Updated: Jul 27, 2020
By Jack Street
A report into the reasons behind the Labour Party’s devastating defeat in the 2019 election has been released and it highlights the monumental battle Labour faces to get back into power.
Three key reasons seem to be behind Labour’s struggle to gain the trust of voters: Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and a manifesto that was seen as undeliverable.
Whilst the report outlines just how many issues there are for Labour to deal with, it also outlines problems that, over the next four years, can be solved. The party was overwhelmingly popular with those aged 18-34 and slightly more popular than the Conservatives with those aged 35-44. This provides a promising platform for the future and demonstrates that their policies clearly chimed with younger voters--this cannot be forgotten by the current Labour administration when developing the next manifesto.
The Brexit policy of a second referendum on any deal that was negotiated was obviously not good enough and did not connect with voters. Labour lost the support of 1.8 million leave voters and 950,000 votes from people that did not participate in the referendum. Whilst the Conservatives focused on this area almost entirely, Labour floundered and came across as being unclear when challenged on their Brexit position.
Moving forward, any position that the Labour party holds on Brexit must be based on the UK leaving, whilst maintaining a close relationship with the EU and avoiding a no-deal exit. The party must publish its own plan on what Labour-led trade talks would look like and put pressure on the Government to deliver something that does not mean we are worse off (however impossible that could be). The biggest threats to the Tories in the next election will be how they have handled the Coronavirus crisis and how they negotiate our departure from the EU. This provides a monumental opportunity for Labour that cannot be missed.
Corbyn was seen by many traditional and key voters as entirely unelectable. Keir Starmer has already done a good job of this, a more statesman-like leader on the face of it with a far less brash manner that makes him palatable to other sections of the electorate (even my Nana thinks he’s alright). However, as some have suggested, a new leader is far from enough to guarantee success at the next election.
The issue of anti-semitism must also be put to bed in the party. The Labour party cannot tolerate any kind of racism and there must be a clear policy on dealing with Anti-semitism and a safe environment for Jewish members must be re-established.
The manifesto was also highlighted as a problem for the party in the election. I personally believe this comes down to two key issues: Firstly, there was too much to sell. In today’s age, you need a few key policy points that you hammer home continuously. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a backlog of other great policies but you need a key message and flagship policies that will resonate with voters. Labour didn’t have this and they certainly did not do a good job of selling their ideas. It wasn’t that the ideas themselves were unpopular--it was that they were seen as constituting an overall package that was undeliverable. This is a problem of communication and leadership. You must have messages that are easy to sell and understood by all candidates that are selling them. The Labour platform was confusing and candidates did a poor job of towing whatever line they were being told.
There’s a lot of work for the Labour party to do if they want to get back into power. Some of that has been started by choosing a leader like Keir Starmer who is going to be seen as more electable, but there are still a lot of problems on the road ahead. Communications must improve and the deep-rooted divisions in the party must be solved before the country will trust Labour again.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.