The politics of belonging: Why we need an English Labour Party

9th May, 2015 3:06 pm

england.jpg

It will take some time to fully understand Thursday’s disaster. But the most difficult conclusion may be the one that our party has resisted for so long: in today’s confusing, fast changing and globalised world, the identity people feel with their nation, town and community is growing stronger, not weaker.

When people cast their vote, many now think as much about what it means for their nation and their community as they do about party policies for economic and social justice. The role that class once played in defining ‘people like me’ is being replaced by a more communitarian sense of belonging. Labour activists usually wish this wasn’t true but it was. Our failure to recognise, let alone address, the central importance of the politics of belonging was the single unifying thread of our disappointment.

It left us with little to say against the rise of nationalism in Scotland. In the closing days we seemed to be posing social democracy against a social democratic nationalist party. In that choice there was only going to be one winner. (We may understand the shaky affectation of the SNP to progressive politics, but they told a good tale.)

In England, it left us with no English response to the Tories incitement to fear the oncoming Scots. Appalling their campaign may have been, but with no better tale to tell about England, it should not surprise us that it worked. It was the Tories, not us, who had an English manifesto. It was the Tories, not us, who recognised that the Commons had to change. No one asked me or you about EVEL on the doorstep, but that doesn’t mean no one sensed our reluctance to speak for England.

In seats we lost, like Southampton Itchen, our inability to win over those anti-Tory former Labour and would-be Labour voters who went for UKIP proved fatal. Despite the best efforts of our local candidate and campaign, Labour’s cloth ear to the politics of identity meant we could not bring them over. It wasn’t really about policies on immigration or Europe, but about a lack of confidence that we understood why rapid changes in work and communities seemed overwhelming. The rise of UKIP support amongst the voters we most needed to attract not only hit us hard but reminds us that there is no iron law that says we will do better next time.

There is another important debate to be had about the centre ground, our economic and aspirational appeal, and whether we can deliver for our country without radical economic and social change. But without understanding the politics of belonging, that debate won’t solve our problems. When Labour debated our future in the early 1990s, few people strongly identified themselves as English. Now it’s a majority.

I supported Ed Miliband from the outset and have huge admiration and affection for his leadership. No other leader would, I suspect, have made his changes on immigration policy, spoken of England as a nation as he did, or so wholeheartedly endorsed English devolution. But let’s not pretend he was able to get these changes into the blood stream of our movement as he needed to do.

The new leader must show they understand this agenda. In the new Parliament, boundaries will be redrawn, the electoral register will be even less comprehensive, Union relations re-cast and decision-making in Westminster changed. The next General Election in England will be fought more clearly about England than ever before.

An English Labour Party, with an English Manifesto and an ambition to win an English majority will be essential for Labour in England and for UK Labour too. Which potential leaders will understand this?

John Denham was Labour MP for Southampton Itchen from 1992 until he stood down this year. He is now Professor of English Identity and Politics at Winchester University and blogs at www.theoptimisticpatriot.co.uk

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  • iain mackie

    as the author suggests the Scots voted SNP due to nationalism where in fact they voted SNP because of Socialism.

    • Rob K. Mart

      I would say because of Social Democracy not Socialism.

    • Gareth Farquharson

      Pull the other one. The SNP have had close to 10 years in power. Salmond war a relentless centrist, with small c conservative tax and spending policies. The SNP only just jettisoned corporate tax cuts, and only just put what left wing progressive policies it nabbed from Labour on its manifesto. The lack of regret at another tory term betrays Nicola Sturgeons latest big lie. This election was always about independence.

      • iain mackie

        They have had 7 years in power, and overturned Labours policy of charging for higher education, made prescriptions free again. And many other policies Labour should be proud of.
        They are as you correctly state not a socialist party, but they are further Left than Labour so where does that leave Labour ?

    • Tommo

      Utter tosh.

      The SNP are just nasty authoritarian nationalist extremists. They use the language of socialism for their own narrow nationalist ends.

      • Moominpause

        Half the population of Scotland hoodwinked then?

        • RegisteredHere

          It seems perfectly reasonable to vote ‘No’ to independence and then support a nationalist party to promote Scottish interests in the London-centric Westminster.

