Public Affairs: Soap Box - Iain Wood, consultant, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs

The next leader of the Labour party will be announced on 25 September.

Whichever candidate wins will face a political climate dominated by the spectre of spending cuts. The comms challenge is clear - to articulate a Labour approach to deficit reduction.

If the challenge is clear, the strategy is not. The candidates are divided on how Labour can exploit the political opportunity the cuts create. The frontrunner, David Miliband, favours a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax rises. His nearest rival and brother, Ed Miliband, proposes a 50:50 split. The shadow education secretary, Ed Balls, has argued that Labour was wrong to pledge to halve the deficit by 2014.

The party knows that to have credibility its economic plan must be detailed and present a viable alternative path to reducing the deficit. But while tax and spend ratios may be the language of economics, they don't translate into political messages that resonate on the doorstep. Labour must find a way of humanising a detailed economic argument.

The party can't credibly oppose every cut. Instead, it should focus fire on only a few emotive spending decisions. Then Labour can define a distinctive approach to deficit reduction that positions the party on the side of the electorate.

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