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My friend Liliane has received today this email from Labour HQ,

Dear Liliane

I’m sure you’ve already seen reports about our employment summit on the news today and I wanted to contact you directly about the unprecedented challenges that this summit is helping to address.

Let’s be clear – we are facing the first crisis of the global age. Countries across the world are taking action to stimulate their economies and provide help to those who need it.

Today’s employment summit gathers employers, trade unions, and the firms and universities who provide the skills that will bring Britain out of the recession quicker and stronger.

Because we are Labour, we will always approach tough economic times not by just monitoring the economic statistics, but by understanding that each statistic represents families, communities and businesses struggling for help.

We can invest millions in people’s future now or pay billions in a future where people are stuck on benefits – real action no w is vital to ensure that those who are out of work now do not become the long term unemployed of the future.

We understand that, by providing real help now, we can emerge from this downturn quicker and stronger. This is why we are: investing £500m to get people back into work; boosting the economy by providing an average of £275 for each family per year through cuts in VAT and £145 in tax cuts for basic rate taxpayers; and helping to create 100,000 additional jobs through our capital investment programme in schools, hospitals, environmental work, infrastructure, and transport.

But while we are rising to challenge of the times, the Conservatives are blinded by the same old ideological blinkers.

We are absolutely determined that we will not repeat the mistakes of previous recessions when, time after time, the Conservatives’ ‘do nothing’ approach allowed rises in unemployment to become permanent and whole generations were written off.

Britain toda y faces a clear choice.

A country in which a Labour government provides real help for families and businesses affected by the downturn – or a ‘do nothing’ Conservative party set on repeating the mistakes of previous recessions by leaving people to fend for themselves.

Best Wishes

Gordon

More and more I think this crisis is helping both Labour and Brown regain its social democratic identity, which can only be a good thing. After the last years of Blair when the ideological anchoring was lost, the party tried to reinvent itself on a permanent basis, losing its raison d’etre, and the ideological battle lines were blurred, Brown is finally being unashamedly Labour and that is getting party activists excited once more about getting the message out to the electorate.

A clear message and strong beliefs on its ideology is what Labour need as the electoral season draws closer

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It was no secret that Derek Draper was launching a new site aimed at strengthening Labour’s online army in the war of the blogs. A meeting was organised a few weeks ago by Draper for a bunch of Labour people to hear what Blue State Digital, the online strategy firm behind Obama’s online campaign, had to say about a new Labour online offensive to challenge the current Tory hegemony over the UK political blogosphere.

In principle Draper’s idea is a good one just not too original. As I have blogged before (here), the issue is that the Labour blogosphere already has too many ‘gateways’ and what it really needs is to provide one that really stands out, a Labour ‘ConservativeHome’. We have got Bloggers4Labour, LabourHome and now LabourList, all of them aiming to be a home for the netroots (and this is only after a similar site, Labour Outlook, was closed down). What this achieves it that none of them are ever going to get on their own the levels of traffic that Tim Montgomerie’s site has. If Draper wants to really create a genuine Labour netroot hub he should be talking to these other sites and propose a merger which can create a truly independent gateway. At the time of my previous post on this issue Bloggers4Labour was up for a chat on this, so there could be room for at least a discussion on this.

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I just watched Paxman interviewing Tony McNulty and Alan Duncan on the economic crisis and it’s curious how the tables have turned in British politics since 1997. In 1987 and 1992 Labour lost two general election mainly on the electorate not trusting them with the economy. Tax and spending was the Tories’ electoral forte for years while Labour struck the right note on social issues…depending on what issue the electorate care most about one or the other would shore up in the polls…not anymore. Listening to McNulty and Duncan one could see the Tories complaining about the economy without providing any soutions, very a la old Labour, while McNulty playing the safe pair of hands Minister. On social issues the Tories are now almost the perceived ‘caring party’, when social issues like crime or 42 days detention were the centre of media attention Cameron shore up in the polls, once the economy went down he started sounding too naïve to handle the storm while Brown look decisive with a very Thatcherite ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.

The Tories can certainly lose the next election if they keep looking so weak on the economy. I have a feeling Osborne is under serious threat now if the Tories don’t find a narrative on the economy soon and the PBR goes down well in the polls for Labour a new year reshuffle could see him off and Ken Clarke in.

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The far left criticised New Labour for being too liberal, Cameron cannot stop repeating his ‘broken society’ soundbite…but today the OECD has published a report that shows that since 2000 the UK has reduced income inequality and poverty more than any other member of the organisation.

Needless to say there is still a long way to go, but certainly Labour is the way forward to build on those foundations.

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Gordon Brown has certainly regained the political initiative with today’s announcement of the return of Peter Mandelson to British politics. Wait for this weekend’s papers, one is going to feel like is back to 1998. So far surprise is the only feeling everyone can agree on the return of our very own ‘comeback kid’.

But moving on to the bigger picture. A Guardian/ICM poll today shows a bump in the polls for the Tories of just 1% after their conference. It should be a warning shot for Cameron that his strategy is starting to show signs of exhaustion. It is true that they are comfortable in the lead and that a return to parliamentary politics benefits him against Brown, specially the diversification of daily topics (not just the crisis which benefits Brown) and the weekly showdown of PMQs.

