Saturday, 16 May 2015

Another Letter....

Dear Labour Party,

Yes, I know we haven't been on good terms for the past five years since the events of 2010. I know watching the Liberal Democrats go into Coalition with the Conservatives was very difficult but what else could we have done ? I mean, you weren't really serious about a deal and it wouldn't have lasted, we both know that.

Anyway, five years on and we're in the same place - shattered by election defeat and while yours hasn't been as traumatic in terms of seats lost, it still must have been a shock though it seems not as much a shock as seemed to be the case. Indeed, it now seems you knew you were in trouble and the public opinion polls weren't telling the whole story.

In my constituency in East London, Stephen Timms increased his majority polling over 77% of the vote and getting a 5% swing from the Conservatives. Had that been the case in rural and suburban England, who knows ?

The truth is that in England at any rate Labour voters didn't turn out in sufficient numbers - the undecided were coaxed back to the Conservatives by fear of a minority Labour Government being in hock to the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon who were perceived as being very much creatures of the Left.

With the prospect of such instability, the electorate recoiled because they wanted stability, security and continuity. The economic policy of the Coalition was working for those with mortgages in secure jobs - think about it, your mortgage interest rate is on the floor so you're quids ahead, inflation is near zero and your wages are rising 2%. Not quite the best of times but not the worst either. The prospect of ditching all that for the uncertainty and instability of a Labour/SNP Government wasn't that appealing and who can blame people for thinking that way ?

So what of the future ? Well, the first thing must be for you to accept that the post-2010 direction was a mistake. I appreciate that after Blair and to a lesser extent Brown there was a desire for something new but the problem for parties trying to re-invent themselves after long periods in office is that those who were part of the discredited and defeated Government are left to lead the Party in the initial stages of reconstruction and that doesn't work as they are too intellectually and politically associated with the ideals and mores of the administration that has been defeated.

Apart from 1945 and those were unique circumstances, Labour has only won power twice - once under the technocratic pragmatist Harold Wilson and of course under Tony Blair. Blair benefited from the political divisions and collapse over Europe (take note) which afflicted the Major Government after 1992. However, he also went back to the three cornerstones of election success - stability, security and continuity. He was able to convince millions of ex-Conservative voters that not only was the Labour party he led a non-socialist party of the centre or centre-left but that most of the fundamental tenets of Conservative economic policy and especially the spending commitments of Ken Clarke would be retained.

In truth, Labour in 2020 will have to promise not to change too much of the Cameron agenda but must offer to be able to manage it better along with Britain's relationship with the EU post-referendum and England's relationship with Scotland. The Cameron Government will have its midterm by 2017 or soon after and disillusioned Conservatives will start looking round for other options.

What they won't want is a radical Labour party which will tear up everything and go back to high tax and high spending. What they will support is a Labour party which clearly and unequivocally backs the aspirational in society and will maintain the living standards of the majority.

Remember the key words are stability, security and continuity.

Above all, pick a leader who will best communicate this reassurance to the wider electorate - don't pick the person who just appeals to your members and supporters because that's a sure route to another defeat.

And you don't want that, do you ?

All the Best


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