Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

We need to up our game

Especially given we were fighting county councils which were natural Tory or Lib Dem territory, Labour had some good results last Thursday: new mayors in Doncaster and North Tyneside, taking control of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire councils, and even winning a county council seat in Witney – Cameron’s backyard. Our progress in the south was encouraging in places like Cambridge and Norwich where we need to win MPs in 2015.

The results showed we’ve come a long way under the leadership of Ed Miliband since 2010, but they also showed we have a way to go. If a general election was held tomorrow, Labour wouldn’t win a majority. This was always going to be a big ask – under any leader – after our terrible result in 2010.

But Ed has made great strides over the last two years, we have re-energised our activists, rebuilt our base, reached out to disaffected Lib Dems – all crucial steps to victory in 2015.

We’re halfway there, both in terms of time lapsed and progress made. I’m confident we’ve done enough to stop the Tories winning outright, and produce another hung parliament. But the truth is if we want a majority in 2015, we need to be performing better than we are now.

The old Tory-Labour duopoly has been broken. UKIP will remain a force at the next general election, with momentum from next year’s European elections.  The right will remain split, at the Tories’ expense.  The Lib Dems will do badly in the national share of the vote but probably hold onto all or most of the seats where they are well dug in and contesting with the Tories; where they are fighting us they will lose.  Labour is well placed in this new four-party arena.

While we shouldn’t dismiss people’s concerns about Europe and immigration, this is not what will decide the next election. Nigel Farage will not be prime minister. Labour’s focus for the next two years should be squarely on the economy and living standards.

We cannot afford to be equivocal about our economic policy. We need to be more upfront with the public about our intentions. Yes, we will borrow more in the short term in order to generate the growth that will reduce borrowing in the medium term. It makes sense to do so with interest rates so low. We will borrow to invest in new homes, in major infrastructure projects, refurbishing schools, creating employment. Schemes that will stimulate the economy. But we will nevertheless run a tight fiscal regime.

The Tories are trying to cut their way out of the recession.  We need to be clear we would grow our way out of it, a less painful and ultimately more successful approach. We need to make this case with confidence and defend it robustly.

I’m confident Labour can win the economic argument if Ed has the support of a loyal team around him, it’s important that all members of the shadow cabinet play their full role in explaining and defending Labour’s policy and approach. Labour’s Treasury team need to get out on the stump now and work even harder. It shouldn’t just be left to Ed and Harriet to carry the heavy load, whether on the World at One, the Today Programme or anywhere else.

Victory in 2015 is in our grasp, and we’ve made great strides toward it under Ed’s leadership so far.  But ‘one more heave’ won’t deliver a majority. We need to up our game.


Peter Hain is former secretary of state for Wales. He tweets @PeterHain



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Peter Hain


  • The piece kind of implies you have a strategy, more immigration so Respect get more seats perhaps?
    More dodgy postal ballots?

  • Peter

    I am pleased that you have opened up the debate on Labours objective on cutting through to the main stream. You may not agree or like what I am going to impart but I am going to say it anyway.

    You state in your article that Europe and Immigration will not decide the next general election. The continued apathy with politicians and with the political process from the grassroots is killing of any chance of re -election. Your article again epitomises how out of touch with reality those at the top are. It is clear that UKIP have made a breakthrough in British politics and it would be foolish, even political suicide to dismiss such a result.

    The key theme behind your argument is that two people in the party are carrying the heavy load. I would agree that other members of the cabinet are not doing enough, either purposely or they are out of their depth. Many new additions are not good enough, many older residents are hanging on to a pipe dream of New Labour. Ed Miliband needs to show his strength, his courage by being bold and holding an immediate reshuffle of his cabinet. This would indicate and send the strongest possible message to the electorate and grassroot activists (not leafleterss and campaigners) that he means business and that he is endorsing change.

    Blairites should go gracefully. Thay have been a good act but it is time to get off the stage. At the same time it is no good having the likes of Rachel Reeves, Chukka Ummuna, Stephen Twigg and other young inexperienced in life MPs taking their place. They have no charisma, character or connection to the voters or grassroots. Saying that, Ed has some hard choices to make. Refusal to do so will end in severe embarrassment.

    You mention Doncaster in your article. The Mayor election was a fantastic result with a very competent and confident individual now at the helm. However if you look further beneath the surface the turnout was 28% ….63000 voters out of approximately 230,000. Labour won by 639 votes after a second preference count. Labour acheived 24000 votes, approximately 10% of the Doncaster electorate in a Labour heartland, in an area that has 3 prominent Labour politicians. Labour threw the kitchen sink at this area…. money, activists, campaign organisers, MPs. They hardly made a dent. Many labour activists worked hard and ground out a result. Now there is problem out there….a big problem.

    And Labour needs to up its game. Cela sans van dire

  • It is hard to blame Balls. He has been proven right over economic policy. Miliband, however, is still hiding.

  • Why is a luddite party like labour posturing under a progressive agenda? Labour always seems regressive to me….strikes spend control spin…not very progressive

  • I can’t help feeling that the paragraph about economic policy is the wrong way round.

    The proper question is about jobs. Where are the people who don’t have jobs located? What can we do to get them jobs? What do they have to do to be fit for the jobs that can be created? What do we have to do to eliminate the benefits traps that may stop them wanting, or taking, a job?

    Only then do you look at the things the paragraph has in mind and see whether they fit in to what is needed.

    It’s people that matter. “Growth” is the by-product. I think that’s what Farage understands, but I don’t think Labour has got it yet.

  • The results showed we’ve come a long way under the leadership of Ed Miliband…

    no you haven’t.

  • Peter Hain is such a brown-nose, he would never create an article like this on his own. Almost certainly this was written by Red Ed.

  • If a general election were held tomorrow, there would be a clear Labour majority – see Whether Labour’s current poll lead can be sustained until 2015 is the issue, surely?

  • He is not from SA, he is from Kenya. He did spend time there at Pretoria Boys High getting rogered by a terrorist called Harris who was one of his schoolmasters.

  • Hain is out of his depth. Presumably “grow our way out of recession” is code for “spend our way out of recession”. Just as Balls/Brown used the phrase “investment” when they just meant “spending”.

    Same old/new Labour…borrow and spend is the solution to everything.

  • Any return from extra spending on public sector projects will be low and long term with many years before even the capital is returned never mind profit (i.e. debt will increase with time).

    To reduce debt requires the kind of growth rates that only the private sector can achieve i.e. to knock down debt requires and extra borrowing to be concentrated on building up the private sector in high growth areas where there will be a rapid return. Public projects are the opposite of this and the slow and low returns mean UK public sector debt having to grow much larger for decades.

  • Wow I see the UKIP trolls are busy. Be it New Labour, Blue Labour, Real Labour, One Nation Labour, or whichever Labour, a Labour government is far better, more progressive, and more compassionate than a Tory or a Tory-Lib Dem government will ever be. (UKIP have no chance of forming a government by the way)

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