayed by past generations. They look like being permanent renters at this rate, and many will be on low pay. Young people tend to be tolerant, more open minded, radically progressive, and these along with soft left/moderates will be one of Dan’s main targets.
The other will be those ‘social conservatives’ I mention often. As Jarvis highlighted in this article, these are the people who no longer trust Labour because ‘we stopped talking about the things that matter to them’, and thought Labour were too weak on businesses/banks/immigration etc. He also highlights these people want a party that works on their behalf, stands up for them, and is strong. He focuses on the problems caused by inequality, businesses, slow growth, low earnings, childcare, social care, and welfare. All areas that will appeal to the working class and social conservatives. All areas that got Labour into power back in 97. He has managed to rally much of the membership more in one day than Corbyn has in 6 months, he is far more electable than Corbyn, and for much of the soft left like myself, there is now a glimmer of a brighter future.