Left Watch

« Labour is "in serious danger of losing economic credibility" warns Tom Bradby, ITN's Political Editor | Main | Six-figure RMT boss Crow lives in "home meant for the poor" »

Peter Hain summarises how Labour headed towards an electoral nadir in 2011, thirteen years after its historic 1997 victory

By Jonathan Isaby

HAIN Peter The Labour Party yesterday published a consultation document, Refounding Labour, raising many questions about the party's future structure, organisation, and policy-making processes, amongst many other things.

It was written by Peter Hain, shadow Welsh Secretary and chair of Labour's National Policy Forum, at the invitation of Ed Miliband, and he includes the following stark summary of how the party fared electorally during its period in office:

"Between 1997 and 2010 Labour lost nearly five million voters and that our problems began to surface in the first term. Although the 2001 landslide was another historic result we’d lost nearly three million Labour voters from 1997."

"The 2005 election saw our majority in the House of Commons greatly reduced as we lost 47 seats with the vast majority of them going to the Conservatives. Yet despite this  increase in seats for the Tories, the election was categorised by huge switching in actual votes from Labour to Liberal Democrat. On the back of a number of signature issues the Lib Dems took votes from Labour right across the country and in many cases allowed second place Tory candidates to win marginal constituencies. 

"As we headed into the 2010 General Election, many of our Labour/Conservative marginal seats had become vulnerable due to the effects of the Labour to Lib Dem swing in 2005 which had narrowed the gap for the second place Tories.  In the election last year, Labour lost votes across England and Wales to the Tories. In marginal constituencies we lost voters on middle incomes and we lost support in our working class or ‘core’ vote – many of whom just didn’t bother voting."

"Last year’s general election defeat followed years of poor results: In local government elections between 2006 and 2009, Labour lost over 1,400 local council seats in England and Wales and 161 in Scotland.  The Tories gained over 1,700 council seats and 69 councils. After the 2009 elections they held nearly half of all council seats with Labour holding less than a quarter."  

"Over the past 20 years, Labour's share of the vote in European elections has gone from 43 per cent in 1994 to 26 per cent in 1999, 22 per cent in 2004 and only 16 per cent in 2009.  This from a party that says it wants to be a leading partner in the European Union and which Bill Clinton once described as the most formidable political fighting force in Europe."

In respect of all of this, he concludes: 

"‘One more heave’ is not an option in response - serious change is required.  The Tories made that mistake between 1997 and 2005 - changing their leaders but not changing their ways."

Labour have indeed changed their leader, but the "son of Brown" has hardly demonstrated a changing of his ways thus far, unapologetic for the economic legacy they bequeathed the Coalition Government. Is Miliband really willing to embrace "serious change" or is he too attached to the past?

Click here to download the consultation document in full as a pdf.