          • Moominpause

            Absolutely, but my comment was in response to Tommo…

            “Nasty, authoritarian, nationalist extremists”

            If this was a genuine description then I can’t see the majority of voters, or just shy of, voting for them apart for them being hoodwinked.

            I don’t think it’s a genuine description.

          • RegisteredHere

            Yes agreed, and I daresay that more than a few people in England would have voted SNP in the last election given the choice.

            The Scots won’t get independence without another referendum, which means it’s prefectly safe to vote SNP in the completely separate Westminster elections. Arguably it was the most sensible option!

    • vincethur

      If they were voting for socialism, they’re going to be extremely disappointed.

  • Gareth Andrew Coleman

    Erm…. no. We lost because we didn’t have a coherent platform or produce a solid alternative. Nothing to do with so-called ‘English identity’ or whatever that means. We need to strong, anti-austerity, left-wing platform. Most people are opposed to austerity and support public ownership, higher taxes for the rich and more government control over the economy. However, despite having some of those elements, the perceived similarities to the Tories, the branding as ‘Tory-lite’ or ‘austerity-lite’, our failure to show that we weren’t responsible for the crash in 2007, and the inability to show an alternative caused apathy in much of the electorate, and led to our loss.

    • Arrh

      Most sensible people know there is No Magic Money Tree.

      Just stop squandering other people’s hard earned cash. Work with business and local people. Karl Marx is dead.

      Get over it. He was wrong

    • Paul Richardson

      Been to a friend’s birthday party today and met his cousin. She lives just south of Oxford and she was asked (not by me but was in earshot) who she voted for and why. She voted Tory because the deficit needs to be reduced. When asked further why that was important she had no answer she just thought it was important. What’s happened is that she has heard that line so often it has become an intrinsic truth – a good in its own right.

      Naturally this is one person’s opinion but she was not really political but a genuine floating voter and that was her reason for voting. Make of it what you will but one does wonder whether an anti-austerity, left-wing platform would have had less traction with a middle-England voter like her than the platform Labour actually fought the election on.

      I agree that Labour were far too quiet in 2010/11/12 on arguing that the recession was due to the crash and the bankers. So many people I have met simply consider that to be an intrinsic truth. With the right-wing media being so shrill, Labour need to come out guns blazing, citing expert after expert to kill such assertions or at least put into the public’s mind the existence of an alternative narrative that can argued.

    • No doubt English identity means many things to many people. But it means something to the 70% of the population of England who self identified as being English in the census. 60% of England’s population identified as being English only.

      Labour should make English Labour to go along with Scottish & Welsh Labour. They should also commit to at least giving the English the opportunity of an English parliament. We’ve been ignored in this “Union” for far too long.

  • swatnan

    John makes an interesting point, a natural extension of his ‘Southern Task Force’ But first we have to have a loose Federation of the UK, with autonomous Regions/Countries. And PR. Farage needs to be commended for making us talk about identity and belonging and British Values, instead of ignoring them and pretending they didn’t exist.

  • In the UK Labour manifesto – which has policies that cover the English NHS, schools, transport, environment, etc. the word ‘England’was only used three times. That’s three times in a 20,421 word manifesto!

    The words ‘Scotland’ and ‘Wales’ were used more, even though Scotland and Wales have their own Labour manifestos. In fact, the word ‘England’ was used in the Scottish and Welsh manifestos more than it was in the manifesto that’s supposedly aimed at the English.

    The other party of the left, The Greens, do slightly better with twelve mentions of the word ‘England’ but they refer to ‘United Kingdom’ or ‘Britain’ 114 times. By contrast the Scottish Green manifesto uses ‘Scotland’ more than it does ‘United Kingdom’ and ‘Britain’ combined.

    Until the Labour (and the left) can speak of, to and for England I’m afraid that they deserve to be ignored by the people of England. There’s a serious case of the identity politics of the English people not being represented by the left in England.

    In the last census 60% of people in England defined themselves as English-only, compared to 19% who were British-only. The only part of England that felt more British than English was London, which happens to be where the Labour Party – and indeed the entire political class – is based. It’s time for Labour to wake up and smell the Englishness. Continuing the mantra of Britishness won’t get you anywhere.

    • There’s also the disgraceful double standards of Labour supporting free HE in Scotland but huge fees/debts in England. Similar with visiting care costs, prescription charges etc. They take the English for fools if they think folks can’t see that.

