The overnight results only underline the nature of the challenge we all face

10th October, 2014 2:49 pm

I want to congratulate Liz McInnes, our newest Labour MP, and thank all the activists and volunteers who helped secure a Labour victory in Heywood and Middleton and helped get Liz elected to Parliament.

In 1997, just six months after a historic Labour landslide, I was elected myself in a by-election where I got a comparable share of the vote to that which Liz McInnes won for Labour last night. So I know first-hand how tough by-elections can be, whatever the political mood of the moment.

Today it is right that we welcome another strong voice for Labour to Parliament. But looking forward, the overnight results underline the nature of the challenge we all face.

The next general election campaign will not just be a battle between us and the Conservatives, or even the Liberal Democrats. It will be a struggle against a sense of alienation and despair that so many people clearly feel about politics and how it’s been done in the past.

A minimalist election strategy based on assumption that you can simply carve up the electorate, or take certain voters or parts of the country for granted, is not just risky, it is wrong.

We know that the response to fragmentation in the electorate is to work harder, listen more and re-earn trust everywhere – treating all voters with equal respect.

So in the fight for the 2015 General Election, Labour will take no voter, no seat, no support for granted.

I’ve spent all of my political life engaged in four-party politics in Scotland. So I need no convincing of the scale of the challenge that all political parties now face as a result of the rise of new political forces.

And one of the most important lessons I draw from Scotland, where I’ve just spent recent months battling a populist nationalism to defeat the Yes side in the referendum, is that traditional political allegiances are simply not holding up in the face of modern challenges that people face.

And I know that the rise of a political party whose principle appeal is that they’re not part of traditional party politics, means you can’t simply expect to deploy the tools of traditional party politics to defeat them.

This morning Nigel Farage claims he is parking his tanks on Labour’s lawn. I assure you, we are determined to repel them.

I have said from the start that you don’t beat UKIP by being a better UKIP, but by being a better Labour Party. Unlike the Tories, who first ignored, then insulted, and now try to imitate UKIP, we have to focus our energy on earning the trust and then the support of those voters.

Rising to this challenge means Labour needs to win back people’s trust conversation by conversation, doorstep by doorstep and community by community.

Labour can defeat UKIP when we expose them for what they are: more Tory than the Tories. The truth is, that they have Tory policies, Tory politicians, and Tory money.

We know that there’s no instant magic speech or single policy that can itself address the depth of disengagement we’re witnessing across the electorate.

But the deep economic challenges and political alienation that many people feel means that as Labour we need to offer answers as well as anger.

edanddouglas

Under Ed Miliband, Labour is offering answers through policies such as the energy price freeze and minimum wage, but also by not being afraid to talk about issues like immigration and welfare that concern so many voters.

The results of last night’s by-election only confirmed that 2015 will not just be a fight between Tories and Labour, but a fight against disillusionment and despair with all politics.

It is a fight I am determined Labour can and will win.

Douglas Alexander is Chair of Labour’s General Election Strategy

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  • Dave Postles

    Why change the habits of a lifetime?

  • mollie collins

    Labour’s slick slogans. total avoidance of criticism of the banks and their corruption that led to the credit crunch, and failure to ever speak with passion on the concern for those in need or suffering adversity has alienated a vast band of voters. Do not accuse us of voting for and misunderstanding the nasty policies advocated by UKIP. We are socialists. We believe that the working class has suffered as a result of 18 years of Tory legislation 1979 – 1997, followed by the ghastly betrayal of New Labour, and latterly the spiteful coalition decisions. These have left young people going to university facing huge debts far into their future from fees, mirroring those of the neo liberal USA…Disabled people have suffered unspeakable treatment from ATOS. The unemployed are treated as criminals while workers have been subjected to wage freezes by a chancellor who ideologically seeks to subjugate the lower orders. We need a party that speaks our language and that isn’t UKIP. I will never vote for a party that has a shadow chancellor whose only message is to freeze child allowances. I, and many others will vote for the Greens whose policies speak to my deepest convictions. If Labour care about those in need, and I’ve seen little evidence that they do, they should consider a partnership with the Green Party whose only MP, Caroline Lucas, always speaks truth to power in Parliament..

    • Guest

      The Green’s nastily anti-poor power policy and their non-science based policies in many areas are a problem for many on the left, though.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    “It will be a struggle against a sense of alienation and despair that so
    many people clearly feel about politics and how it’s been done in the
    past.”

    But yet you keep moving right.

  • Dan

    You say all this, but I’m not sure you really mean it. You said the same about “not taking the core vote for granted” after the European elections, and then you started getting into an arms race with the Tories on spending cuts which will further devastate the lives of the very core voters you’re talking about. You need to give these people some hope that Labour can make their lives get better, or they will turn to UKIP because of their (very disingenuous) message of “if we take stuff away from immigrants, there’ll be more for people like you”.

  • Maria Estanza

    Im sorry – but someone has to say it. We need to lose Ed Miliband before we lose the election. We owe it to the people of Britain to win, and to save schools and the NHS.

    People weren’t voting against Labour they were voting against Ed Miliband.

  • The problem is Labour trying to be more Tory than the Tories, not Ukip.

