In a Guardian profile of Labour’s heir apparent, Keir Starmer, the writer’s ‘heart sinks’ when she asks for a sample of Labour’s big vision, only to receive: ‘An economy that works for everybody.’ But then, apparently, he ‘conjures up a glimpse of his vision of a Labour party that people might actually want to vote for.’ To whit:
‘an absolute skills agenda’? What in God’s name is that supposed to mean? And is this really ‘a glimpse of a vision people might want to vote for’?
Why can’t Decca Aitkenhead – generally one of The Guardian’s most perceptive and thoughtful journos – see that this is precisely the kind of constipated language that has helped drive a wedge between Labour and voters? That’s not a headline for an ambitious, bold project. That’s not even a headline. A political headline has to be something people might say to one another; something that touches a nerve, that has people thinking: “That’s right! That’s what I’ve always said!” Who has ever said, would ever say, “You know, what we need is an absolute skills agenda”?
BRITAIN NEEDS SKILLS!
That’s a headline. It may not be a great headline, but I only spent 10 or 11 seconds on it. I’m sure I could come up with better. But it is at least a headline.
Rule #1 of political messaging: if you can’t imagine a couple of punters swapping it over a pint, it’s valueless – at best. Why doesn’t she understand this? Why doesn’t he? Maybe because he’s an ex-QC and she’s a lifelong Guardianista. And maybe that’s Labour’s problem in a nutshell.
Not that I’m a politico. But I am a communicator. And unless Labour high-fliers start grasping some of the basics, we might just as well read the last rites now and have done with it.