Labour: As the Dust Settles

Will Matthias, a Labour Party member, reflects on his party’s dismal showing last Thursday and asks: where now?

The Aftermath: Labour
By Will Matthias
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Ed Miliband holds his hands up and accepts full responsibility for Labour’s cataclysmic result as he resigns as party leader. (Photo: Yahoo News)

70 years ago this country celebrated. 70 years ago we stood on the streets, cheering in the face of our enemies; the end of just over 6 years of poverty destruction and crippling social inequality. On Friday 8th May we entered 5 years of much the same; this is a war for my party and one we will not win easily.

With 331 seats, the Conservative majority government we now stand beneath took hold of our country. Though it could only go one of two ways, the deflation I felt watching the news in Starbucks within my college was resonated across the cafe. We watched with disheartened looks as David Cameron was driven to Buckingham Palace, smug smile and all. Hoping for some small respite, I turned to social media, where I found only the angry and upset tweets of my Labour colleagues and friends.


Slowly, the seat count grew for the inevitable victors and as their majority increased, the opposition leaders dropped like flies. I’d be lying if I said that watching Clegg and Farage resign didn’t bring a smile to my face, but watching Ed Miliband, the man who had inspired me to fight for social equality in this country, who had spoken so passionately in Birmingham earlier this year, resign was a knife to the stomach.

Needless to say I am not pleased with this result, and the Labour community is in both shock and mourning. Ed’s manifesto stone tablet has become something of a tombstone for us. Looking back over the campaign however, certain flaws in our strategy and policies can be outlined that, for me at least, go some way to explaining this catastrophic loss. The beginning of the end for Labour lies in the north, however, Scotland with its rolling hills made short work of spurning red and replacing it with deep yellow. Labour’s first mistake was last year when we supported the “No” campaign in the Scottish referendum. Many in our former stronghold were offended by our reluctance to lose them; we came across as a politically motivated supporter of centralised, Westminster government. Keeping Scotland in the UK was vital for Labour’s survival as a potential party of government as we are so dependent upon their votes. But in attempting to keep Scotland with us, we alienated the people we had previously relied upon. The SNP has taken Scotland from Labour and it is likely they will leave the UK within the next 10 years.


Alex Salmond’s Scottish lion may be roaring (an odd analogy given the lion’s association with England), but the Labour leadership have been greatly criticised for this campaign as a whole. In his email to members on Friday, Ed Miliband said the following:

“I take full responsibility for the result of the election, and that’s why it’s absolutely right that I step down as Labour’s leader today.”

Though Tory propaganda would have you believe that Ed is the sole cause of all of Britain’s problems, including the obscure deaths of cats it’s unfair to pin the blame entirely on Ed. Though his left wing policies have alienated a large portion of the core electorate, the looming presence of the SNP has deprived Labour of many seats it could previously count on. In addition to this, the 5 years of our former coalition government saw steady growth in the UK economy; on paper this seems like a marvellous achievement and this will have convinced many voters with no party affiliation to vote in favour of stability.

 
We’ve seen great change in British politics in recent years, most significantly, the rise of Ukip, and Labour have good reason to be terrified of these formerly known “closet racists”. Affectionately referred to within the party as the “disillusioned working class,” many voters who would be traditionally Labour have fallen for the quick witted charm of the newly resurrected leader of Ukip Nigel Farage. Racking up a whopping 4 million votes last Thursday, the party of Euro-scepticism may not have acquired more than a single seat, but they are certainly, partially at least, to blame for Labour’s political demise in this general election.
 
The Rt Hon. Dr Tristram Hunt MP,
a potential candidate for the Labour
leadership. (Photo: The Times)
In the wake of this devastating shock my party and I are looking forward. Though our stand-in leader Harriet Harman announced a shadow cabinet reshuffle yesterday, the real focus for the community is the leadership contest. Having met two of the potential leaders of the party, I have an opinion on who I’d like to see leading us in the 2020 election: Tristram Hunt. Despite his dreadfully rich and powerful heritage, Dr Hunt is a dedicated man with a passion for the politics he truly believes in. We saw in 1997 that the public react well to a young, reasonably attractive man pushing neo-liberal policies and following the defeat of the slightly less attractive socialist that was Ed Miliband, this change of stance would be beneficial for the party as a whole. Though the same argument could be made for Chuka Umunna, I personally feel that Tristram’s contribution as Shadow Education Secretary and position in the Labour stronghold Stoke-on-Trent would allow him to effectively make educated decisions that would benefit not only the Labour Party, but the British public as a whole.
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