And here is where Brown’s reshuffle comes into play. Three very important priorities are being covered by the PM in what I believe to be a great strategic move on his part:

Firstly, Brown has neutralised any potential Blairite plotting or undermining of his authority with the return of the ultra-blairite, and not Brown’s best friend, Mandelson. Miliband should now keep quite and work hard for his resurging PM. Plus Mandelson’s return should be a nice bone for Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn to chew on and keep quite, at least for a while.

Secondly, the PM should find in Beckett and Mandelson the solutions to his government’s presentational problems. Mandelson’s presentational skills together with Alistair Campbell, who’s returned as an external advisor, and  Damian McBride’s everyday media relations experience should bring back some efficiency to No. 10’s media operation. On the other hand, the return of Margaret Beckett, a seasoned party and cabinet operative, should help improve coordination and discipline within the cabinet, something that has been lacking in past Brown cabinets.

And my third and final point is the changes in policy areas. With the creation of a specific post on climate change and energy, led by Ed Miliband, Brown is signalling the importance energy prices have in household economies as well as not forgetting the crucial fight against climate change. This combined with the creation of a National Economic Council and, again, the return of Mandelson,  who has gained invaluable experienced as Trade Commissioner in Brussels, should strengthen the government’s ability to fight the current financial crisis to get the economy train rolling again. A final point to be made is the appointment of Geoff Hoon as Transport Secretary. As a bit of a transport policy geek myself I am very happy with this appointment. Hoon is a pragmatic and able politician that should make of the DfT a crucial department within government after the year of inaction under Ruth Kelly.

Brown is impressing me lately. He’s recovered and is starting to look again like the strategic mind he is at his best. The Tories should be worried, maybe it’s time to fly Steve Hilton back from the sunshine state.

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In the last few days I feel like reading the papers and watching the news again. Labour is certainly out of the woods again and has got its political edge back, this can only be good for British politics, even if you don’t support Labour.

The key reason for the change on political momentum was Brown’s conference speech last week. He hit home with the ‘no time for a novice’ line and the new narrative on fairness that felt genuine thanks to his apology on the 10p debate.

But there are more reasons for the change in Labour fortunes, it has been a perfect storm this week for Labour. Firstly, the financial crisis has dominated the headlines and disrupted the Tory conference. An example is how Labour conference last week dominated the first ten minutes of BBC news at 10 and most of Newsnight, the Tories have only come after long debates on both programmes on the financial crisis. Secondly, the Tories support for deregulated markets, again coming back to Brown’s speech and his reference to Osborne’s ‘misery of others’ quote, means that Cameron now is on the defensive on why his recipe for growth is the seed of the current financial mess. Because of this defensive line he has to take he cannot get his message out (if he’s got one). Moreover, in the electorate’s mind has sunk the idea that the Tories don’t have a plan for the future (something which is true), and Cameron and Osborne’s ‘wait and see’ line isn’t working anymore. No specifics, the ‘no time for a novice’ argument strengthens itself more and more.

In a recent post I argued that the media needed to take a closer look at the Tories and thankfully they are. They are now asking them the tough questions they should be asked and the Tories are all over the place. Moreover, the Government has kept an institutional and sombre profile, the kind of profile that benefits Brown’s image. Darling yesterday quite skilfully deactivated the Tories’ line on bipartisanship by saying a vote in Parliament won’t be necessary as all changes will be done within existing legislation. Both Brown and Darling are looking much stronger these days. The way they sorted the Bradford & Bingley problem was quick and resolute, and on and on…

It’s not over yet, Labour still got a lot of work to do, they are after all still behind in the polls by about 9 points. Unless Cameron blows the house away today that gap should continue narrowing. Key issues No. 10 needs to focus on now, PMQs and the Glenrothes byelection. Brown needs to find a type of performance that can neutralise Cameron’s Blair-like show, and Labour needs to put solvent people in charge of the byelection, a win is a must to keep the momentum. Labour is back my friends.

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Key week ahead for Labour

A Guardian-ICM poll today puts Labour up three points just 9 behind the Tories in the narrowest lead for Cameron since April. This is obviously good news, it means Brown has managed with his conference speech to crawl out of the hole of being seen as a lame duck PM.

The Tories are preparing for what is probably going to be a much tougher conference than they expected. They wanted to hammer the last nail in Labour’s coffin, now they are thinking more about regaining momentum. Their entourage, the likes of Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale, are sticking to the old Tory narrative, but unless they are backed up by a tour de force by Cameron et al in Birmingham next week it won’t work for much longer besides for the already converted.

In the current climate we need two things. First of all for the media, as Hopi Sen rightly points out, to start quizzing Cameron on real substantial issues. He has had an easy ride on policy detail for two years now, but this time around their conference will be the biggest of the two main parties (more money, more lobbyists, more journalists, more of everything) so the media should start asking them tough questions like the real political alternative they are. But it is also important, and this is my second point, that Labour sticks to their new narrative of fairness and do so united with one voice. Please let’s avoid any mistake like last year’s pathetic stunt in Iraq, as Brown said serious men for serious times.

Labour won’t be able to change the potential sucess or failure of the Tories’ conference. They simply need to trust that their plan for Britain’s future is better and say so with one voice next week, you know why? because it is.

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