“We must look deep into our souls but we mustn’t open our veins” – What Labour should do next

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May 13, 2015 by Paul Goldsmith

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The election result unleashed a torrent of ferocious anguish from the North London bien-pensant metropolitan elite that was so full of arrogance and disdain for those that voted Conservative (including de-friending on Facebook even!) that I felt it only right to let it come out for a few days before commenting on the position in which Labour finds itself.

The virtue of waiting that time is that I have been able to watch an interview with spin-doctor and former Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, listen to a radio interview with new Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, and read an interview with Barnsley Central MP and withdrawing leadership contender Dan Jarvis that does the job for me.

I’ll start with Mandelson. He said that “In 2010 we were sent out and told to wave our fists angrily at the nasty Tories and wait for the public to realise how much they had missed us.” Added to that, Mandelson pointed out that there was nothing in the party’s manifesto about economic growth, productivity, new technologies or the scale of the challenges for the country.

Streeting, who was one of the few a Labour MPs to have won their seat from the Tories, said on Radio 5 live that on the doorstep he was constantly being asked by people why Miliband and Labour weren’t talking to them. If they weren’t bashing the top 2% of income earners they were promising the bottom 10% of income earners all sorts of answers and completely missing out on the middle 88% of the population. In particular, Streeting said that Labour had nothing for people who wanted to ‘get on’ in life, to create a business, to become successful, apart from telling them, it appeared, that should they become successful they would be relentlessly attacked both by Labour Party rhetoric and in the pocket too. 

Jarvis, who pulled out of a leadership race he had been placed in by other people on the basis of his experience in the army in particular, due to wanting to still be around for his young family, insisted that to be able to win, Labour had to admit that spending levels had left Britain more vulnerable to the global financial crisis in 2007 than was wise. Were we this focused on looking after every pound before 2007? Clearly not. Would the last government have been in a stronger position to respond to the financial crisis if we had been? Of course. And we should say so. Only then will we be able to regain trust as safe custodians of taxpayers’ money,” he wrote. 

To these three I am going to add the words of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who summed up how I feel about the Tory victory. “The country defaulted to the Tories. It didn’t desire them. That explains the difference between the polls and the result.” 

Over the next few months the Labour Party will have a leadership election, and I dearly hope they don’t rush it. If they want to have a chance in 2020 a good first step will be to make peace with Tony Blair. I have often said that people’s hatred of Blair often said more about them than it did about him. When it comes to Iraq, I understand that, but not when it comes to politics. Blair won. Three times. This was quickly forgotten, to the extent that when Miliband beat his brother to the leadership in 2010 Blair’s name was booed at conference and Labour activists, grandees and unions shouted that they had “got their party back.”

They did get their party back, the party went back to being losers. Refusing to acknowledge the reality of how to win elections in the media age (clue: try not to go all out to antagonise newspaper editors) has condemned them to a massive mountain to climb in 2020 after five more years of Tory rule. Perhaps they’ll learn now. 

 

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