Following their devastating General Election defeat the Labour Party have not wasted time licking their wounds or reflecting on just what went so wrong for them. Ed Miliband didn’t give them the opportunity to be fair; he scuttled out of town to Ibiza faster than Usain Bolt, and left them to it.
Today sees four contenders for the Labour leadership and what a mountain there is to climb for the eventual winner.
In the last 36 years, the Labour Party have had six leaders and only one of them won a general election, indeed Tony Blair won three in a row. Put simply, in recent times they’re just not very good at winning general elections.
So will it be any different in 2020? The short answer is probably not. It is highly unlikely Labour could form a majority government and win an outright election in 2020. The 2010 and 2015 election campaigns attempted to move away from the winning Blair years and there is no indication that the party faithful, core vote and trade unions want to depart from a losing formula. It seems the vast chunk of the Labour Party in Parliament and in the country prefer principled opposition to being a party of government.
Of the three leadership contenders, only Liz Kendall looks like she wants to replicate the Blair winning formula. Blair understood that the socialist economic model would never work or command the support of the British electorate. It seems many in the Labour Party think they lost the 2015 election because they were not socialist enough especially as the SNP in Scotland, with their socialist agenda, swept all before them. One of these thinkers, Jeremy Corbyn MP is in the running to become leader!
But can Liz Kendal really win the leadership contest and then a general election in 2020? The jury is still out but the same thing was said of Margaret Thatcher in 1975 and four short years later she was Prime Minister. Time will tell – but I suspect the Labour Party’s loathing of Tony Blair will ensure that Liz Kendall is not successful.
Yvette Cooper is able and likeable but to me always seems a little contrived. She’s a polished performer but someone who suffers from that disease that afflicts all politicians these days, sound bites over ever actually answering a question. The public don’t seem to like her (or her husband) unfortunately.
Andy Burnham is similar, likeable, polished but lacking that something. Ed Miliband but without the geekiness perhaps?
Should this contest be about personality or policy? I think it needs to be a bit of both – Tony Blair convinced the electorate that despite his lack of experience he could be trusted on the economy and other areas of public policy and turn Labour away from their socialism of the 1970s and 1980s. Blair, made Labour electable again.
Overall the contest has so far been underwhelming. This factor is not helped by the debate in parallel about re-electing the new leader after a few years to prove they have the confidence of the party. This idea is either born from the Brown, Miliband experiences or it's being engineered by a group of MPs who are biding their time before calling International Rescue.
The next leader will need to undo the damage
In 2015, Labour decided that immigration was not a problem. They tinkered around the policy edges and proclaimed they were listening to people on the doorstep and "got immigration’ but in the end the central plank of their immigration policy was more immigration.
The Labour Party seemed unconcerned about changes to the social and cultural landscape in Britain that many of our established Asian immigrant communities and EU migrant communities are effecting – instead they went on the attack or gave the impression people’s feelings on the matter were exaggerated. It cost them dearly. In their heartlands UKIP plundered much of their traditional voter base, it caused them to lose many marginal seats and reduced many of their massive safe seat majorities.
Labour caused untold damage by relentlessly pursuing successful individuals, big business and bankers and even small and medium sized businesses with their array of sanctions, taxes and stigmatisation. They failed to realise that whilst the capitalist economic system is imperfect and not always the solution to every problem – it’s far better than any socialist economic model that has ever been tried and tested.
Then we had the fatal blow. Refusal of a referendum looked like Labour did not trust the people enough to even advocate them having a say on our future membership of the EU. Ed Miliband had barely ordered a Pina Colada at the beach bar before this policy was reversed.
Labour simply failed to reach out to enough voters and to address the concerns of those voters in order to win the election. It seems that over the next five years they are unlikely to change course, in fact, they are likely to move further to the left.
I for one, hope that they do change course. I think it is vital that we have a strong opposition in our country and that we have a strong Labour Party. A Labour Party that has contributed so much to our national and international success over the years but alas we may get a Labour Party that seems hell bent on making the mistakes of the past and being out of power for another generation.
Find out more about the candidates here