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My first ‘From the Frontline’ column for Progress: Labour’s election strategy and the huge task ahead

[04/02/2010 | No comment]

Labour’s election strategy is slowly beginning to emerge. At the Fabian conference on Saturday, Gordon Brown said social mobility would be not only the defining theme of the campaign but ‘New Labour’s project for the next generation.’

He spelt out his vision of a society where everyone can fulfil their potential, whatever their background, and argued that whilst government has a vital role to play in ensuring our economy and public services support opportunity and fairness, people also have a responsibility to work hard and play by the rules.
It’s fair to say the speech was greeted with a certain amount of scepticism in the policy discussions that followed, and not just by the many journalists who were present. How can Labour put social mobility centre-stage when the evidence suggests the chances of a child born who’s born into poverty moving up the social scale have actually decreased over the last 10 years?

This scepticism is wrong. Whilst far from perfect, we should be proud of our record so far: the huge investment in schools, Sure Start and Children’s Centres, and the progress on reducing child poverty. The government’s response to Alan Milburn’s report on fair access to the professions, being published later today, is another important step. And we need to remember it takes decades to tackle entrenched disadvantage: the first children to benefit from Sure Start won’t be 18 until 2017.

Identifying unleashing aspiration as our core mission resonates with what most people believe Labour stands for, and defines us as the party of change. Above all, it’s a positive message that can be sold on the doorsteps of our working class and middle class wards. Of course we’ve got to have a credible plan for reducing the deficit to reassure both the markets and the public, who simply won’t believe us if we claim we can carry on spending like before. But an election campaign based solely on a message that Labour will make fairer, slower cuts to public spending than the Tories is hardly likely to inspire the electorate or our party activists.

So our vision and strategy for the election are starting to come together. But there’s still some way to go. Three key issues urgently need addressing as we move forward with the campaign.

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