Leon Church is a civil engineer in Port Glasgow, who after a lifetime of Labour support recently joined the party. He looks at why Labour lost and why we should take great care over our next choice of leader.
Following our defeat in May, the number of questions aimed at Labour – why it lost, what it’s for and where it goes – seem so insurmountable that any attempt to answer them is futile. If that’s the case, then I might as well have a go.
There are many reasons why we think we lost and if you are reading this letter then you probably have read all the reasons before now so I won’t bore you with repeating them. It’s easy to get lost in the many reasons why we think we lost; but the general public provided some succinct answers why they didn’t vote for Labour.
The general public are less like a team of political analysts and much more like a magnet, attracted or repelled or pulled to one pole or the other. If a political party isn’t attractive to the general public at a general election then no amount of seduction, goodwill or affection towards that party can draw the public in.
Recent evidence from pollsters has shown that through the ‘soft eyes’ (a term used by detectives to look at the big picture) of the public, Labour had an unconvincing leader, wasn’t trusted with the economy and had a confused campaign message. Mainstream working class voters voted Tory and UKIP for these reasons. If we can’t attract these voters, no wonder we lost.
On leadership, in a straight contest between Ed Miliband and David Cameron, the public preferred Cameron. In the voters’ eyes Ed didn’t have ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ is), couldn’t sell himself or the party and its policies, and wasn’t respected. Cameron, with his pragmatism, tactical instincts and sometimes toughness, was preferred. This doesn’t mean Cameron is well liked or loved, simply that they didn’t particularly mind him being Prime Minister (conventional choice) and saw Ed as no better and possibly worse.
On the economy and campaign message, both of these are intertwined. The financial crisis of 2008 hangs over the country like a long shadow. After years of redundancies, burgeoning personal debt, low or non-existent salary rises and longer working hours people wanted some security, not unpredictable change by an unconvincing leader with no credible message. Voters played it safe. We might have been better at empathising with them with slogans like ‘cost of living crisis’ but overall they didn’t think we were worth the chance.
Looking ahead for Labour on the issues of leadership, I’ll be looking for someone who is willing to ask tough questions of the party, willing to go outside their comfort zone, can sell their vision and policies to the general public and beat Prime Minister George Osborne in a general election.
On the economy and message, we should be showing Osborne what a real ‘long term economic plan’ looks like. Our plan should be about the people. People can’t feel secure for the future when they are saddled with unsustainable debt throughout their lives from leaving school to get an education, buy a car or house, get married, have children and finally retire. People should be able to spend, travel, start families and start businesses to enable the economy to grow and pay for well funded and secure public services for the long term.
We might not be able to end boom and bust in the private sector but we should aim to do it for our schools, hospitals and care homes. Constant investment matching inflation or real terms spending year on year – sustainably, this would feed back into the economy with people confident the Government is handling their money wisely. Harnessing people’s confidence and good nature for the benefit of the country.
Government debt can be reduced once the economy starts growing again. A simple message with some joined up thinking and a focus on people, their debts andhardships and what we can do to lean against inequality to provide a decent standard of living for what they want to achieve in life.
As an aside, with constraints in demographics and natural resources, countries that make fundamental research in maths and science a high priority will be the countries that prosper economically. Labour should be at the forefront of this change. Furthermore I would like to see Labour drive real solutions to housing, homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, monopolies, a public inquiry into the financial crises and human trafficking. Sorry, let me rephrase that to what it actually is – 21st century slavery.
In conclusion I ask all Labour members in this election to keep an open mind about choosing a candidate until the last moment. I think this election has happened too soon after the general election given the magnitude of the result. I think the speed at which it has happened has only exacerbated our problems.
This was a painful letter for me to write but we should listen to the voices of caution or pay a bitter price for avoiding reality.
P.S. Regarding the Scottish Labour leadership election, I think whoever wins, the party is generally going in the correct direction. For the EU referendum, I can think of no better leader for the pro EU side than Alan Johnson. Stay positive folks.
9 thoughts on “Act in haste, regret at leisure”
“The general public are less like a team of political analysts and much more like a magnet, attracted or repelled or pulled to one pole or the other. If a political party isn’t attractive to the general public at a general election then no amount of seduction, goodwill or affection towards that party can draw the public in.”
Another blinkered delusionalist. So many finding a home in Labour.
The public are not pulled like a magnet to polarised points of view the public are pulled towards anything that helps them achieve a balance in their lives that allows them to not just exist day to day but actually live day to day.
In political terms what this means is that they are not concerned about the structure of a political party they don’t care about the personalities within them what they care about is what these political parties do to affect the quality of their lives. The public will vote overwhelmingly for anybody who can convince them that they intend to improve the quality of their lives they will stop voting for them if that promise is not fulfilled it isn’t f***ing rocket science!