      • Moominpause

        Labour have opposed free education in Scotland up until very recently. They still do oppose no prescription charges

        • Josh Cook

          Labour introduced no tuition fees in Scotland.

          • Moominpause

            After implementing them nationally they replaced them (in Scotland) with a graduate endowment, which makes it not free, which was actually my pont, capiche?

            An attempt at revisionism or genuinely mistaken?

            Besides, Labour only followed Cubie because the LidDems in their coalition wouldn’t have it any other way. Dewar was annoyed about it publicly and absolutely furious about it privately.

            Revisionism work on an educated or information poor society, good try but no cigar, my initial statement stands… Labour have opposed free education in Scotland up until very recently.

  • Andy Harvey

    A lot of good stuff here. The LP needs to really decentralise with semi-autonomous parties for big cities and regions, with elected leaders and powers to develop local manifestos that will be implemented through massive devolution of powers by a Labour Government to local councils and groups of councils. Of course, many of those councils may be Tory, or another party but that’s devolution for you. The party must first change to reflect and lead the type of country we are becoming.

    • FloTom339

      Why should the English settle for devolution to cities and regions when the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish have Parliaments and Assemblies with primary law making powers?

      Why is self determination for these Home Nations a good thing yet self determination for the English not a good thing?

      Is that because Labour thinks it is it’s interests to deny England and the English these things?

      • Andy Harvey

        Because England is so much bigger, populous and with divergent interests and with a much less coherent sense of Englishness. It is also about devolving power closer to communities so policy for Newcastle isn’t made in London.

        • Paul Richardson

          We all know the real reason for regions over country. EVEL invites the notion that Labour would lack a majority in English Westminster MPs but be in Govt due to Scotland (ha!) and Wales. Surely that argument is pretty much dead now with only 1 Scottish MP.

          What would make more sense is to argue for a true England Assembly located in Manchester or Birmingham, demonstrating a migration out of London and a willingness to show that an EVEL is not just a party political cat-fight between Westminster politicians.

          Westminster then becomes a full Federal over-arching governing body responsible for the allocating of UK-wide budgets, foreign affairs and policy. After the referendum John Redwood was the first to come out with EVEL and suggested that he was totally capable of wearing 2 hats – 1 English and 1 UK. I disagree with that assertion as I think he would end up always conflating the two and it would be impossible for the electorate to distinguish between the times he is wearing which hat. If we going to do it, lets do it right!

          • Andy Harvey

            The reasons for regions over country is that the North East bears no similarity whatsoever to the South East and each ought to be able to be as autonomous as feasible about their own priorities. ‘England’ is virtually meaningless as a concept in these conditions, or, when given meaning, it is conflated with the ‘Middle England’. My only caveat is that the last thing we need is another layer of political institutions so groups of local councils would be my way forward for the appropriate democratic body to oversee budgets, including tax raising powers.

          • Paul Richardson

            Your arguments are persuasive on am intellectual level but the EVEL issue is couched in nationalism and rationalism just does not persuade in that context.
            The structure of an English assembly could be comprised according to region, eg. X number of representatives. However, a body or building that English people can point to and say “that represents me” will resonate on both an itellectual amd emotional level.
            Another layer of govt is helpful for representing national interests. For example devolved nhs policy is not the pervue of councils but of a nationwide body. Westminster has that and they have already delegated to nhs england so in fact the new layer would now become accountable to voters.

          • RegisteredHere

            Absolutely, but there’s a lot at stake: an English parliament elected under PR would be considered a disaster in most Conservative circles (and quite a few Labour circles too).

        • So you want different laws and service provision across England?

          But the English don’t want that (see graph).

          We’ve seen how UK Labour in England helped marketise the NHS in England with foundation hospitals and put English students in debt with tuition fees, while UK Labour in Scotland (under the flag of ‘Scottish Labour’) did the exact opposite in Scotland. And now you want that sort of policy divergence within England, fragmenting England into internecine rivalries?

          We don’t want the sort of postcode lottery England that devolution created within the UK. Legislation and minimum standards should be set centrally by English parties and English legislators. Greater administrative local devolution should be welcomed – I see no reason why Newcastle shouldn’t decide its own transport priorities – but it’s not an alternative to a national government.

