Five things you need to know about the 2015 election – and five about 2020
Five things you should know about how bad the 2015 result was:
- In the run-up to polling day Labour was targeting 88 seats held by the Tories. We lost eight to Cameron’s party, won back just 10 – a net gain of two – and only decreased their majority in another 10. In 68 constituencies their actually majority went up.
- The party ended the short campaign 39 percentage points behind the Conservatives on economic credibility. Our lead on our best issue – the NHS – was just 19 points.
- For a manifestation of what this means for Labour look no further than the C1 and C2 voters. These are the electricians, salespeople, shop floor supervisors and plumbers of Britain, but in May they were not driven away from the Labour party because our manifesto was not leftwing enough. A massive 41 per cent of C1, and 32 per cent of C2 voters went Conservative. Only 29 and 32 per cent respectively voted Labour.
- The ‘lazy Labour’ explanation – that Labour lost because three million Labour supporters stayed at home – is implausible. This would have pushed up turnout to 82 per cent. These levels were last achieved since 1951, when Clement Attlee’s government was boot from office.
- South of Mitcham and Morden, the seat I am proud to represent, Labour made just one gain from the Tories, in Hove. We held Southampton Test and Exeter and lost two – Southampton Itchen and Plymouth Moor View – to the Tories. Sadly we did not pick up any of the 11 seats we were targeting from the Conservatives in the eastern region of England.
Five ways 2015 impacts on our 2020 chances:
- According to Fabian Society research, four out 1 of five of the additional voters Labour will need to convince in marginal seats in 2020 voted Conservative in 2015. In May this year the figure had been just one out of five due to the Liberal Democrat meltdown.
- The rest come will from the Scottish National party, and a smattering of other small parties. It should be remembered that only a quarter of the seats we lost to the SNP have majorities of less than 10,000.
- The electoral swing required in marginal seats to win a majority will be over twice that which Labour needed for victory in 2015. In 2015, the 106th target seat needed a swing of 4.6 per cent; in 2020 the 106th target seat will require a swing of 9.5 per cent. That is assuming a similar rate of progress in England,Wales and Scotland; no gains in Scotland means Labour will need to perform as well as in 1997 in England and Wales to win a majority.
- To win a majority, Labour will now need to win Tory seats that have never been Labour such as Canterbury and Chingford and Woodford Green, currently held by Iain Duncan Smith.
- The Liberal Democrat and Green party together 5 won a 12 per cent share of the vote. This is even lower in the marginal seats Labour now needs to win.That means that in most of the seats Labour needs to win, Liberal Democrats and Green voters will be too few in number to have a major impact on seat results.
As Labour members of parliament who lost seats to the Tories know all too well, the defeat in May was more akin to the events of 1979 or 1983 than any other. Comparisons with the surprising defeat of 1992 are futile. In 1992, though falling short of a majority, Labour gained 42 seats – 40 from the Tories. This compares to the 60 seats lost to the Conservatives in 1983, and 50 lost to them in 1979. Although the result in Scotland was shocking, the ground lost to the Tories in the rest of the country must be our focus.
Labour got 9.3 million votes in 2015; the Tories received 11.3 million. The ‘lazy Labour’ theory has been offered by pollsters – among others – to explain why they predicted the result so wrong. Can non-voters deliver an election? Unlikely. After a lot of hard work by party members and a highly intensive ‘get out the vote’ operation run in 2015, turnout was 66 per cent. Not only is this higher than 2010’s 61 per cent, it is the highest turnout recorded since Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.
A Labour majority can be won in 2020 but not by offering a retail list of policies and not by ‘uniting the left’. With retail politics your opponent will always be able to offer a bit more, especially when they are the incumbent government. A comprehensive vision, resonating across regions, social divides and generations, is the only way the Labour party will make itself relevant and be taken seriously by the electorate again.
Not only is a 35 per cent strategy arithmetically deluded, it is morally questionable. We are Labour because we want to unite, not divide, people, and therefore the politics of ‘or’ are nothing to be proud of. Rather than pitting those who have more against those who do not, we should represent those who are affluent and those who are poor, north and south. Social mobility and economic credibility are the start of an inclusive, not exclusive, vision that all can buy into.
Siobhain McDonagh is member of parliament for Mitcham and Morden
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