Executive summaryLabour needs a ‘red rose’ moment. Our traditional values must remain rock solid. But we need a new story – and a new brand – to communicate just how our values will help Britain’s families win the fast and furious change reshaping the world around us.Under Neil Kinnock, the ‘red rose’ was a powerful new symbol of the optimism we wanted to project in the 1980s. Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, ‘New Labour’ conveyed the dynamism of a new political project for the fast globalising world of the Nineties and the new century.Today, Britain is changing faster than ever. The retirement of the baby boomers is triggering a huge demographic shift that means, at the next election, the majority of voters may be over 55. A seismic shift in technology is helping trigger a revolution in enterprise – which may mean the self-employed out-number public service workers at the next election. Young people and families alike are struggling to figure out their personal strategies for getting on and getting by. And in a world that is ever more globalised, with new powers – and new dangers – on the rise, people want a confident, optimistic, patriotic story about their country’s place in the world.
That’s why Labour’s story – and Labour’s brand – needs to change.
At their best, great brands change minds. They live in the hearts and minds of people. They’re authentic. They have a purpose which acts as a magnet. They have energy; they feel like they’re on the move, and crucially, they have tons of relevance. A brand is not a substitute for values or a story – but in a complex world, a brand helps us tell our story quickly. And our challenge is that today, Labour’s brand is rooted in the past.
At the election, Labour lost the people, whether fortunate or less fortunate, who ask – “what is in it for me?” Nor are we seen as relevant to real life today. Parties lose relevance, when they seem to have little to say about how people prosper in the world they see outside their front door. Nor are we yet seen as the party of the future – able to handle its risks and open up new opportunity to the many. In 2001 we used to position the Tories as the Party of the past; Wilson did the same in the 1960s. Now we are seen as of the past.
The good news is that there are lots of brands who have revived themselves. Brands are redeemable. Brands can change with brave, decisive leadership, unity and purpose, agility and ruthlessness. Great brand re-positionings take a central insight from their heritage and make it relevant for that age. That’s what we need to do today, with five major shifts;
1. Labour needs, not just a strong brand, but a strong project – helping Britain survive and thrive in the fast and furious change going on around us, providing both rock-solid security to retired voters – and opening up the opportunities of this new age to those at work. This must be a new project, not the ‘unfinished revolution’.
2. We need to renew our moral mission, our purpose in the modern world. The foundation of a political project cannot be simply an appetite to get elected. It cannot be power for its own 3 sake. It must be a mission to achieve power to deliver change, a new equality for a new age; not ending capitalism – but mending capitalism.
3. Crucially, we need to renew our sense of how ‘we’ helps ‘me’; reinventing the way we help people getting on by doing things better, together. We have to be far more strategic in the future around a sense of purpose. We need a strong ethical, idealistic core story about how Britain reinvents the way we do things together. The basic question is this: “How can doing things together benefit me?” Bringing this alive will require that we focus hard on a renewing and reinventing government, fit for the opportunities and challenges of 2020. In an age where there’s little appetite for loads more tax and spend, we’ll need to deliver more with less.
4. We need to offer relevant – which means plausible – collective help to assist people in their personal strategies to thrive. In today’s economy, many are struggling, trying to figure out their personal strategy for how to get by and get on, tapping into, for example, new systems like eBay, or ETSY, or Uber or AirBNB.
5. Labour must combine ‘security’ for older voters, with ‘empowerment’ for the young. All truly successful political projects need the momentum brought by younger voters, but we have to face the reality of turnout levels amongst the under 35s. We need to marry a security offer for older voters with an empowerment message for the young.
It was John Prescott who once said that the key to successful modernisation, is to offer ‘traditional values in a modern setting.’ Our values are timeless – but the future looks very different now, compared to back in 1997. So it’s time for a new brand, a new story and a renewed appeal.