          An English parliament elected under a more proportional system, with a commitment to devolving power to the most appropriate level and regional grand committees sitting outside London to coordinate regional infrastucture and facilitate cooperation between councils and service providers is the best way forward.

          The House of Lords, which is now 850+ cronies and apparatchiks unfit for purpose, can be scrapped and replaced with an elected federal parliament with powers of scrutiny over the national parliaments.

          • Andy Harvey

            I guess devolution and decentralisation does imply different levels of service provision as priorities would be set locally to meet local needs.I guess the Manchester health devolution will act as a pilot to see if that works.

          • The Manchester experiment is a minuscule amount of devolution. Hardly an alternative to an English parliament.

            An alternative to an English parliament implies different laws and taxes in different parts of England.

          • Andy Harvey

            Certainly tax altering powers have to go hand in hand with devolution if it is to be serious. I’m not sure what you mean by different laws – guess there could be some variability on some things that address local priorities.

          • Originally Labour said that regional assemblies would be the answer to the West Lothian Question.

            They were wrong, of course, not least because the English didn’t want regional assemblies. They were also wrong because there was never any plan for the regional assemblies to have legislative powers equal to Scotland (which would prevent Scottish MPs voting on English matters). Legislative assemblies with tax-raising powers give a sort of symmetry to the United Kingdom but they would not provide a political identity for the English nation and they would result in policy divergence and different laws within England, as demonstrated by devolution to Scotland. It would effectively be the end of England.

        • RegisteredHere

          Regional devolution in England should be a matter for an English parliament rather than Westminster though, especially as the Tories’ EVEL and devo-Osborne seem purpose-designed to keep England under the control of London.

  • David

    Labour fed the nationalist lion to kill the Tories in Scotland. It has now eaten them. The Tories have poked the English nationalist lion and if they do not deliver on their promises that lion will eat them too.

    • RegisteredHere

      Yum.

  • Treating England as a nation instead of just a collection of regions might help too.

    • Rob K. Mart

      Interesting. I am Scottish and I would REALLY like Scotland to be treated as several regions and not as a country. I feel more in common with Geordies than I do with West Coast sectarians (Rangers and Celtic fanatics) or Gaelic (gimmee a subsidy I have a language) highland and island folk. I lived and worked in three English regions. I could not work in the West of Scotland or the Highlands. The Glasgow folk called me teuchter (peasant) and the Highland folk (incomer or outsider). I never felt that working in Yorkshire or Kent.

      • Moominpause

        You’ve obviously never been called a sweaty sock then?

        Apart from protecting your sensibilities what would Scotland being treated as several regions accomplish?

        • Josh Cook

          More localism. What to people in affluent Edinburgh have in Common with inner city Glasgow?

          • Moominpause

            In that case what do people in Dunoon have in common with people in Birmingham?

            You would seem like a natural supporter of independence yet I’m guessing your not.

      • If devolution had been to regions of the UK instead of to nations of the UK, then we probably wouldn’t be in this mess now. But devolution was to nations – “to kill nationalism stone dead” – so we are where we are.

        To deny England the trappings of nationhood and sacrifice it on the alter of Unionism isn’t the answer. The Scots don’t want Scotland to be analogous to an English region within the Union; and regionalism doesn’t give English national identity democratic expression, allowing us to build a civic, plural English national identity. English national identity would become resentful, a badge of resistance even more than it is now, defining itself only in opposition. Better to recreate England as a discrete political community than as a fragmented nation where English identity is a matter of ethnically rather than citizenship.

      • RegisteredHere

        Regionalisation in England should really be a matter for an elected English parliament (cf. Westminster) though?

        • Bill Filey

          Definitely. The identity of England has been too long ignored or played down while that of Scotland (in my opinion) has been overplayed at expense of Scottish regional identities.