No UK political party has managed to win a majority of support across the UK of any electorate in living memory because they cant convince enough people to believe they will deliver. This is based on the continual failure to deliver what UK political parties sneeringly refer to as “Populous” policy. Less sneering at the idea of “Populous” policy and more support for the idea of making policy popular will see “Populous” support gained to the party who wants to be popular by giving the electorate what it wants and what it votes for. Now wouldn’t that be a refreshing change? We only have a Government at UK level at all because the system is rigged with the FPTP fiasco. A system deliberately designed to not give us the Government we want or hope for.
Instead of trying to continue to peddle delusion and deceit try for once to get in touch with reality and maybe just maybe you will actually be able to become an opposition worthy of the name because Government is just not Labours cup of tea at all.
“The public are not pulled like a magnet to polarised points of view”
I’m not saying parties are attracted to polarised points of view, it’s a simple metaphor to demonstrate attraction to a party that’s all.
“view the public are pulled towards anything that helps them achieve a balance in their lives that allows them to not just exist day to day but actually live day to day.”
Agreed, as I go on to say in the next paragraph above;-
“people wanted some security, not unpredictable change by an unconvincing leader with no credible message. Voters played it safe. We might have been better at empathising with them with slogans like ‘cost of living crisis’ but overall they didn’t think we were worth the chance.”
“Another blinkered delusionalist.”
No need for that, have some respect for other people’s point of views without being personal.
As the old joke has it; I wouldn’t start from here—but here we are.
Leon writes as though we are still in the old two Party system. That is gone.
Cameron “won” the election on just over one third of UK voters( 15% in Scotland ) and only 25% of the electorate. Hardly convincing, but Labour were even further back.
By the time of the next election, the State will be smaller. Government spending will be smaller, so any election spending commitment will appear larger( in % terms). Expect Osborne to hammer that home. Borrowing for productive investment will be portrayed as Labour “at it again”.
That is before this disaster of Labour’s own making—a party hierarchy divorced from the activists over Leadership. An unneeded election, with a candidate who only made the ballot so as to make the others seem centrist by comparison, leading by a mile.
As for Scotland, Scottish Labour is descending in poll after poll—hardly “going in the right direction”.
Lame policy statements about bringing a reformed Lords to Glasgow just sound stupid after Labour blew off Lords Reform, time after time. Are Labour going to refuse new Peerages ? NO !
And that is Labours BIG problem—their “policies” have become unbelievable, after being in repeated manifestoes.
“Leon writes as though we are still in the old two Party system. That is gone.”
Yes I heaed that the two party system has ended, I read about it the last 5 years, then the tories won a majority in May.
“Cameron “won” the election on just over one third of UK voters( 15% in Scotland and only 25% of the electorate. Hardly convincing, but Labour were even further back.”
First past the post is here to stay for the foreseeable. So we can either engage and turn it to our advantage or refuse to engage in the hope to win. Pretending the rules are something different is a recipe for disaster. Cameron did win under first past the post, that’s a fact. No matter how much we might think it undemocratic.
“As for Scotland, Scottish Labour is descending in poll after poll—hardly “going in the right direction””
That’s in regards to the leadership election – it’s not finished yet and as the candidates have been clear, it’s a long term project to build a positive case. They are correct, I agree with that.
“Lame policy statements about bringing a reformed Lords to Glasgow just sound stupid after Labour blew off Lords Reform, time after time. Are Labour going to refuse new Peerages ? NO !”
It’s not a policy, it was a suggestion. An elected second chamber based in Glasgow would be great for the Scottish businesses, jobs and the local economy. All very positive. Furthermore Westminster might have to relocate for a few years in order to carry out infrastructure remedial works, no reason why they couldn’t potentially relocate MPs to Manchester or Glasgow. Seems all fairly sensible. In which case, I’d like it to be Glasgow.
Above post was in reply to Gavin, apologies for any confusion.
Thank you for you reply Leon. You wrote your article as though only two political parties were engaged.
“Pretending the rules are different”. No one needs to pretend. Osborne’s stated aim is to reduce the State to the level of the 30’s, with 35% of GDP. Labour title is Her Majesties Loyal Opposition. Opposition, not abdication, which is what Labour has done so far.
Part of that opposition should be to daily remind the Tories of the low level of support they command within the electorate. That might tend to restrain their excesses somewhat.
Just throwing up your hands in surrender at their FPTP “win” just doesn’t do it.
“It’s not a policy”—-too right it’s not. It’s a nonsense.
Why don’t we just ask for a partridge in a pear tree while we are at it ?
I’m even more bemused reading this.
Did the referendum or the election not happen in Scotland.
As for Tory or Ukip voters in Scotland, my guess is a section of them helped shore up the Labour vote.
Tory voters in Edinburgh South and East Renfrewshire have openly admitted to changing sides and voting Labour.
The day Labour is relying on Tory and Ukip voters to save a Labour MP in Scotland is the end of the party.
I read thread after thread on here and it’s heartbreaking.
Is the word “Socialism” banned.
My letter above is in regards to the UK general election and specifically the UK Labour leadership.
My first letter tried to address some of the issues surrounding Scottish Labour, check that out if you wish.
Help me out Leon what’s the Scottish Labour Party policy on Trident?
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