Gordon MacMillan,  The Left,  UK Politics

Finally fighting talk from Labour

Finally some badly needed fighting talk from senior Labour figures ahead of its conference. In the Observer Chancellor Alistair Darling compares the party to a gutless football side where the team have allowed their heads to drop well before the final whistle. “We don’t look as if we have got fire in our bellies. We have got to come out fighting.”

That’s exactly what it feels like. The whiff of defeat is going to become a stench and David Cameron with no ideas, policies or substance will be gifted the election if Labour does not start to fight back.

It really doesn’t help when Peter Mandelson tells the Sunday Times that he is ready to accept a job under a future Conservative government. He says he’s ready and willing to put  experience at the disposal of the “country”.  Thanks Peter.

Dianne Abbott said it yesterday in the Guardian (‘How can Labour win the next election?’): “We have to believe we actually can win. There is too much defeatism at the top.”  Demonstrated ably by Peter Hain also in the Sunday Times today (there’s a definite theme in the paper today) warning that the party is heading for a “really bad defeat” unless it dramatically improves its performance.

If it can do that it at least has a fighting chance. A poll in the News of the World says as much today. It reveals that Gordon Brown could still win the next election “as voters remain unconvinced about David Cameron”.

The ICM poll revealed almost half of all voters think Labour still have a slim chance of beating the Tories in the next election despite being 14 points behind. Those 14 points represent in a large part a lack of initiative in taking the fight to the Tories and direction from Brown.

Negative attacks like those reportedly suggested by Joel Benenson, the New Jersey-based pollster who helped get Obama elected last year, are not the answer. Labour figures talking about Cameron and side kick George Osborne being members of elitist student drinking clubs, posh Tories and members of the aristocracy is not going to save an election if Labour is useless. Negative campaigning is a losing strategy and next to useless to a party trailing in the polls.

Labour must come out with a clear message.  It must take a lead and spell out where it stands on public sector cuts and challenge Cameron. The public knows that the Tory leader is not the real deal, but are no longer convinced that Labour is either.