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.


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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