In the aftermath of the Tory landslide this week, we ask:
WHERE DO LABOUR GO FROM HERE?
By Chris Osbourne
There are many theories being bandied around as to why the Labour Party performed so dismally on Thursday. Many have put it down to their refusal to listen to the public, others have put it down to pure arrogance. Certainly their campaigning was woeful and the other above reasons ring true. It’s surprising that when the seeds for this defeat were planted in last year’s election they appear to have done nothing to heed the warning signs and have suffered the consequences.
The Labour domination of North East Lincs has eroded steadily over the years.
At the turn of the century Mitchell would bring in 20,000 votes. By 2010 he could only scrape together a meagre 10,777 coming with 700 votes of losing the seat altogether. The Conservatives have comfortably taken and retained the Cleethorpes seat since 2010. In Grimsby the Labour vote rallied with new candidate Melanie Onn and she was elected with13,414 votes. Still a pale figure of their historic numbers but enough for them to ignore trend and enjoy the victory. In 2014 UKIP received a deluge of votes and the split in the right’s vote kept Labour in power. Last year saw the demise of UKIP’s vote. Labour had been openly scornful of the UKIP voters, so it was no surprise when that vote went to the Tories. Perhaps they should have taken time out to talk with the voters who had left them instead of destroying any chance of them ever coming back to Labour. On Thursday, as last year they harvested the fruit of their arrogance.
They have singularly failed to heed the public’s concerns about the closure of Scartho Baths, the crazy paving debacle, moving the bus station, closing the ice rink and more lately the purchase of O’Neils in Cleethorpes, the closure of the toilets, fortnightly waste disposal the planned renovation of the Top Town multi story car park and the redevelopment of the Toll Bar roundabout. The public of North East Lincs had seen enough.
So where do Labour go from here?
It looks like they are in for more of the same next year unless they learn some very uncomfortable lessons from the debacle. The question is will they? Will they simply blame it on Tory cuts, Brexit, the weather or some such reason. If they do then Labour could be in the wilderness for years to come.
It’s clear they have been somewhat rudderless sinceOxby resigned, but they still had an experienced group. Despite this nothing changed. One thing Labour arepoor at is projecting themselves or engaging with the public. Under Chris Shaw every success would have been proclaimed long and loud, every failure was treated the same. Win or lose the public always knew what was going on. He made people feel that Labour was a part of the fabric of this town, for good or bad we were in it together. With the sad passing of Mick Burnett and the standing down of Shaw this ended. With Oxbyat the helm Labour had some good achievements, Coastal community funding, the Able marine business, but they kept it to themselves. Any public statement had to be dragged out of them and always prefaced with the Tory cuts mantra. With a couple of exceptions they were less visible on the wards and spent their time playing politics. So how can they fix it?
They need to elect the right leader, someone who will offer drive and direction. The right leader who can galvanise a party at war with itself and take their efforts back into the wards. Strong ward work will serve to re connect with their communities. They need to cast off their patina of arrogance and start to communicate and listen to residents. To do this they will need to look outside of the current party leadership for the right candidate. The old guard are clearly not up to it. They face at least a year in opposition which will give a new leader plenty of time to grow into the role and take the party forward. Maybe a female leader could give them a different and fresh direction.
There is an opportunity for Labour to rebuild and repair it’s fractured relationship with the community. The question is are they clever enough to learn the lessons from this defeat and take it?