The 2015 election is a bruising, brutal result which those of us who share the Labour analysis of the world. That working together is the best way to rebalance power from those that have too much to those who have too little. We’ve lost to two nationalist parties who have little else in common, badly so in England and catastrophically in Scotland.
The latter I was prepared for. The polls had been clear for some months and we hadn’t managed to turn them around. While the sheer scale of movement in our canvas returns and high quantity of don’t knows in both the doorstep conversations and opinion polls gave some hope it was always likely to be a very bad night in Scotland.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the result in England. I believed in Ed Miliband, in his analysis of the problems facing the UK and in the solutions we were proposing. I was a bit worried we hadn’t knitted a strong set of individual policies into a coherent whole that could be explained easily. I don’t know if that’s what undermined us so badly, it’s too early to tell really.
What I think is clear now is that a reflexive reversion to the tactics of the late 1990s and early 2000s would be a mistake. Yes, we need to be the party of the many, not the few. We need to be the the party that enables people to achieve their aspirations. Above all we need to be the party that wins elections and does so convincingly. If I wanted to feel good about myself while achieving little other options are available.
That means recognising that things have changed immensely in the last 20 years. We’re living in a very different political and economic age than then and we need different answers. We can’t just aim to distribute the proceeds of an ever growing pie in a more equitable manner. The 21st century questions around the changing nature of work, family life, care and the impending environmental catastrophe are very different to what we faced in 1997.
The tactics need to change, but the strategy shouldn’t. We need to identify real solutions to the problems we face and communicate those in a way which convinces people. That’s the key part of the New Labour program that the SNP and UKIP have been doing better than us. It’s also the only part we should take wholesale. Everything else must change with the times.