A year ago, we published a pamphlet called Southern Discomfort Again, which sought to address the crippling weakness Labour faced in southern England after its catastrophic 2010 defeat. We make no apology for putting voters' views at the forefront of our latest analysis.
We do not argue that opinion polls are a substitute for policy-making. But listening carefully to voters and getting a feel for their hopes and aspirations is a prerequisite of any successful political strategy.
Following Labour's 1992 defeat, Southern Discomfort Series revealed floating voters were aspirant and upwardly mobile. Today, they are far more cautious about their own prospects, prioritising security and a better future for their children. These hard-pressed families feel insecure and vulnerable in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the dramatic squeeze on living standards. Wage rises over the last six years have been small or non-existent, with employees having to work harder for the same or less money. Pay rises have failed to keep pace with inflation, household incomes are more unstable than at any time in the last 40 years, and job insecurity is widespread.
In these circumstances, centre-left parties must be alive to the politics of insecurity, not just financial and employment insecurity but crime, public disorder, family breakdown, and loss of identity.
This year's survey shows voters are, if anything, more anxious than they were even in 2010. Insecurity has replaced aspiration as the dominant concern of wavering Labour voters. Their pessimism is reflected in the finding that three-quarters of voters believe children growing up in Britain today "are likely to face tougher times than their parents' generation". Voters still have aspirations to get on and do better. But for many, life is more financially precarious than ever.
There is also widespread disillusionment with politics and politicians. A quarter of voters think neither a Conservative nor a Labour government would make any difference, while over a third describe both parties as "incompetent". This mood of disengagement is especially bad for Labour, since parties of the centre-left depend on creating a climate of hope.
But it is the economy which continues to damage Labour's electoral prospects. Polls consistently show a Tory lead on the economy. It is crucial for Labour to regain its reputation for economic competence, so painstakingly built up after 1992, and so dramatically lost following the 2007-09 crash. Unless it does so, Labour will go into the next election with an insuperable political handicap. No party has secured a majority without winning the trust of the electorate on the economy. Restoring that trust will be critical to Labour's prospects.
Southern Discomfort One Year On is published by Policy Network: www.policy-network.net
Red Rose loses its bloom
*Labour leaders gathering in Liverpool for their annual conference have been told by a panel of marketing professionals that their red rose logo is in danger of wilting.
The symbol, which was introduced at the dawn of New Labour in 1986 by Peter Mandelson, came bottom when marketeers were asked to rate parties' logos.
Those surveyed thought the logo would be improved if it showed a complete rose, stalk and all, as it once did – or, better still, that it should be like the Tudor rose, with no stalk at all.
They also suggested updating the accompanying typeface.
"Despite being the brainchild of marketing maestro Peter Mandelson, the current version of the red rose was rejected wholeheartedly by the marketing community," said Simon Bassett, boss of the marketing recruiter EMR.Reuse content