Wednesday 13 May 2015

Election 2015: Where does Labour go from here?

What an total disaster last week's election was for Labour, turning the clock back to the worst election defeat since 1987.

The result highlighted three failings and future challenges for the party. They failed to take votes away from the Conservatives, they lost votes to UKIP in the North and worst of all they were wiped out in Scotland by the SNP. If Labour are ever going to get back into government they need to address these points.

Apparently Ed Miliband and his closet colleagues were aware through their own internal polling that things weren't going their way but this was kept inside Miliband's inner circle.

People have attacked Ed for the way he supposedly stabbed his brother in the back by running for and winning the race to become leader of the Labour Party, but it should be remembered the differences each brother was offering to the party and the country.

David Miliband essentially wanted to continue down the 'New Labour' path while Ed wanted to move away from it. For me this was a legitimate reason to run and is not a sign of so called treachery.

This issue I have is that many people have said Labour lost the election because they were too Left wing. This depends on your definition of Left wing.

There's no doubt Ed has in many people's eyes moved the party away from the centre ground. It's been commonly reported that following the Financial crisis in 2008, Ed believed that the centre ground in British politics had moved sharply to the Left. He was wrong as the election results proved.

However, there are those in the party and those firmly on the left that believe that Labour and Ed weren't left wing enough and point to the success of the SNP in Scotland. This got me thinking about what Labour want to be as a party and who it is they think they are representing.

Does the Labour Party know what it wants to be or who it's meant to represent?

One thing that has baffled me for sometime about Labour is this. The Conservatives had a leader in Margret Thatcher who won three General elections, she is revered and remains an icon of the party. Labour have a leader who wins three General Elections in Tony Blair and he's treated like a slightly embarrassing uncle who nobody wants to invite round to the family party!

Labour seem to view it's 'New Labour' era as an inauthentic period in its history, like a romantic relationship which they look back on and think: What was I thinking of'.

Here's the stark truth for Labour, if you take away Tony Blair's 3 election victories, Labour have failed to win a solid majority in an election since the 1960s so Blair and New Labour was clearly successful and attractive to the electorate.

Reading comments on the Guardian (something I'm going to stop doing) you commonly hear comments that Blair was 'Tory lite' that Ed Miliband is not much better, that Labour has abandoned the very principles it was founded for. But what do these people actually want?

When I was growing up, the then Labour leader, Neil Kinnock was accused of being to right-wing. Do people on the left want Michael Foot, Harold Wilson, Clement Atlee?

Labour seem to live in this romantic past, congratulating itself on its triumphs of building the welfare state, of creating the NHS, these should of course be remembered but we're now in the 21st Century and the challenges and achievements of the last century are not always relevant to today.

When I compare Labour and the Conservatives, a characteristic of conservatism is defined by slow evolution. What has made the Conservative Party so successful over the last 150 years is that they've always managed to evolve and adapt and remain relevant to the electorate and the changing society. When I think about the Conservative Party I think about pragmatism over ideology, although this was reversed under Thatcher.

Labour is a party that in many ways has more of a soul than the Tories. Those on the Left tend to be more ideological, with firm and at times dogmatic beliefs. By capturing the middle ground Tony Blair embraced more pragmatism by attempting to break away from previously held beliefs and policies (I'm thinking Clause 4 here).

After being roundly rejected by the electorate, the Labour Party have to figure out how to continue appealing to their core voters but at the same time appealing to the wider electorate. There were many things about 'New Labour' that appealed to the electorate and as part of the process of thinking what the party should stand for, they should look back at recent history to see what proved to be successful rather than rejecting it.

Do Labour grimly hold onto the founding beliefs and principles or do they start adapting to the realities of Britain in the 21st Century?

They can still make up ground in the 2020 election, 70 seats will give them the chance to look at a possible minority government but there's a huge amount of work to do in the next five years.

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