    • VOWlol

      Scottish Labour were gleeful in their eagerness to do the tories’s dirty work during the referendum. Already it looks like Labour’s joint “vow” with the tories and LibDems about delivering devo-max is unraveling. Many people in Scotland voted No because they believed Labour’s devo-max promises. They are going to be very disappointed. They are not going to forget Labour’s duplicity.

  • RegisteredHere

    I don’t think UKIP is anywhere near so much of a problem for Labour as it is for The Conservative Party, no matter how much UKIP and the Tories might like to believe it is.

    NOTA is a much bigger threat to Labour.

  • robertcp

    “It will be a struggle against a sense of alienation and despair that so
    many people clearly feel about politics and how it’s been done in the
    past.”
    Does the past include 1997 to 2010? How can somebody write several paragraphs without actually saying anything?

  • Web Weaver

    Labour need to ditch Ed Miliband, but they won’t, they think he’s great, as they thought Kinnock as great. If the party had any balls they’d ditch him

    • Matthew Blott

      Regicide isn’t in Labour’s DNA – much to its detriment (and the country’s) it doesn’t have the survival instincts of the Tories.

      EDIT: Of course I forgot – Labour ditched its most electorally successful leader to install one of its worst. I’m not a fan by the way, before the petty charge “Blairite” is thrown at me for pointing this out.

      • wycombewanderer

        Labour without Blair as leader, haven’t won an election since 1974.

        Miliband is no Blair!

  • ChrissieSilverSurfer

    I’m really sorry Douglas, I have a lifetime connection to Labour Party via my ancestors, I am very disappointed with you. The above speech/analysis does nothing to win over the voters old and new. The language is University, Westminster speak. It needs more gritty, down to earth language to win tne 2015GE.
    I have a very heavy heart today, Ed is a great leader, he held the party together after large defeat, it could have torn itself apart as it did in the 18yrs wilderness. Ed needs a much better team around him, shadow cabinet needs a massive clearout, replace London MPs with others from above Watford gap. Let them argue with bias media, no holding back. For goodness sake, fight back with everything in Labours power it can use.

    • Matthew Blott

      I’m sorry but as soon as you said “Ed is a great leader” I could read no further. What planet are you on?

  • ChrissieSilverSurfer

    You know Douglas, I think you are actually missing the point as to why UKIP are doing well. They are promoting themselves as anti establishment/Westminster party,They remind me of the Bovver Boys from earlier decade, those who participate in white-supremacist and anti-immigrant activities.
    Immigration isn’t the only thing people annoyed about, they are fed up with Westminster system, who can blame them when they watch PMQs, some people only have this once a week look into how parliament works, it is this stuffiness, arrogant, throwing toys out of pram view of Westminster which needs one hell of a shake up. It belongs in a past century and needs a complete overhaul to bring it into the 21st century. Rant over!

  • Graeme Hancocks

    Good article. Ukips attraction is more than anti immigration but primarily they are the “none of the above party” – who would quickly lose their attraction once they were in support act propping up a minority Tory government for example and no different to them, just nastier and meaner. Labour need to be clear and precise in what they intend to do for “ordinary people” – which of most of us – in government. No waffle and vagueness but clear and precise and to the point.

  • VOWlol

    The Labour party in Scotland has just submitted an initial report to the Smith
    Commission. As expected it falls woefully short of Gordon Brown’s
    devo-max/federalism promise. The people of Scotland have been duped yet
    again by the Labour party. Miliband’s “vow” is worthless. This can only
    lead to more support for the SNP, Scottish Greens and SSP.

  • Northerner

    That was Westminster speaking to Islington. The working class wants guts and frankness, not politesse and bourgeois moderation.

  • Daniel Speight

    Dear oh dear Douglas we all realize there is something wrong with Labour’s offer to the electorate. Now you too say the following:

    A minimalist election strategy based on assumption that you can simply carve up the electorate, or take certain voters or parts of the country for granted, is not just risky, it is wrong.

    But Douglas it’s you who created the ‘limited offer’ strategy. Are you taking the mickey? If you are not Jon Cruddas’s ‘dead hand’, you are at least one of the fingers of that hand.

    Labour is losing its core vote because you will not give it anything to enthuse about. You place in front of them some minimal policies with no ideological arguments against the coalition parties. Of course people will move towards a protest vote whether it’s UKIP or the SNP.

    You say:

    But the deep economic challenges and political alienation that many people feel means that as Labour we need to offer answers as well as anger.

    But where are they Douglas? You have done your best to kill off anything radical in Labour’s offer. How can you have the cheek to say Labour should offer answers when you refuse to.

    We know that the response to fragmentation in the electorate is to work harder, listen more and re-earn trust everywhere – treating all voters with equal respect.

    So then let’s have some new-labour-speak BS. “Listen all you activists and apparatchiks it’s all your fault, not Alexander’s. You need to work harder. You need to knock on more doors. You need to argue against UKIP even though the leadership have given you no tools to do this with.”

    So Douglas best if you left the stage now. While you are at it take the rest of the dead hand with you. If Labour doesn’t want to be considered part of the Westminster consensus it better part company with those who do and that includes you, Douglas Alexander and the rest of your Progress and Blairite pals.

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