Friday, 8 May 2015

A huge failure for Labour but will they learn anything from it?

I ought to be pleased. The Green Party had a good 2015 general election: a record number of candidates; a much increased majority for Caroline Lucas; four second places, and membership is still growing, having just passed 63,000. I'm also looking forwards to some good results in the local elections. But its hard to celebrate knowing the Tories have a majority that will probably last for five years, which is plenty of time for them to wreak yet more havoc to welfare and public services and destroy more lives in the process.

The big story of election night was the battering of the Labour Party which was hit by a combination of factors producing the perfect storm. So what went wrong? I think these were the main issues:
  1. Failure to provide a clear narrative to the electorate: it was never that obvious what Labour were offering and most of the 'offers' such as ending non-dom status came far too late in the day. Crucially they abandoned their real base support in the working class, even to the extent of allowing Ukip, of all people, to steal many thousands of Labour voters.Its not longer certain what Labour stand for except perhaps a watered down version of  what the Tories are giving us - neoliberal austerity-lite.
  2. Failure to nail the Tory lies about economic incompetence: Labour never seriously challenged the Tory narrative that they 'overspent' and crashed the economy. They allowed the Tories to assume the mantle of economic competence even though Osborne's record is lamentable.
  3. Making a complete hash of the Scottish referendum: the rot set in for Scottish Labour long before the referendum, but the negative Better Together campaign, in which Alastair Darling seemed little more than a front-man for the Tories and the English establishment, did huge damage. Even when the warning lights were flashing after the 55-45 no result, Labour chose to ignore them and took their voters for granted, conceded political territory to the SNP, and got wiped out in the process.
  4.  Failure of leadership: Although Ed Miliband had his moments on Syria and Leveson he was too timid by half and failed to set out a strong narrative and strategy for Labour to win.
  5. Keir Hardie - great Scottish Labour politician - no doubt spinning in his grave after the 2015 general election result
So what should Labour do? Firstly they must learn the lessons from this defeat. Under Blair and New Labour the party was hollowed out. Members were reduced to being spectators at stage-managed conferences. They need to regroup and reform the party making it much more accountable to members. They need to ditch the sectarianism and be open to co-operation with other left parties and they must embrace electoral reform. I'm not sure they will do any of these things and are just as likely to end up tearing themselves apart. Every Party has a shelf life - maybe this is the beginning of the end for Labour - something I predicted a couple of years ago.

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