  • Pretty_Polly’s Tory Teddy

    As Britain’s highly successful Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Ian Duncan Smith tells us..
    ‘Thanks to successful Conservative economic and social policies, the number of workless households has fallen at its sharpest rate since records began. There are now 3.3million homes in which no one has a job, a drop of more than 270,000 in a year and the biggest fall since 1996’.
    The fall in benefits dependent families has been heralded as clear evidence that the Government’s welfare reforms designed to make it less lucrative to live off the state rather than find a job are working very successfully.
    While overall 16 per cent of households have no adults working, this rises to 21 per cent in the North East. In the South East, the figure is just 12 per cent.
    According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of children living in workless households also fell by 132,000 from a year earlier, to 1.5million. This equates to one in eight children, compared to one in five almost 20 years ago.
    As Mr Ian Duncan Smith tells us..
    ‘There is no better example of welfare reform in action than giving children the economic security of living in a household where people are bringing home a regular pay packet.
    My priority has always been to get people back to work who had been left behind – people for whom work was not part of their life.
    These record figures demonstrate that not only are we successfully helping people to escape worklessness and turn their lives around, but we are also giving hope to the next generation.’
    It all goes to show that only the Conservative Party offers a successful and secure future for the people of Britain, as the electorate have realised by decisively rejecting Labour and their economically disastrous policies.

    • That seems very impressive until you realise that the number of people living in poverty has gone up as a result.

  • Anonymous X™

    Just spin Scottish Labour off as it’s own party, call it the CDU/CSU option if you will. That may not be ideal, but there’s not many options left. Without MPs in Scotland Labour will never govern the UK again, and after Thursday’s wipeout drastic action is needed.

  • vincethur

    whilst an interesting article , i really think people are trying to over analyse why Labour lost. To me it isn’t rocket science and i really don’t think its that hard to get the party back on track. First of all, Labour didn’t lose because people preferred the Tories polices. Unless the polls were wrong on this subject as well, Labours policies went down better than the tory policies.The problem was , a lot of those policies didn’t actually affect a lot of people, so whilst they may have preferred them, that wasn’t enough to win their vote.
    Secondly, people did not like ed miliband. although personally i did, it was abundantly clear the general public didn’t , its pretty sad when people make their mind up on how someone looks,speaks or eats a bacon sarnie but sadly, aided and abetted by our disgusting tabloid press thats exactly what they did.
    Thirdly and probably the most important one was the fear factor,the fear of hordes of scots coming over hadrians wall and taking over parliament. I work in a highly unionised workplace where there is no love for the tory party but time and time again i heard people saying that they’d have to vote tory because they didn’t want to be run by the snp. This fear factor again was again aided and abetted by the press but also the national tv and more importantly and very cleverly nicola sturgeon because everytime Labour tried to move the issue she managed to get back onto the issue.
    There is no enthusiasm towards the Tories, its just Labour didn’t offer enough to take the risk of a change of government ,especially one propped up by the snp. What labour can’t do next time is wait to try and connect with the public, they need to start the campaign as soon as the next leader is elected. Also when we pick the leader, we need to think not of who we would want as leader but who the public would want as leader.Before we cast our vote we should be seeking the views of our families,friends and workmates because thats who matters not who we would like.
    To win in England next time will not be hard as we are portraying, scotland on the other hand is another question entirely and not coming from there i don’t have the answers. The people that need to give the answers to labour hq on that issue are the rank and file members in scotland who were being told on the doorstep why people had turned away from labour.
    My concern with all of this is we are going to spend the next 2/3 years analysing what went wrong this time rather than campaigning for the next election.

    • Pretty_Polly’s Tory Teddy

      Come on Vince, admit it.. the public liked the policies of Ian Duncan Smith and that is why the Conservatives won a great victory………

    • Moominpause

      Labour List has been inundated with ex Scottish Labour members who’ve been talking about it all along.

      They’ve mostly been admonished as trolls but they were pretty much right on the button.

      The Labour Party must listen to those who were once members, if you can’t convince them to come back you’re unlikely to convince someone who might put a cross in a box every 5 years.

      • vincethur

        Totally agree. Those are the people that Labour need to listen to, not a few spin doctors at Labour hq. If i was at Labour hq now id be talking to those people and finding out whats gone so wrong.
        Its time Labour didn’t ask their members why others didn’t vote for them they should be asking those that didn’t , why that was the case.
        Id start polling people now as to why. One way to do it would be with the help of the Unions, find a large section of people, say ten people in each region from each union that didn’t vote Labour and ask them why. It doesn’t matter who they did vote for , just find out why they didn’t vote Labour.
        Once thats been looked at Labour would have a better idea as to what the real reasons are, it would actually have real polling that they can rely on as you would a large pool of people from different backgrounds. and different areas.
        Id poll them once a year after that to see if the parties on the right track when it comes to winning their vote back or over for the first time.
        I think it would be a lot more reliable than using the polls and by using the unions ability to contact millions of people quite easily it shouldn’t be too hard to do.
        The harsh reality is it probably won’t happen and we’ll continue to use pollsters who have proved they really aren’t that reliable.

