Labour’s performance last Thursday simply wasn’t good enough

by David Talbot

Amid the breathless, endless, commentary on the rise of UKIP, scant attention has been levelled at the only other serious contender for 10 Downing Street come May 2015. Whilst Conservative losses, and substantive ones at that, were long-foreseen they did of course have the furthest to fall, having swept the previous cycle in 2009. The true test was for the much-heralded one nation Labour. Heavy caveats were potted throughout the media by Labour personnel in the days leading to polling day; these elections are taking place in rural, affluent Tory-dwelling shires, eighty percent of the counties holding elections are represented by a Conservative MP, and control of four Councils and two hundred net gains is the target. Well, in their heart of hearts Labour’s strategists will know that last Thursday was not the triumph needed.

Despite matey assurances to the contrary, last Thursday’s results do not readily translate into the sixty seat Labour majority the party is seemingly on the cusp of securing. Although Labour picked itself up off the floor following the dark nadir of 2009, final national voting projections put the party on a mere twenty-nine percent – which is, ironically, exactly the polling figure Labour slumped to in the annihilation of the 2010 general election. That this appears to not be causing considerable alarm amongst the party faithful is troubling, and to say it is not enough for an opposition in mid-term should be so obvious as to be insulting to highlight.

There is no disguising Labour’s underwhelming performance. Despite sporadic advances in battleground seats such as Hastings, Crawley and Stevenage the results do not suggest that Labour will outright win the next general election. Gaining a mere two councils in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, only just, represents a worryingly poor return. Many party activists, somewhat rightly and understandably, are so consumed by the immediacies of their locale that they have swapped the instant gratification of publicising the fruits of their labour for any nuanced analysis of Labour at large. That the party now enjoys a sixty-two seat majority in Durham is indeed joyous, but that it failed to win in Staffordshire or Lancashire, and is still represented in the low single digits in vast swathes of the south, should temper that cheerfulness somewhat.

This failure to gain a consistently strong bedrock of support across all sections of the country is deeply troubling for Ed Miliband, and ought to be causing deep unease and soul-searching amongst his inner team. Overall, the party holds less county council seats than it did in 2005 – the scene of our last general election victory. And the protest vote, invaluable to any party of opposition, has bypassed the left and firmly implanted itself with UKIP.

An inevitability about the next general election has not yet been built. In 1997 everyone knew Blair was about to become prime minister. In 2010, everyone knew that whoever the next prime minister was going to be it was not going to be Gordon Brown. The case for 2015 has yet to be made.

At present it is too easy to ignore Ed Miliband. He took to the election campaign with commitment, for sure, but it was lacklustre, low profile and ultimately not good enough. If a member of the public can name just one of the six bills the Labour leader set out in his “Shadow Queen Speech” last week than they are a more informed voter than I. The public will know that his vision for Labour is not New Labour, which will naturally win him plaudits amongst the left and much of the party rank and file. But the public also voted for Labour under its New Labour guise on three successive occasions. To signal to the public that you are deliberately moving away from a formula that, for all its right and wrongs, put Labour in power for over a decade is folly. As the Conservatives have just buried their thrice-winning leader, so too has the Labour movement of theirs amongst their collective psyche.

Faced with a government that will increasingly limp pathetically towards the next general election at a time of grave economic crisis, Labour ought to be further ahead in the polls and notching up considerably better results than already seen. One nation is a bold political project that has promised much; as the election comes into view it will have to start delivering.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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16 Responses to “Labour’s performance last Thursday simply wasn’t good enough”

  1. swatantra says:

    Time to drop the pilot.

  2. southern voter says:

    Labour stills lacks economic credibility and a leader who can cut through and make a connection with ordinary working people.Unless these two items can be addressed then labour will not win an outright majority in 2015.
    The best that can be hoped for is to be the largest party in parliament.

  3. Leslie48 says:

    Its all of us who have to challenge the Right wing clap trap that now pervades the media and Lynton Crosby’s Tories. As the FT said several days before the elections how come all the parties had opted for “blank disengement”. A lot more people need to be working to convey our message instead of sitting on the sidelines just carping.

  4. Leslie48 says:

    Sorry, that’s ‘blank disengagement’ with Ukip and a lot more former Labour ministers need to be alerting our people as we sleepwalk away from our 27 trading European partners.

