I’M not sure communications is an industry anyone sets out to work in; you tend to fall into it. And yet all the same, it is a challenging, rewarding job that can put you at the heart of politics and business.

Last year, at the height of cost of living crisis, I was working for a London PR firm that counted a major gas company among its many clients. We’d been tasked with selling the idea of hydrogen gas to a sceptical community. There were many benefits of hydrogen gas; lower bills, helping the environment and informing the government’s energy strategy. On paper, and with my fresh-faced naivety, it seemed like an easy sell.

However, this was a community facing what it saw as an ultimatum – switch to hydrogen or install your own heat pump. It didn’t help that media attention had turned to the project and outlets like The Guardian were reporting that hydrogen gas could be three times more explosive than the gas this community knew and trusted.

Sound like a tough sell now? It was. In the world of comms, you always need an enticing retail offer.

Which is why Labour’s communications strategy is all the more perplexing.

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From a practical perspective, Labour have moved in the right direction; ditching the populism that would always have kept the party from power. It’s now common to hear private-sector colleagues talk positively of their engagement with Labour’s politicians and staff, something unheard of even a few short years ago. Companies feel that Labour are a government in waiting and one they can do business with.

But electorally, the party is failing to put together anything that even resembles a retail offer. Instead, Labour are relying on a wave of public discontent with this rotten Tory government, combined with a weary voting public that is apathetic to our ever more divisive Westminster politics.

Gone is the phlegmatic British Tory of old, solid and reliable; Starmer and his party are now faced with a rabid, right-wing rabble. It’s an enviable position to be in; most opposition leaders would give almost anything to face down such an incompetent and crisis-ridden government.

And yet it is this same incompetence and perpetual crisis that Starmer has to thank for Labour’s 20-point lead. Polling shows the public’s perception of Keir Starmer hasn’t moved significantly since the pandemic and Labour’s lack of policy communication makes them entirely reliant on the Tory implosion for their success.

Quite simply, it’s a question of branding. It’s easy to see the Conservatives’ failures and read Labour’s success. But if the Conservative brand was even slightly better, then Starmer’s poll lead would be highly fragile. Those behind Labour’s comms strategy are aware of this.

To enjoy a solid Commons majority, Labour needs moderate and centre-right voters in the affluent suburbs and the south of England. Labour’s strategists will recognise that many of those voters are only reluctantly drifting over to their side simply because the Tory brand is so toxic. These voters care about the economy and public services, not refugees and the culture wars.

Does this explain Labour’s rightward shift?

Since the Tories’ spectacular plummet in the polls, Starmer has steadily backtracked on nearly every one of his original leadership pledges.

Free university tuition – gone. The pledge to repeal the bedroom tax, rape clause and two-child benefit cap – scrapped. The promise to reform the UK’s creaking constitution and abolish the House of Lords – shelved. A £28 billion investment in green projects – watered down.

In short, Labour are allowing their comms strategy to drive their policy. There is sense in Starmer’s approach of not wanting to rock the boat, but his team seem to be lurching right without considering the long-term consequences.

Their pitch to Tory voters isn’t just constituting a nod to the centre-right or an effort to be perceived as trustworthy with the nation’s finances. Labour are on shifting sands before our very eyes, drifting to the right and abandoning principles as well as policies. Starmer’s decision to write in the Telegraph of all places, praising Mrs Thatcher, is an example of a step too far.

A Labour government that is merely a pale imitation of the Tories is not a government worth having. It is certainly not a government that inspires confidence, or can seriously be seen as having an agenda for change.

Labour are in a far more precarious position than they comprehend. Without an attractive retail offer, particularly during a cost of living crisis, the public will be minded to look elsewhere. Voters want competence and ambition from their politicians, not timidity and paranoia about rocking the boat.

The result of this apprehension is policy driven by comms. This will evolve into government by press release, and a cabinet that is more of a talking shop than the intellectual engine room of power.

But most notably for Scotland, this tepid and nervous managerialism will not yield a solution to our great constitutional question.

The notion that one Labour victory will quash the appetite for independence is for the birds. The continued suppression of the SNP’s mandate, by Labour as well as the Tories, will have an untold impact on Scotland’s politics – yet another bad hand dealt to Scotland by Westminster, in a game that all too often seems rigged against us.

Labour’s bland, redundant politics cannot compete with the retail offer that an independence campaign will generate. Voters will want hope and change, not more misery and stagnation.

Thankfully, once Starmer and his party are shown to be no more than just that pale imitation, the case for leaving this useless Union will be stronger than ever.