        • CrunchieTime

          If you ask 10 people from each union, you’ll end up with the answers of 10 public sector workers, probably professional, middle class and comfortable.

          Far better to ask none unionised workers, on the bones of their arse, who are doing jobs which used to be public sector jobs, but were outsourced to the private sector through competitive tender by those same professional, middle class, comfortable union members.

          But you might not like their replies…

          • vincethur

            Not if you ask the right people. I can name you many sections of workers that aren’t public sector workers and aren’t middle class and professional. Postal workers,bus drivers, lorry drivers,builders and car workers spring to mind straight away. Thats the difference with letting trade unions and even community groups doing it , they have direct access to a diverse amount of people. You I’m afraid have gone into the stereotyping of union members all working in the public sector and all being middle class. Having said that public sector workers need to be involved as much as private sector.

          • CrunchieTime

            How many bus drivers, builders and lorry drivers are still unionised?

            Car workers in the north west where I live are probably in the top 15 or 20% of earners. I know you mean well, but look elsewhere than the unions if you want real answers to real peoples problems.

          • vincethur

            With reference to bus drivers, going by the bus drivers dispute in London last year, I’d say they’re pretty unionised. As for builders , I believe ucatt which is the builders union has areound 100,000 members.
            But you’re totally missing the point anyway , the point is , unions and I did also mention community groups have access to a large amount of workers from all walks of life. You need to use things like this to your advantage and tap into it. The alternative is putting an add out in the papers asking for volunteers to give their opinion.
            You obviously don’t believe a cross section of around 6 million people is relevant, personally I think it could a fair way to understand why people didn’t vote for the party that should be for all intense and purposes should be their natural choice.

          • CrunchieTime

            NO!!!

            You are missing the point. I cannot think of one single working person of my acquaintance , with the exception of some teachers who are unionised. Not one.

            Look away from the unions.

          • vincethur

            With all due respect , i think you’re arguing for the sake of it.Firstly as already pointed out , i also mentioned community groups. Secondly, i also pointed out , its not about speaking to unionised sectors of the workplace, its about tapping into the diverse workforce that unions represent , that can be from one person in a workplace belonging to a union or 100 out of 100 belonging to a union. the fact is , those people are easily contactable and should be labours normal voters. By speaking to both sections i.e. COMMUNITY GROUPS and UNION MEMBERS Labour will have at least some idea where they went wrong.
            And its not looking away or towards unions , its about tapping into the access to people that they have which reaches far further than the Labour party.

          • CrunchieTime

            With all due respect, I think you’ll only end up talking to Labour supporters within your comfort zone.

          • vincethur

            With all due respect, I think your main issue seems to be trade unions as I clearly pointed out that we should be speaking to people that aren’t members of the Labour Party.

          • CrunchieTime

            I give up. You appear to be unable to comprehend anything I’ve said.

          • vincethur

            Likewise, I feel I’ve spent much of the afternoon speaking to a brick wall.

          • CrunchieTime

            That’s because you’ve walled yourself off from those who have given up on Labour. Preferring instead to listen to those with union affiliations.

            Enjoy your electoral oblivion for the foreseeable future. You deserve it.

          • vincethur

            Again you miss the point , but i don’t think you really ever wanted to get it did you,

          • CrunchieTime

            I get your point perfectly. You have a very narrow view of who you will consult and how you will find them. Crack on.

          • vincethur

            No narrow view, just a view. You obviously think anyone that belongs to a trade union shouldn’t be asked their view. That’s roughly 6.5 million people that you wouldn’t ask plus the community groups I suggested. I think the narrow view us yours. Maybe they should just ask you and your friends, barring any teacher friends you have of course.

          • CrunchieTime

            No, I just think you need to look beyond trade unions. But carry on, you do as you like. It obviously works so well doesn’t it?
            I mean, just look at last Thursday.

          • vincethur

            I don’t think I was to blame for Thursday and I won’t be carrying on with anything as the decision as to what’s done next isn’t down to me.

