Focus: Fightback - Labour revives its past

After the Euro election disaster, the party hierarchy is hoping to rediscover the romance of the labour movement

ast week hundreds of boxes were delivered to Labour's Millbank Tower headquarters. They contained the party's "secret weapon" for the next general election, a computer system linking the apparatchiks in London with activists around the country. This all-powerful network is already being nicknamed "Son of Excalibur", after the infamous media-monitoring machine that was used to rebut negative stories at the touch of a button in 1997. But its aim is very different - this system will allow Tony Blair to communicate not with the media but with his party members, e-mailing them with Labour's daily message. And this is symbolic of a shift in attitude.

The wipe-out in the European elections made the Millbank machine realise that it needs its "embarrassing elderly relatives" in the provinces as much as its glamorous Islington babes. On Monday, John Monks, the moderate TUC general secretary who lost his patience with the Government's attitude towards its loyal long-standing supporters last weekend, turned up at the Treasury to see Gordon Brown. It was a long-arranged meeting but it had a new significance following the union leader's remarks. The Chancellor did not miss the opportunity to emphasise how important Labour's loyal working-class voters were to the party. In return Monks stressed that he was not criticising Government policies - such as the minimum wage, the increase in child benefit or the working families tax credit, which have actually had a redistributive effect - but that he was concerned about the tendency to over-emphasise concessions to the business community.

The Prime Minister still talks of the importance of maintaining the "coalition" between old and new Labour voters but Downing Street now acknowledges that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of trying to please middle England. This week it intends to move back in the other direction.

The Government will still be "100 per cent proof" New Labour, as Blair said last week, but this week's "fightback", as Downing Street is all too happy to describe it, will include a cacophony of policy announcements covering everything from benefit reform to the Child Support Agency, from pensions to children's homes. The themes will be typically New Labour but there will be a subtle shift to emphasising the "core vote" agenda. Plans to ensure that the minimum wage is being properly implemented, by allowing the Inland Revenue to check people's income through their tax records, will be stressed rather than proposals to help the business community. Ideas for helping the inner cities will be promoted rather than initiatives to boost out-of-town supermarkets.

One aim is to put "clear red water" between Labour and the Conservatives in the public's mind. A slogan has been written for the summer months telling people that "Labour is delivering, the Tories are opposing". Ministers and special advisers have also been told to think of aggressive sound-bites that can be used to sum up their messages, as part of a concerted effort to repoliticise the Government. But there is also a desire to reinvolve the Labour activists who will be crucial in the run-up to the next election. Gordon Brown has come up with the idea of a summer campaign to highlight what the Government is doing to tackle child poverty - an issue close to traditional supporters' hearts. Labour members will be encouraged to tour the streets telling the public about policies such as the working families tax credit or the minimum income guarantee for pensioners and, if necessary, showing people how to fill in the relevant forms. This will be matched by a multi-million-pound advertising campaign in the autumn to drive the message home from the centre.

At last week's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Tam Dalyell compared Tony Blair's autocratic leadership style to that of Napoleon. The veteran Labour MP had been to a seminar the day before, in which Professor Peter Hennessy, the contemporary historian, had said the current Prime Minister had "the most commanding style of premiership since 1945". He quoted not a left- winger but a Blairite who had boasted that the leader was "Napoleonic not feudal". Blair had dramatically strengthened the centre since getting to power, increasing the number of staff at Number 10 from 95 to 160, Professor Hennessy said. He tended to bypass Cabinet; the shift towards presidential government had, this Whitehall expert said, been "quite extraordinary" since Labour got to power.

It is a trend deeply resented in Labour heartlands, where it is seen not as strong leadership but the actions of a control freak. In the past few weeks Blair has begun to realise that the party needs its traditional supporters more than he originally thought. He recently invited Michael Foot and his wife, Jill Craigie, to lunch at Chequers to tell him about the "romance" of the labour movement. New Labour is beginning to see that its present and its future might just be dependent on its past.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering