Tesday of conference and many people are focused on the Leader’s speech, what might he say, might I get a seat in the Hall, what will the papers say, how will it feel the day after . . . and yet there is still much to discuss and consider about how we fight the general election, as well as the vision we will fight with.

One of the more interesting challenges will be the potential impact of UKIP, and a fascinating fringe hosted by Policy Network had everything, from pollsters to advisors, from think tanks to campaigners and activists, and even a UKIP candidate in the audience!

Their message? Perhaps that can be best summarized as the forgotten finding a voice, though we could argue whether it is their voice that is necessarily being expressed!

There are clearly groups of people for whom today’s world is difficult, challenging and in some respects anathema. Change has happened too quickly, too painfully and for whatever reason these groups of people have lost faith in politics and politicians as a means to be heard or responded to. Some used to vote Lib Dem as a way of expressing their concerns, many gave up voting seeing no benefit in bothering. Not being bothered often meant that, for us as a campaigning party, they fell off our radar.

Now UKIP offers them a new opportunity to express a view, and some are stirring in response to something they think speaks to them. While there are clearly many UKIP voters who were ex-Tory voters, our concern should be with those who are returning to the fray, those with whom we have no history of contact as they could be anywhere, everywhere and occur in surprising number.

The solution? Insulting UKIP, and by implication those who might vote UKIP, will be counter productive. Almost all the panel agreed that ultimately it is about building new relationships with each and every one of these voters. That’s the only way to rebuild trust. Some of that we can do ourselves by being an active part of our communities and going to where the people are; some of that will come from our vision for the future, not least an increased minimum wage, valuing the self employed, vocational skills for young people and a NHS with time to care.

However, for that vision to be heard, for us to build those relationships, we also need to recognize that these messages will have more reach and impact when they come from trusted people in the community who aren’t ‘politicians’.

So we should work hard to engage and involve our pub landlords, people who run sports clubs and leisure activities, the local convenience stores, and of course as the Lib Dems have done before the men and women who run our Fish & Chip shops.

Hywel Lloyd, founder of Labour: Coast & Country | Conference 2014

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Labour: Coast & Country.

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