As New Year approaches, it’s time to learn from history

Labour losses were in train before Brexit or Corbynism existed, explains Alex Mayer.

Losing is rubbish. To all the activists and former MPs in the Midlands and North, we feel your pain.

In the East of England we are sadly quite used to losing. This time we in Labour only lost two seats, but this is no cause for celebration: it is simply because we have lost them all already. The Labour Party has not, for example, won a single seat in Essex in a General Election for over a decade.

If Labour is to win power again, we need to win right across the country. This is why in the period of reflection and subsequent leadership campaign, we need not only to think about the places we have most recently lost but also all the ones we have lost over the years.

Seats we lost in 2010 in the East of England now have solid Tory majorities like Harlow in Essex (14,063) and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk (17,663). Go back even further to Castle Point which we lost in 2001 and it has a Tory majority of 26,634!

However all of the current narratives of Labour defeat blame either our EU policy or our leader but if Labour is to form a government, we need to win back seats which we lost before anyone had heard of ‘Brexit’ or ‘Corbynism’.

Before people start blaming losing ‘loopy Left’ 2019 policies, they should think about the losing sober centre-Left 2010 policies too.

When Jeremy Corbyn says some of his policies are popular, he is correct. Polling shows around two-thirds of the population support renationalising the railways and so Labour’s 2019 manifesto to deliver improvements for rail passengers ‘by bringing our railways back into public ownership’ was an improvement on the 2010 offer — which was ‘to welcome rail franchise bids from not-for-profit, mutual or co-operative franchise enterprises’.

Neither should the Left fall into a Tory-inspired divide-and-rule trap of judging everything by its Leave-ness and Remain-ness. We did not lose Great Yarmouth and Harlow in 2010 because they were ‘Leave’ towns.

Directly after the referendum I wrote: ‘Of the conversations I’ve had about the referendum, few were really about Europe.

‘There are swathes of the population who feel angry. Some are angry that rents are going up or that they can’t get their child into the local school. A woman in Stevenage told me she was voting Leave because she was having to fight so hard to keep her mobility scooter. Others are angry about the rapid change in the country and the world, that has come about without their consent.’

The vote to Leave was a symptom of underlying problems which future Labour policy, for example, needs to address. Just blaming our Brexit policy of 2019 is not the solution.

A focus on the Midlands and North or on so-called ‘red wall’ seats is not enough.

Let Labour not make it four failed leaders and five failed manifestos. We need a Labour Party that speaks to new towns, market towns and coastal communities nationwide. We need a Labour Party that can win.

Alex Mayer is a former Labour MEP for the East of England. Follow her on Twitter.

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10 Responses to “As New Year approaches, it’s time to learn from history”

  1. Julia Gibb

    So we once again airbrush out of existence the decline of Labour in Scotland over two decades. We can pretend that didn’t happen? Just bad luck? No connection to current problems!

    From 50 MPs to 1

    The famous Jimmy Reid quote is often borrowed now “I never left Labour, they left me!”

    At least Scotland didn’t turn to the Tories!

  2. Michael McManus

    Julia – you keep on about how smart Scotland’s voters are. I spoke to some of my Scots relatives over Christmas and all I learned was that they hate the English and the Tories because Thatch tried out the poll tax on them. That’s it? I don’t know how smart you have to be to vote SNP with it’s nationalist hatreds and its delusion that it can manage without subsidies from the English or the Germans or pay for the massive explosion of bureaucracy and diplomats and other busybodies that independence would bring. You’ll need an entire department writing to the diaspora and begging them to come back and rebuild the fatherland – just like Poland does. Your last indyref depended on oil being 150 a barrel when it was already falling below 70. Rumour has it the krankies think they’ll get rich establishing a tax-fraud haven having not noticed that their days are numbered because of international action that Tories support.
    Good luck.

  3. Michael McManus

    Alex – you are doubtless correct but as the man said all we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history. The reason is we weren’t there – being all born in infancy.
    Personally, I thought the coop/mutual model for our utilities and natural monopolies was a better idea than nationalisation: more effective in involving the entire workforce rather than time-serving civil servants and hammer-headed union leaders. Neither of those groups has ever thrown up anyone with a name worthy of respect and quite a few who should be in jail.

  4. Blissex

    Hahahah! Very funny! The 2010 defeat was blamed by the Mandelsonian Tendency entrysts on GORDON BROWN’s “loopy left” policies and attitudes, just as the 2015 defeat was blamed by them on Ed Miliband’s “loopy left” and “antisemitic” policies and attitudes. Nothing short of pure thatcherism would appease them.

    «Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, confirmed that she was considering a run for the leadership and warned the party was in need of fundamental reform. She said: “I think we lost because people didn’t trust us on the economy. People didn’t think we understood their lives, shared their values and aspirations. For people who aren’t on the minimum wage or on zero hours contracts, or [who] own their own homes, we were saying far too little.”»

    «Gordon is interested in the middle classes only if he thinks they are “squeezed” — and therefore joining the ranks of the poor who have concerned him most for all his life. These voters want to feel loved when they are comfortable too. And as they see their taxes rise, as they battle with a schools system that puts equality above excellence»

    «When Mr Blair spoke of the many, not the few he meant the middle classes; when Mr Brown used the same phrase he was referring to the poor.’»

    «A No10 aide admits that Brown does not have the natural empathy with the middle classes that Blair did. “The moment Tony sent his son to the Oratory those voters thought – ‘he gets it’,” he says.»

  5. Blissex

    «airbrush out of existence the decline of Labour in Scotland over two decades.»

    There was a long decline, but the great crash in votes and seats happened rather quickly, when a non-tory party appeared and was credible. Scottish Labour was most impeccably Mandelsonian Tendency aligned, and should have gotten therefore the vast majority of votes, since according to them most voters are actually “moderate” tories, yet the Conservatives too have almost vanished from Scotland too, and the first recognizably non-tory party since 1997 won massively.

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