Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Out of the mouths of babes

We must avoid shopping list politics

Days after the election, as I was fastening my daughter’s school council badge onto her uniform, she looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘At least one of us knows how to win an election, Mummy’. Out of the mouths of babes … I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! But of course it was not the candidates who failed to get a Labour government and Ed Miliband into No 10, as Spencer Livermore chronicles.

The former election supremo is right when he says, ‘What we had to say was far too narrow in its appeal.’ There was good work done by Chuka Ummuna on small business rates and Caroline Flint on energy bills, for instance. But without an overriding narrative, sadly great individual policies became little more than offers on a shopping list. Put simply, voters lacked any confidence in our overall narrative. They did not believe we had a vision for their families, communities and Britain.

While knocking on endless doors in Reading West, one voter said something that I knew many others were thinking but had not yet articulated. She said, ‘Although I care that you will save me £300 a year on my energy bill, if interest rates go up that could be much more on my mortgage. How can I trust you to run the economy well?’ Being a small business-owner and a home-owner I held my own. However, I knew she had already lost trust in Labour. Our election messaging was not convincing her. There was nothing I could say or do.

It was a huge privilege to be a Labour candidate. I was honoured to have support from so many in my community, from party members, neighbouring constituency Labour parties, Young Labour, Labour Students and Progress. I was pleased that people like Spencer joined the team to try and turn things around. The Labour party continues to attract brilliant staff who pay a heavy price for keeping candidates (not me!) in check and local campaigns on course. To each of them I will always be grateful.

But, as I look at our current strategy, I fear it could be my daughter and her generation standing for Labour, when next we win back crucial seats like Reading West.


Victoria Groulef is former parliamentary candidate for Reading West


Photo: yisris

Read too:

Spencer Livermore: Mistakes on repeat

Richard Angell: Paying the price

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Victoria Groulef

is former parliamentary candidate for Reading West and a small business-owner


  • The problem is that the overriding narrative preferred in Reading West was that of the Tories. Unless we can change their minds, then we won’t win.
    But I would rather lose than adopt the sort of narrative they would vote for.

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