            I’m not sure why asking non labour voters that belong to trade unions why they didn’t vote labour had some detrimental affect to what happened on Thursday.just the same as it won’t change the course of the next election. I do love the way you just concentrate on the unions though , despite mentioning community groups as well. I get the impression you’ve got a major issue with trade unions and its 6.5 million members.

          • CrunchieTime

            Because for every one trade union member you find in the private sector, there will be 3 from the public sector, such is the disproportionate make up of trade union membership (2013 figures).
            They are not going to give you any useful help, because they will already be Labour’s core supporters. So you would be wasting your time.
            But carry on, I cannot be bothered to argue any more.

          • vincethur

            And if you’re core voters aren’t voting for you then you’ve obviously got major problems hence why the first people you speak to are your core voters to see where you’re going wrong.

            Anyway to say that trade unionists vote labour isn’t quite the case. In several recent elections more union members voted for other parties than they did labour.

            As the levels of union membership in the public v private sector. Union membership is on the rise in the private sector and on the decline in the public sector

          • vincethur

            And anyway , it’s not about tapping into unionised industries, it’s about tapping into the workforce. With that in mind it doesn’t matter how unionised the industry. That is, unless you believe there are no bus drivers , builders or lorry drivers that belong to a union, and if that’s what you believe I have to say you are truly mistaken.

          • vincethur

            and the idea would be to not like the answers, thats the point of speaking to people. You wouldn’t expect them all to come back with the same answer.

  • Rob

    Interesting article John, but I disagree with parts of your argument. We lost because, outside London, we are seen as more out of touch than the privately educated millionaires in a Conservative cabinet, which is no mean feat.

    Whether its “white van man” in Rochester, or Middle England, all the way up the M1 corridor through seats that were Labour until 2010, we are perceived as elitest, obsessed with identity politics, gay rights, minority rights, rights without responsibilities, I could go on.

    We had Labour MPs sitting in sex segregated rooms during the campaign (big, big mistake), and promises to outlaw Islamophobia, whatever that means. We have many voices, belonging to people who live in Hampstead and Dartmouth Park, who still deny that 4 million people arriving in the country causes problems (I mean YOU Diane Abbott, and others too stupid to see the bleeding obvious).

    We have a coterie surrounding the Leadership, any leadership since Blair, who are Oxbridge educated, and have never worked outside politics. They are comfortable, and do not get the notion of fairness that most British people support. You put something in to get something back, unless you are too old, weak or young to contribute.

    Ed Miliband tried to address some of this, to his great credit, but there were snipers on the idiotic Left and free market right of the party.

    We need a new argument about the economy. Success is based on rising house prices and little else. Skilled, secure jobs have been replaced by zero hours contracts and call centres. We should be brave enough to say, the economy really is in deep trouble.

    But above all, we need to recognise that the people we try to persuade to vote Labour, and so dismally failed to convince on Thursday are not bigots, little Englanders, or even natural Conservative voters. They want an excellent, free, health service. Commuters want a renationalised railway (why on earth we can’t make that promise, I fail to comprehend).

    We were blamed by many Scots for being red Tories, and that is another fight, but we need to demonstrate, loud and clear, that we actually like, admire and respect the English, too.

    No more identity politics, no more obsession with race, a recognition that almost uncontrolled immigration, and uncontrolled multiculturalism is a toxic, nasty dead end, That would be a start.

    I hope Dan Jarvis will prove to be the man who marshals the troops.

    • Pretty_Polly’s Tory Teddy

      You lot need another Tony Blair without the mistakes of encouraging mass immigration, without spending and borrowing too much money, and recognising that Middle Britain wants to get on in life without being taxed to death.

      • RegisteredHere

        Another Tony Blair would certainly make voting decisions easier in 2020.

    • FloTom339

      Insightful. Pity many on the left don’t understand this

    • ArmouredApple

      I agree with 75% of this. I don’t see that it’s either-or although I do realise these different issues compete for attention, both in our policymaking and in our communication to the electorate. Diane Abbott has her flaws but it is her job is to speak for and with Hackney. For those London Labour MPs, it is important to take on “minority” issues and stand up against the Tory Establishment for those voices. It is the national party’s, and the leadership’s, job, to balance and blend all these different local variations, and yes of course, find the commonalities like public services, economic opportunity and security, and the rest.

