We motivated our activists, not the country




We have become a party that looks and thinks too much like me and too little like the country. We have become a party of the liberal metropolitan elite that the country blames and despises for its woes. It is not wholly wrong. We tried to sell them our vision of why they feel insecure. We didn’t listen to what they were telling us – on welfare, on immigration, on public spending. Until we accept that we cannot even start to rebuild.

We fought a campaign that motivated our activists but has not touched the voters. We have not convinced anyone but ourselves of the evils of the Bedroom Tax, of the danger to the NHS or the need to build houses and change the energy market. We spoke to ourselves. We cheered ourselves just as the closeness of the polls cheered us. We were wrong. I was wrong. We fell headfirst into our comfort zone and we wallowed in it.

We have paid electorally, but too few of us will feel that pain personally. Not enough of us are on the sharp end of society and so we imagine solutions – we don’t feel the deep need for them in our own lives. In the lives of our families. The Bedroom Tax will now be embedded. Social Housing decimated. The NHS changed beyond all recognition. Welfare trashed. This will be felt by the people we have failed.

What will we do next? How will we learn the lessons that must be learned? Can we even agree on what these lessons are? That we tried and failed to win from the left is obvious. That we tried and failed to win despite the vitriol of the Tory press is obvious. Murdoch has won. There will be no Leveson now.

What are the core values we can’t move on from? Where are the areas where we compromise with the electorate? With so much of our Party looking and thinking like me can we even ask these questions and hear, understand and accept the answers?

Ed Miliband was part of the problem. Because he looks and thinks too much like me. But the problem will not be solved simply by putting a new leader in front of the same old party. Change has to come at every level. From the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top. Most importantly from the inside out and from the outside in.

Labour has 5 million conversations since the start of the year. But what were we saying? More importantly, what were we hearing? Were we really listening? Or just selectively hearing what we wanted to hear? The ground game we have been so proud of – and so reliant on – has failed us in too many seats. We need to know why.

Labour ran a better campaign than was expected by all estimations. It did nothing for us. Short campaigns don’t win elections when we have failed to capitalise on the five years in between. We have neither properly made the case for a more socially just country nor that we would be able to deliver such a thing.

The Labour Party is set for a terrible time. I have said before that I will be a member of the Labour Party – the Party I love – until the day I die. At the same time I also said that I can envisage a time when that Party is no more. That could happen as the cracks we have spent five years papering over fissure and become ever more exposed. To hold it together, we will have to challenge and test our beliefs and assumptions – even our values. Are we ready? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

More from LabourList


We provide our content free, but providing daily Labour news, comment and analysis costs money. Small monthly donations from readers like you keep us going. To those already donating: thank you.

If you can afford it, can you join our supporters giving £10 a month?

And if you’re not already reading the best daily round-up of Labour news, analysis and comment…