Election 2019 More thoughts
The reasons for defeat are subject of much discussion and many interesting articles. While most of the seats Labour lost were in Leave voting areas, there is evidence that in many of the seats the loss reflected a long term decline in the Labour vote.
Bishop Auckland sounds like a seat that should be Labour forever
The results since 1997 suggest otherwise
Labour Majority in Bishop Auckland:
This is a stark example of long term decline. The 1997 result was at the peak of New Labour, but the signs of decline came quickly, an indication of problems ahead.
Another leave voting seat that provides an insight – Mansfield
Labour Vote in Mansfield 1997-2019
Election Labour vote % of vote Labour majority Swing
1997 30,556 64.4 20,518. +11
2001 21,050 57.1 11,036 -6.3
2005 18,400 48.1 11,365 -0.1
2010 18,573 38.7 6,012 -9.5
2015 18,603 39.4 5,315 -0.6
2017 22,235 44.5 Conservative 1,057 -6.7
2019 15,178 30.8 Conservative 16,306 -15
So a seat that voted Labour in 2015 now has a huge Conservative majority – the scale of defeat needs perspective.
Locally the boundary changes make strict comparisons more difficult –the results Romford and Hornchurch and Upminster have not been seats in doubt since 2010. Dagenham and Rainham is more interesting and the 293 majority in the 2019 election reflected a downward trend.
The table shows the results since 1983 for the Dagenham constituency, which show that the seat has been marginal through the 1980’s. With the Chadwell Heath ward moving to Romford if the boundary changes do happen, the new seat could well be a notional Conservative seat by 2024. Had the seat existed in 1983 and 1987 the large Conservative majorities in Hornchurch and the loss of two wards to Barking would probably have meant Dagenham and Rainham would have been a Conservative seat and In 1992, too close to call.
Labour vote in Dagenham \ Dagenham and Rainham 1983-2019
Election Labour vote % of vote Labour majority Swing
1983 15,665 39.3 2,997
1987 18,454 44.4 2,469
1992 22,027 52.3 6,733
1994 by election 15,474 72.0 13,344
1997 23,759 65.7 17,054
2001 15,784 57.2 8,693
2005 15,446 50.1 7,605
Dagenham & Rainham
2010 17,813 40.3 2,630
2015 17,830 41.4 4,980 -12.6
2017 22,958 50.1 4,652 -3.4
2019 19,468 44.5 293 -4.8
So bleak, with a downward trend – and within Dagenham, demographic changes and a more diverse population probably dampened the impact.
The 2017 election saw an increase in the national Labour vote that meant these issues were overlooked – but the warnings signs were clear. At Fabian meetings both Paul Embery (see newsletter 36) and Claire Ainsley (newsletter 40) pointed to the Party losing touch with it working class base, and that this was about more than Brexit- the Brexit vote was a symptom of the issue not the cause.
The decline from 1997 was almost inevitable, given that it was a highpoint. The fear for Labour is a repeat of the trend seen in 2001 – voters having put their faith in Labour in 1997 did not switch back (although locally and in parts of Essex this was not the case) – giving an almost identical result. So unless Labour can address the issues, there is a real risk in 2024 of a similar result – and in 2001 Labour made some gains!
There are other worrying trends that show no signs of helping Labour. Scotland shows what can happen if voters lose faith – Labour has 1 MP and needs a 1997 scale landslide to form a government.
There are also trends across Essex and Kent that show it will be a long way back. There were 15 Labour MPs in 1997, 13 in 2001, 10 in 2005 and only Rosie Duffield in Canterbury since.
Election Labour MPs in Essex Labour MPs in Kent
1983 1 0
1987 0 0
1992 1 0
1997 7 8
2001 5 8
2005 3 7
2010 0 0
2015 0 0
2017 0 1
2019 0 1
In the list of 120 or so seats Labour needs to gain form a majority – there are no seats in Essex or Kent.
Thanet South is the first at 131. Thurrock is 142; Mansfield 200 and Romford 242. Hornchurch and Upminster is beyond 250.
Depress yourself by looking at this link
Dagenham and Rainham is the 4th most vulnerable Labour seat.
That sets out the depth of the problem facing Labour.
There are several articles setting out why this happened and what to do next.
It is my view there is no single reason we got here, and the answer is not a factional response. It is depressing to read misrepresentation of others views as that does not help. The Labour Party has always been a broad coalition of the working class and elements of the middle class, and always will be.
The working class of the 1930s is different from the working class today, and of course it now includes many from the BME communities. It is depressing to see cheap shots about use of the phrase “the traditional working class” as implied racism – it is nothing of the sort, it refers to the working class of any race.
Labour can only win by keeping what is left of the existing Labour vote together and broadening its support. This means taking no groups for granted, which is easier to say than to do.
The Party has the harder job of engagement with elements of the potential Labour leaning electorate, which is ever changing as the nature of employment changes, housing tenure types change (greater renting means a changing electorate) and the population becomes more diverse.
Engagement is easier to achieve in the areas where membership is thriving, harder where the active party membership ship is smaller and dependent on a few individuals.
An unintended consequence of the party membership increase is that areas often referred to as the “liberal metropolitan elite’” are best placed to do this, being based in London, the university towns and big cities. This has inadvertently worked against the interest of the northern and midland towns. Lisa Nandy has much to say on this – that these areas mostly voted to leave and were the main source of Labour losses is not a coincidence.