  5. bob says:

    Leslie48: they trade more with us than we do with them. Do you think BMW VW Siemans Renault etc stopping trading with the UK if we were outside the EUSSR. I don’t think so, do you?

    The membership of the EUSSR has to be put to a referendum.

  6. Geraint says:

    New Labour is old hat. What worked 20 odd years ago is not the winning formula for 2015. I think that Ed is on the right path, but he needs to start raising his profile, and his vision for the country. David Cameron is clearly worried about him, this is why he wants to drop the TV debates.

    The biggest problem for Labour at the moment, is one of communication, not of policy or direction

  7. Robert says:

    Labour is on course to be the biggest party in a hung parliament. This is probably the best possible result after the bad result in 2010.

  8. Lynne says:

    I hate to say it, because I don’t like what UKIP stand for. Nigel Farage does come across well and he speaks his mind. He has the common touch and people listen to what he says.

  9. John Reid says:

    Swatantra, I’m not saying that I agreed with Eds plan to get back the liberal vote, to try to win in 2015′ but that sort of vote wasn’t ,in the areas that were fought last em. They were in London and the midlands

  10. Leslie48 says:

    Bob – with respect to isolate the UK from our 27 European partners is frightening whether its trade, cultural, economic, legal, social; you have to ask yourself why does the Right want to be isolated from societies like Finland, Sweden, Germany, France , Austria, Denmark, Holland; simple so they can worsen our working conditions such as provided by the European Directive, worsen all those aspects which other well integrated social democracies hold dear. Why – so Neo-Liberalism can go further in our Anglo-Saxon Capitalist society and weaken those rights, conditions and opportunities our working people have achieved over the last 60 years or so. We are sleep walking to a European exit and its the most frightening move to the Right England has seen since the early 1970s.

  11. Isidoros Diakides says:

    Let me make it clear from the start. I am not a fan of Ed Milliband. For myself the .. jury is still out.

    However, last week’s opinion polls give Labour 40-43% across the country (not just in the areas where local elections were held), with 10-11% leads over the Tories. This sounds decent to me for this stage of the race and it indicates a huge progress since Ed Milliband took over. Surely he should take some credit for that? Instead the article tries to turn it into some kind of disaster with the leader somehow being a failure!!

    The major problem that Ed Milliband and the current Labour Party have at this stage appears to be the … “cuckoo in its nest” ie a clique systematically undermining the current leadership, in the hope of returning the party to its previous state of being irrelevant (or, to put it another way, a conservative party mark 2). I sincerely hope that they don’t succeed and that Ed Milliband proves that he has the guts to take them on, for the sake of both the Labour Party and of all those whose lives depend on the existence of a party that represents their interests.


  12. Alex Harvey says:

    You lot are so tiresome; show a bit of loyalty for once!

  13. Danny says:

    The only loyalty these types of people have is for a cash-obsessed war criminal.

  14. Alex Harvey says:

    Oh snap! That explains why the security question’s answer is ALWAYS ‘Blair.’

    Why not security question “Which Labour PM won 4 general elections?” Answer: Wilson

  15. john reid says:

    Alex harvey the seucirty answer is Balir ‘I’ve been putting Keir (as in HArdie) ithought that was the one that rhymned with Bear,

    regarding the article the view on now and the past ,Now when I look past the fact we achived loads of things,and don’t take into account our vote was only down 1 million on the previous one,I have to admit that we had let the public down and thats why they so clearly rejected us but the way we can win in 2015 is by offering ways to get people to have a better life after the next election,

    Now when I look past the fact we achived those things,and don’t take into account our vote was only down 1 million on the previous one,I have to admit that we had let the public down and thats why they so clearly rejected us

    The defying view on Clinton’s Its the economy stupid was getting the publics appeal that the choice we offer is any good ,its Reagans 1980 comment to the electorate regarding Carter,” do you and your family feel that youre better or worse off now than you was 4 years ago”, as with the excpetion of the 1997 election when people were better off than they were in 92, every gov’t that has fallen from power the Public had been worse off than 4 years before hand,

  16. real labour says:

    what i find amusing is that so many of the “left posters” forget that back in the day wilson,callaghan and other leaders were constantly attacked as traitors by the bennite left.
    they never showed loyalty then and damaged the party.

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