It seems that Labour lost the election due to it not being able to connect with the ‘squeezed middle,’ of the marginal seats. The Observer in its editorial last week even declares that there is a devastatingly large gap between Labour and British voters.
It’s as though the party only has to move slightly to the right and this will be enough to win the next election in 2020. What the article and many within the New Labour hierarchy seem to have forgotten is that the problem is a lot more complex and deep rooted. In short its support is badly fractured.
This is a fact conveniently not mentioned in the Observer article that Labour was wiped out in Scotland and still doesn’t seem to be addressed. It was not just a urge for independence in Scotland that attracted voters to the SNP but its anti-austerity policies. In short they felt the SNP listened and represented the views that they have. Labour was seen as taking its support for granted and only realised when it was too late.
To even have any chance of winning the next election it would need a similar amount of seats that they got in England and Wales in the 1997 General Election to have any chance of forming a Government if they were not to win back the Scottish seats.
The problem isn’t just about trying to appeal to the middle ground but to assess its traditional support base. It’s about listening to their voice and concerns. Unfortunately the Labour hierarchy seem to be stuck in their own bubble which explains the sudden shock and surprise that Jeremy Corbyn is actually quite popular. The reason for this is that he has made it quite clear that he is against austerity and wants to try and bring about a fairer society.
Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Liz Kendall have made a poor job of what they actually stand for. Indeed they sound quite stale with no hint of charisma or that they provide the party that they can provide a fresh change.
The fact that the mass hysteria in the media from within Labour at how bad it would be for the party if Jeremy Corbyn say’s a lot about the other candidates. That they have to try and smear rather than arguing about what they can bring to the party highlights the lack of talent. If anything the petulant refusal of some to be in a Corbyn shadow cabinet has probably only increased his support.
As it stands whoever wins the leadership election will find it tough to win the next election. With the support fractured and nobody really knowing what the Labour party stands for it is going to be difficult. The fiasco over the abstention of the welfare bill exemplifies this. If Labour are not going to defend the very people who voted for them then what precisely is the Labour party for?
Nothing what Jeremy Corbyn has said seems to be extreme. Wanting big companies to pay their taxes fairly, workers to be treated and paid fairly, a good education for all, and a health service that doesn’t rely on how much money you have got seems to be the best way of producing a fairer and more caring society.
Even if Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t win the new leader will need to address the concerns of it’s traditional support base. It needs to make clear that it is a party that represents the needs of the majority and not the few. The cuts (and certainly if you are under 25) are hurting a lot of ordinary people. Labour’s job is to at least fight for these people who expect Labour to at least live up to it’s ideals.
Of course it is going to be difficult for whoever does become the leader simply because it’s not as simple as trying to appeal the marginal seats. There is disillusionment within traditional Labour heartlands. It was why some people voted for the Greens or UKIP because they felt Labour either didn’t listen to them or hold the same ideals.
The next five years are going to be difficult to try and win back the support. However trying to outdo the Tories is not really going to help. Indeed Labour may have to to ally themselves with the SNP and other anti-austerity parties whilst trying to bring about voting reform. Trying to be a party with a light austerity touch is not going to work. It’s hardly going to win back the seats in Scotland and only risks losing more it’s traditional support.