Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Learning the lessons of past victories

Progress recently gave Labour activists the chance to win a bursary place to attend our forthcoming Political Weekend. Over the next two weeks we are publishing the offerings of a selection of those who successfully won places, answering the question ‘How does Labour win a majority in 2015’?

The challenge that Labour faces to win a majority in 2015 cannot be understated. A Labour victory in 2015 would be the first time ever the party has come back to government after just one term of opposition. For Labour to win we must learn the lessons of the past victories and defeats, but at the same time be forward thinking.

Our party’s most successful period was 1997-2010 with Tony Blair delivering three election victories for Labour. Blair understood that Labour must win over the centre-ground of the British electorate, particularly the aspirational middle classes, who voted Conservative in 1992. The same holds true today, we need to win over individuals who voted Tory in 2010, a so called ‘core vote’ strategy will simply not work.

Many political commentators say the election is going to be fought over the economy and which party is best to run it. This is Labour’s achilles heel; opinion polls are showing a growing lead for Tories when it comes to which party is best suited to handle the economy. The truth is the key economic indicators are improving, but Labour desperately needs to win over the public’s trust on the economy following the 2008 financial crisis. We need to rid ourselves of the image of the party of irresponsible spending, whether justified or not. In my opinion we should pledge to keep to Tory spending levels for at least two years in order to neutralise the Tory attack line that we cannot be trusted with the UK’s finances.

As someone who regularly knocks on doors for the Labour party I get to listen frequently to the concerns of ‘real people’. On the doorstep benefits are frequently mentioned, not least by 2010 Labour voters. As a party we have failed to come up with an alternative plan to reform the benefits system, but have voted against every one of the government’s reforms. We need to come up with bold policies which incentivise people to work, while providing a safety net for the most vulnerable. When it comes to welfare, Labour appears at times to be more worried about earning the scorn of Owen Jones than the concerns of ordinary voters. We should also take the government to task for its failure to implement universal credit and make clear that a lifestyle of living on benefits is not acceptable.

In addition to getting the policy and message right, it is crucial that Labour has a first-class campaign strategy. The Tories are on course to out-fundraise us significantly and deliver an avalanche of attacks. As a party we have to be much better at raising money and not speak of rich people as evil. Many people feel that Ed Miliband is anti-business and cannot support Labour because of this.

So many people in the party believe that because we hold a small lead in opinion polls currently we are on course for a Labour victory in 2015, I simply do not think this is the case. No opposition party has won a general election without being at least 20 points ahead in the polls at some point. In short, for a 2015 victory we need to shift much further to the centre in order to gain the trust of middle-class swing voters.


Simon Evans is Young Labour disabled members officer. He tweets @SimonEvans117


Tickets are still available for Progress Political Weekend, which is taking place on the 15-16 March 2014. Further details are available here



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Simon Evans

1 comment

  • You don’t think we’re in the centre Simon? Not a very fair view of our leadership and general direction, I think.

    “Our party’s most successful period was 1997-2010 with Tony Blair delivering three election victories for Labour.” IDK man. 1945-51 was a pretty good period for us I would say.

    Last of all, the last election was totally unique and blows the 20% point you finish with out of the water. The election that 2015 will be most like will be 2015. Trying to fight for the time we’re in (rather than the time whatever columnist would like us to be in) is key to winning.

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