Friday, 24 February 2017

After the storm



I think my general advice after any setback has always been "don't panic", and this is what I would offer to the Labour leadership today.

Last night's results were a contrast. Labour is struggling in the polls, and it therefore cannot surprise anyone that both Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central would provide s stiff challenge. In the end the challenge in Copeland proved too much.

Whilst advising against panic I would suggest that things need to be addressed. Distilled to what I believe is the simplest I think we need to concentrate on one thing, and that is our polling. We cannot hope to be truly competitive in any contest when we trail the Tories by 18%, with our vote languishing at 26%. These numbers make huge numbers of seats at all levels very vulnerable indeed.

Of course, this simple solution is actually quite complicated, but one thing stands out: we have to be united. I have been quite critical of Corbyn during both of his leadership contests, but he is not going anywhere. Besides, any replacement is likely to come from the same wing of the party (unless the left can be excluded from the ballot paper, which I think would be inadvisable). Those of us who are moderates have to find common ground with the left, and there is actually much in common anyway.

Jeremy Corbyn has to be better. I think he has improved since his re-election, but it is still a work in progress. Like it or not, he does come across as being slow to react at times, and looks somewhat detached from ordinary lives. His media team have got to up their game.

It is not all bad. Labour's Stoke result was respectable, and whilst we lost Copeland it was close enough for local activists to have something to work on for next time.

Stoke-on-Trent Central

37.1% Labour
24.7% UKIP
24.4% Conservative
9.8% Liberal Democrat
1.4% Green

At 36.7% one could describe the turnout as poor. The Labour vote share dropped by 2.2%, which is more or less the rise in the UKIP vote .Amongst the other parties I was pleased to see that the OMRLP beat the BNP.

The Tories finishing third behind UKIP (which is a mirror of 2015) should concern them. I do not see UKIP disappearing any time soon. However, UKIP are taking Labour votes, and our leadership needs to address the concerns of those who are deserting us.

Copeland

44.3% Conservative
37.3% Labour
7.3% Liberal Democrat
6.5% UKIP
1.7% Green

This was not really a true marginal, and should have been won by Labour. However, it wasn't, and lessons will have to be learned. At 51.3% the turnout was not awful, especially against the backdrop of Storm Doris. If Labour gets its act together this should be re-taken at the next General Election.

2 comments:

  1. I'd agree with most of what you wrote, Julian. The Labour party's problem is that it has failed to represent the underprivileged, which is its job. Most of its MPs were elected on a manifesto of "Tory-lite" and there is no point in following that course any more. Unfortunately, although it might take a change of leader to improve the party's fortunes, you quite rightly point out that the membership must be seen to get behind their leader, which they are not doing. I think they were quite right to break the 3 line whip over the Brexit bill - but not enough did. If Corbyn had been true to himself and properly attacked the Tories then I think things would have been different in these by-elections.

    You have to ask yourself would any other leader have done any better? The name that keeps coming back to me every time I think about a natural Labour leader is Yvette Cooper. Where is she? She has a wealth of front bench experience that would be really useful to someone with none like Corbyn. He's been a back bencher for his entire career. It's hardly a surprise that he finds party leadership a real challenge. At least he is trying though. It's the experienced former front benchers who I would blame for Labour's current languishing in the polls. They ought to swallow their pride and represent the membership by getting behind Corbyn and helping to shape policy.

    The Tories are wrecking the country and are getting away with it because the most cogent opposition party at the moment is in Scotland. Labour's current turmoil is allowing them to do it.

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  2. We are still feeling the effects of the fallout from the Referendum and leadership contest. I like Hilary Benn, who clearly fell out of favour.

    I do not subscribe to your assertion about 'Tory-lite', but I do see a disconnect between a metropolitan elite (which it could be argued Corbyn belongs to) and the aspirations of the wider urban working class outside of London and the big cities.

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