Thursday wasn't a good day for Labour in Birmingham or elsewhere in the country. Fortunately, we did buck the trend here and were only just in second place behind the Tories on city-wide vote share, but our voters stayed at home - 13,000 fewer turned out for Labour than last year, compared to a Lib Dem vote drop of 4000 and 500 for the Tories. Our problem is that unlike the other two parties, our vote is spread across the city and the anti-Labour vote continues to coalesce behind whichever party has a chance of winning/holding the seat.
How do we recover? Beyond my pay grade, really, but as everyone else is having a pop, I'll join in.
1 - Keep Gordon. We have two years to run on this government and we've already had six months of inaction due to the leadership/deputy leadership elections. Another few months would add nothing but would make us look disunited and argumentative. A party that turns in on itself is not fit for government and the people won't elect it. We need to rally behind our leader and look outwards at the real targets - the Tories and the Lib Dems.
2 - Let Gordon be Gordon - with caveats. Don't try and be Blair. You aren't. Cameron is better at it than you and even he isn't a patch on Tony. Work on your strengths - let's see the competence of the Chancellor and the passion for tackling poverty and improving education that I've seen at close hand. Gordon is still the man of substance against Cameron's Will o'the Wisp 'I'll be anything you want me to be.' The PM has to think strategically, not tactically, so some of the detail may have to be prised from your hands. It will hurt, but not as much as losing will in 2010.
3 - Ditch some policies. Here's my biggie - let's forget ID cards. They won't work and we'll throw billions down the drain creating Labour's very own poll tax. Also, scrap the discredited 42-day detention - nobody involved with administering it seems to want it very much and we could do with the unity in the parliamentary party.
4 - Rebuild. Literally. Let's take the billions for ID cards and spend some of it on proper social housing. Labour should offer more money ringfenced for local councils to build new directly-owned properties. People want this and this has been one of the key failures of this government - we just haven't delivered on housing.
5 - Tell the story. One of our strengths pre-97 was a clear narrative behind our policies. That went adrift pretty swiftly. We need an overarching story of how we have made the country better and how [insert policy idea here] fits into that pattern. If it doesn't fit, then it probably shouldn't be in our plans. We also need to be clear that there IS a difference between us and the Conservatives and to demonstrate that clearly.
6 - It's the economy, stupid. It is ALWAYS the economy. Don't let people talk us into recession - plenty of commentators like the IMF are still forecasting that the UK economy will grow this year, albeit at 1-2%. If the country slides into recession, then our electoral chances will slide away with it.
Two things to remember are that last summer, things were so different. We can go back there if we work at it and if we are hungry enough for it. The Tories are ready to work and are hungry and we've seen what they can achieve when they do.
We've got a fight on our hands, but it is one worth having. And one we can win.