Douglas Alexander, in an interview with Progress, warns Labour that the real task is not just to capitalise on the Lib Dems' travails, but to beat the Tories.
Douglas Alexander has cautioned Labour against rejoicing too much in the demise of the Liberal Democrats – warning that the Conservatives will be the biggest beneficiary of a collapse in the Lib Dem vote at the next election, and that Labour must ensure it “has a better story to tell about Britain’s future” than the Tories when that election comes.
In an interview with Progress, the shadow foreign secretary also said Labour’s disastrous performance in Scotland last week was because “large numbers of middle class voters chose the SNP and rejected Labour”.
Alexander told Progress:
“While people may enjoy baiting Liberals, the urgent task is to beat the Conservatives.
“I think Labour activists should see winning support from Liberals as the hors d’œuvre not the main course because the mortal threat to the prospects of a Labour government being elected at the next general election, is not – with respect – Nick Clegg, it is David Cameron and George Osborne.”
Labour’s challenge is not just to win back lost supporters and Liberal Democrat voters, says Alexander, but also former Conservative voters; the party must be:
“…determined to contest and win the centre ground of British politics. It means a Labour party determined to win seats like Worcester, Lincoln, Waveney and Chatham. It means a Labour party that is not content with the spoils of Liberal defeat but focused on Conservative defeat.”
Recovering from Labour’s worst defeat in decades was “never going to be completed in the first year of the parliament”, he adds, calling for:
“…an urgency to reviewing our policy, renewing our party, strengthening our organisation, strengthening our finances and being clear in our critique of what this coalition is getting right and what it is getting wrong.”
He said Labour had only won elections “when it has better understood the future, like in 1945, 1964 and 1997”, and that the SNP’s victory in Scotland was built “not so much upon a record in government as a story about the future”, warning:
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“If we limit ourselves to an analysis of the present rather an account of the future, it is not just limiting in terms of policy, it is limiting in terms of electoral and political appeal…
“We need to give people confidence that we get it as surely as we give people confidence that we have a vision of the country’s future. The questions that people were asking on the doorstep were on the detail of policy but as a sense we shared their aspirations for their families, community and country.”