The Party has to become relevant again for these areas to return to Labour. As the position in Scotland has shown, this is not easy to achieve. If voters have turned their back on Labour, they will need good reason to change back again, the long term trust and related loyalty has been lost.
In this context the Brexit vote has soured politics. The campaigns were negative based on dubious premises and as previously argued (newsletter 40) the Leave campaign was focused on getting the result and sorting the details later, while Remain focused on project fear and the negatives while any positive reasons to vote were secondary.
This has left a divided electorate, and the chance to “Get Brexit done” proved tempting to enough leave voters to give the Conservatives a majority. Brexit will not be settled any time soon.
Reasons to be optimistic
History would suggest that it will take several elections before Labour returns to government, and it is by no means certain this will happen.
Here are some reasons to be optimistic. Bear with me.
Claudia Webb was right to be pleased that Labour now has a majority of female MPs for the first time, and that there are significantly more BME and LGBT MPs. That should enable Parliament to better reflect the diversity in society. Labour must ensure that the interests and concerns of all sections of society are heard and not played off against each other.
We can learn from the Tories in 1997. They chose the wrong leader at the wrong time and were unable to dent New Labour until leader number four. The prime role for the next Labour leader is to ensure Labour is credible to be a government again – the next leader but one may be the eventual beneficiary, but it may take longer.
Labour did engage with policies aligned with the climate change emergency – the home insulation proposal would have made a significant difference and remains a policy to promote.
Although subject to some cynicism, the free internet access policy is credible. The Daily Mail recently ran an article bemoaning poor internet speeds and lack of access in rural areas. A government funded universal provision would address this, but the case has to be made and explained not launched in isolation.
Brexit is going to be a bumpy ride. Even the optimistic leaders have expressed concern about the initial period when anything could happen. This is a Tory project and they are going to have responsibilities for whatever happens. The previous government was some way from competent. This should create plenty of opportunities for Labour to advocate alternatives. Being a credible and focused opposition is vital, if energy sapping.
It is crucial that the Party leadership sets out a positive vision. Brexit in some form is now inevitable and there is not going to be a clamour to re-join the EU anytime soon. Let’s not waste political capital on this.
Another difficult issue is the likely clamour for a second Scottish independence referendum, which would mean Scotland leaving the union. Labour are likely to be a bystander to the debate. Forming a government without Scottish MPs is going to be a struggle and there now seems no route back to a majority for Labour in Scotland.
The Party is discussing proportional representation which is only going to be feasible if introduced by a government prepared to lose a potential majority. That takes a lot of courage and will not come from the Conservatives.
British politics is by nature confrontational rather than cooperative and so PR is not popular. However, with much talk of tactical voting to ensure that the party you don’t like are defeated, together with vast swathes of the country unrepresented by parties that significant number of people have voted for, there is a growing level of support. A brave Labour Party leadership will break this cycle and gain much capital for doing so.
The results in Hornchurch and Upminster and Romford were not in doubt from the date the election was called. Both Conservative MPs had big majorities and the withdrawal of the Brexit party meant any lingering doubt about a split vote was removed.
A thankless task for the Labour candidates Angela Leatherbarrow and Tele Lawal.
Romford Conservatives have a well-oiled machine that acts as a model for the national party. They have a hyper active MP who for all his many faults is well known and visible. There is virtually no local issue he won’t appear to support or photo opportunity he will miss. His voting record places him on the right of the Conservative Party on every major issue.
One of his most annoying traits is to claim to speak for the people of Romford as if they all support him. So the task for Romford Labour was a difficult one, knowing a win given the opinion polls was not going to happen and that everyone else knew as well.
His digs at Angelina for not being visible were particularly irritating, and almost certainly aimed at winding up opponents. Unnecessary in the circumstances, and untrue – Angelina had wide support in the party, is known locally and is playing an important part in a democracy of giving the opposition a voice. It is also unworthy of a full time politician to abuse a working mother making sacrifices to ensure the democratic process works as intended. This was not Rosindell’s finest hour, there was no need to be so personal.
Angelina had a good campaign and the daily video’s where local voters gave reasons why they were voting for her were a welcome development in the use of social media and drew some positive feedback. Best wishes to Angelina when the GLA campaign resumes in the new year.
In Hornchurch and Upminster, the Conservatives have a relatively new MP, who had been on maternity prior to the election – congratulations to Julia Lopez.
Tele Lawal brought a different dynamic to the election, with interesting use of social media to advertise her campaign and attract publicity. She did attract some bizarre comments, both on her apparent youth (although Sam Gould drew few such comments standing in Romford in 2015 when of a similar age, so some sexist overtones?) and her dress sense!
This was dealt with as it should have been and Tele was rewarded with coverage in The Stylist magazine.
Tele had a good campaign and brings a younger perspective as well as an energetic approach. This will pay dividends in the long run both for the party locally and for Tele herself, who has a chance to make a big impression on the national stage.
There will come a time when Labour fortunes locally revive, and the work done by all in the local parties will have helped achieved this. Keeping the Labour Party functioning as a viable entity helps this and when a breakthrough comes, the work of all of those door knocking, leafleting, phone banking and lending support in other ways will have contributed. Those local campaigners who braved the weather in what was always going to be an unsuccessful campaign are to be congratulated, and remembered when the breakthrough comes.
The campaign in Dagenham and Rainham was ultimately successful and was covered in labour list inset link.
Defying the Right – how Labour in East London fought back
We regroup, the GLA elections are in May