      But as John Denham says it’s not just about policies but about the process – we need to be talking and thinking about England and how people see our communities. I like what Dan Jarvis says about the importance of understanding culture. I know he has good personal reasons for not standing now, but I also hope we find a leader with roots outside London and the “policy world” route to politics.

  • Ian Robathan

    No discussion of an English Parliament is missing from John’s piece … I can not understand why all mainstream parties avoid this, wonder why ?

    • RegisteredHere

      An English parliament would be elected under PR, leaving Westminster (if that becomes the federal parliament) with far less control. It’s also unlikely that an English parliament would continue to fund the London bubble to anywhere near the same degree as now.

      Better to ‘devolve’ England into easily-manageable functions under the watchful eye of Westminster-appointed PCCs, mayors and assorted other officials.

  • new_number_2

    Labour, just like the Liberals and the Tories is now purely an English party. Independence for Scotland is now an inevitably.

  • Steve38

    ‘In England, it left us with no English response to the Tories incitement to fear the oncoming Scots’

    Politics is defined by principle not by place. Unless of course you are a divisive, self-interested nationalist. In which case principles play no part.

    • Ah yes those divisive, self interested nationalists who want fair funding, services & democracy for their nation. What villains we are. How odd that Labour are against such principles.

      • Steve38

        ‘Ah yes those divisive, self interested nationalists who want (insert relevant demands) for their nation.’

        You said it. Politics is defined by principle not by place. Except for nationalists of course.

        • MonkeyBot5000

          People vote based on how they think the government will affect their lives and the place they live.

          The place you live will always colour the relative importance you place on different issues.

          • Steve38

            ‘The place you live will always colour the relative importance you place on different issues.’

            Yes, it will be different if you live in a mansion in Chelsea or a terraced house in Rotherham. But is that place or economics that determines your political outlook?

  • John Denham’s post is interesting but seems to invert the central point. The problem is NOT that we need an English Labour Party, but rather that the Scottish Labour Party needs to be completely independent of the central party in London. That is the natural and inevitable consequence of devolution. If the Scottish Labour Party is to ever gain control of the Scottish Parliament then it must have the freedom to set out its own policies, even if these policies are diametrically opposed to the ones advocated by the Party in England. But that leads to policy ambiguity, inconsistency and contradictions.

    The central problem is that no party can fight a war on two fronts. In this year’s election the Labour Party was being attacked from the right by the Tories in England and from the left by the SNP in Scotland. That is an untenable position. It can only be resolved by letting the two parties go their own way.

    What many people in England do not realise is that New Labour was a toxic brand in Scotland as far back as 1997, before Blair was even elected and long before the Iraq war. The growth in support for the SNP has nothing to do with Scottish nationalism but is instead a rejection of New Labour policies (in as much as New Labour ever had any policies) and a demand for a true social democratic alternative. Whether the SNP is left-wing or not is irrelevant. The point is that the people of Scotland perceive it to be more left wing than Labour and that is why they vote for it. I know this because I lived in Scotland in the late 1990s and that is what many of my well educated friends were saying even back then. If the Labour Party in Scotland is to reclaim support it must do so by articulating a message that resonates with the Scottish voters, not one that is scripted in London.

    • I hate to point out the bleedin obvious but if the Scottish Labour Party is completely independent, then the UK Labour Party is no longer a UK Party. What you’d have is a Labour Party of England and Wales.

      Next you’ll be telling me that the Labour Party in Wales should be completely independent of the English and Welsh Labour Party.

      I actually agree with you that the Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Parliament should be as autonomous as possible. This requires a federal understanding of the UK and the Labour Party as a union of nations/national parties.

      • MonkeyBot5000

        As more powers are devolved to Scotland & Wales, it might make more sense to split the Labour party into separate parties for each and then have a Labour Supreme Council (with a less sinister name) where they can decide policies for national issues.

        Or I may be massively optimistic about the level of infighting that would ensue.

        • RegisteredHere

          …or just split off the London/Westminster Labour Party from the rest? rEngland is far more impoverished by Westminster than Scotland or Wales.

  • Jonathan morse

    Do the people of the NE (England) want to be run by Tory heartlands? No, we need to push for a federal, regional government, the solution to the Scottish problem, have regional assembles/Parliaments similar in population and power to the one in Scotland.

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