Perhaps the sin New Labour has been most regularly accused of is being overly in thrall to the politics of the focus group, in which policies were trimmed and triangulated towards a few voters of a Daily Mail persuasion in swing seats. The 'middle Britain' strategy. The jury will remain out for a long time as to the pros and cons of this approach, but for now it seems we can be more certain that to blindly persevere along this path would be a mistake.
The new year special of the Fabian Review previews the make-or-break political year of 2010, and features an article from Will Straw which analyses the successes and failures of the 'middle Britain' strategy and sketches out the start of what might come next. The focus on swing voters came from Giles Radice's analysis in the early 90s; in 2010 and beyond, Labour needs to plough resources into studying how demographics have shifted and how a new governing coalition might be pieced together.
This is good news and would free Labour of a huge millstone. The quest to woo the 'mondeo man' clearly had a pernicious influence on Labour in government, seen in the failure to talk up redistribution or in its macho authoritarianism. By looking at the country afresh, Labour can break this cycle and realise there is not only one route to power, and that a genuinely 'progressive' majority lurks out there if the dots can be joined up.
It would also be healthy to internal debate: rather than arguing about whether to be more or less New Labour, energy could be more contructively spent threading votes around shared Labour values. And early signs show that the country is more 'progressive' than New Labour has traditionally given it credit for; you just need to know where to look.
So you can read Will's fascinating piece over on our website, and read more about what's in the Fabian Review here.