Phil Wilson, The Independent
Labour’s problem is twofold. Firstly, the people may favour a different direction for the country, but they don’t believe Labour is the right vehicle to travel the journey.
They doubt the competence of the party to put the car on the road and plan the route, giving the electorate every encouragement to travel with the Conservatives.
Secondly, the time has passed for an odd tweak to the engine or a change of tyres for the Labour Party. Instead, a comprehensive redesign is needed because everything has changed. The electoral faultlines Labour needs to traverse have completely realigned.
The terrain has evolved from the traditional class-based geography once home to Labour. When I was growing up in a mining community in Sedgefield in the northeast of England, the coal industry was still monolithic.
Most of the men in the village worked down one of the local collieries and everyone lived a similar way of life. You voted Labour because the community voted Labour.
Although the last colliery in Sedgefield closed almost half a century ago in 1973, making my dad redundant in the process, those days still linger on in the Labour psyche. Even now, Labour claims to be the political wing of a broader Labour movement, yet only one in 10 working people in the private sector are in a trade union — more a monument than a movement. A Labour party fuelled by nostalgia will make no headway.
Postwar Labour governments may have provided the fundamentals of a decent society — a universal health service, a welfare state and comprehensive education — but the electorate has moved on.
They want more. From time to time Labour can keep up, but more often than not the party falls behind the Conservatives because the party fails to answer adequately the question asked by the electorate: “Which party is best placed to maintain my standard of living?” The question has changed from who can provide the basics to who can preserve “my lifestyle”.
In 1992, the Labour vote in red wall seats was 22 percentage points higher than the national average. By 2019, that Labour advantage had collapsed to only three points, making the red wall description irrelevant.
The communities, work patterns and the aspirations of those living in constituencies like Sedgefield have all changed. As the Deltapoll report for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change said: “Labour’s problems are not so much red wall problems as everywhere problems.” The party’s once bold red core vote has changed to more subtle shading. This offers the party an opportunity to redefine itself. All this depends, however, on how confident the artist is when it comes to putting brush to canvas.
When Labour understands this, the party ends up in government. When it doesn’t, and Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership turbocharged the process, Labour keeps losing. Keir Starmer is well aware of the problem and is wrestling with the conundrum, but remodelling takes time and the Labour brand is well and truly tarnished. The Tories have become the party of high taxes, low growth and ultra-low integrity, but as Starmer said in his conference speech, “the more we expose the inadequacy of this government the more it presses the question back on us: if they are so bad, what does it say about us?”
Boris Johnson was “blindsided” by Labour’s refusal to support an early election, I am told. If so, he was not the only one. At the start of last week, Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Blackford of the Scottish
It seems the man with the Mandela placard is seen as no more trustworthy or principled than Boris Johnson. An Opinium poll published over the weekend found that less than a quarter of the public thinks Corbyn is “trustworthy” — a lower share than Johnson — and 36 per cent find him principled, the same
Power tends to corrupt, said Lord Acton. This two line quote, the second line being “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, is far more well known, a hundred and fifty years later, than anything else Lord Acton ever did. He was a politician, Lord Acton,
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Friday he would stand down as his party faced its worst electoral defeat in 84 years, but he did not set a date for his departure and added he would remain in charge during a period of reflection.
To many of us living in the UAE, Tonga may be hundreds of miles away in the Pacific Ocean, an insignificant part of our lives for its utter remoteness. But a natural disaster, and not an ordinary one, can change things, even attitudes. The world is small, and it has become
On Wednesday 12 January, 23-year-old primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was violently killed while jogging along a canal at 4pm in County Offaly, Ireland. Her murderer has not yet been found. It’s a horrendous start to the year, one that serves as a brutal reminder
After Narendra Modi led it to a sensational victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party grew rapidly in several states by organising defections from the Congress and other opposition parties. Last week it had a taste of its own medicine in the key state