From Hubris to Crisis for Tories – But Labour Must learn lessons of another defeat

A week is a long time in politics and no more so than this last week. Last Monday from all accounts of Tory CCHQ there was still a quiet confidence that come election day voters would still back ‘Strong and stable’ May.

Whilst it is easy to mock May for the decision to call a snap election and then spend most of it hiding away from voters and then effectively throw away her existing majority in this vanity project -it is us as a country who will suffer the consequences.

Things have been moving so fast that everything has changed once again – so twitter remains the main way of keeping up to date.. blogging takes too long before things change again.

To save a few paragraphs the quote below about sums up where we have got to!!

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I did mean to blog on the evening of the election. I thought that there would be time during the Loughborough count to add a few words to my initial reaction to the exit poll. As the results rolled in my initial caution at the accuracy of the poll diminished but I had stuck out my neck with the BBC journalist covering the election and predicted a Tory majority of around 5,000 still in Loughborough. We eventually lost by 4,300 in what was a reasonable result. For us in Loughborough battling against a 9300 Morgan win in 2015 it was always going to be too much to do in one effort.

One of the reasons I write down my thought is to show what life is like in a Midlands marginal seat. And this time it is even more important that we remember we still lost here and lost by over 4,300 votes… more than the 3,700 we lost by in 2010.

Before I dive into the reasons to be cautious it is worth joining in the excitement of denying the Tories their desired majority and certainly their landslide. One of the most enjoyable sights at the count was watching Tory smug looks slowly disappearing as the night went on. The progressive Alliance in Loughborough was well and truly alive at the count as we, the Greens and Lib Dems equally cheered each others victories against the Tories as their seats fell.

I did say that if Corbyn won the election I would be the first to offer him an apology and say I had been wrong to suggest he couldn’t win over seats like Loughborough where we need more than the progressive alliance… we need switchers. Whilst I wasn’t wrong I am also big enough to accept that he did better than I thought was going to be the case.

One of my worries is that in all the excitement of not doing as badly as we thought is that many friends have been celebrating as though we actually won! I am sure I don’t have to remind anybody that we actually lost the election. It was a our third defeat in a row. There are some positives to take from the result but pretending a 318 – 262 is a win isn’t good enough. I don’t know if it’s my sporting competitive edge but I am not that keen on glorious defeats. If the Lions come back from NZ with 0-3 loss I won’t be cheering if we played well but lost. In sport at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, but losing in Politics means non of our manifesto can be put into action. We shouldn’t lose sight of this.

At the weekend we saw the worst of May being repeated in the handling of the result. The robotic repetition of a new mantra. As Osborne observed she is a dead man walking. She is now a prisoner of her own party. They will decide when she leaves, not her!

The Tory Party are ruthless at hanging onto power and will do what it takes to keep control. Short in 2010 they get into bed with the LiB Dems. Scrape home in 2015 and create a Tory government in fear of UKIP and throw it all away in a referendum. In 2017 they will cling onto power with the DUP. There has been plenty written about them over the weekend. They will not be the monsters we are trying to create on Social media. They are smart enough to make this work for the next few years. They too will enjoy the sense of power being IN government brings. Neither of them will want another election soon. They will do all they can to stay in post.

So I know many of my friends are excited at the prospects of power soon. I have revised my expectation of an Autumn election. The Tories will do whatever it takes to avoid it at the moment. The marginal seats exist to make a Tory loss possible.

There is a long way to go in this saga. There will be drama every week. There will be votes that need to be won that will require EVERY Tory to be present. It will be an uncomfortable time for Tory backbenchers and they will wield power over controversial issues where it will only take a handful of them to prepare to rebel to defeat the government. Ironically it may lead to better policy making and government… where there needs to be much more consensual politics within the party.

It is also true that the Lords will feel even more powerful in the new parliament. The Tories won’t be able to overturn the anti-tory majority and the usual caveats about not overturning manifesto commitments won’t apply in the same way. The Tories will be ditching their manifesto anyway!

Once we have more detailed analysis of turnout and more details from the exit polls it will be possible to see what really happened last Thursday. Did UKIP voters split and nto simply return to the Tories as first appeared and did younger people turn out in greater numbers at last to boost the Labour vote. If they did this was a victory for democracy as a whole. For too long politicians have had to chase the grey vote at – I would argue – the cost of young people. Baby boomers – apparently being born in 1964 I am one of them – are generally having it good. It is true I had a free education, got a reasonable final salary pension and was able to afford to buy a house and get on the housing ladder. The hope for many young  people is a life of debt and hard work paying for our pensions! Perhaps at last there will be a rebalance.. as long as young people keep voting!

Returning to the loss in Loughborough I have looked through the patterns of voting for the period we have had the current make up of the seat. In 1992 it was a very different seat with many of the villages like Rothley, Mountsorrel and Birstall included. The 1997 result where we were fighting against a notion 3500 Tory majority was the first to be fought on the new boundaries (changed again slightly in 2010 making it a notional 500 Labour majority)

The seat was lost to the Tories because of the rise of the Lib Dem vote from 2005-2010. In 2010 the Clegg promise to scrap tuition fees cost us the seat as their vote went up to 9600. It has now returned to a squeezed 1900. Most of this has switched back to Labour – giving us the boost. The other parties have been squeezed too. UkIP have disappeared to 1500 from their highpoint of 5700 in 2015. The Greens too were squeezed as Corbyn probably appeals well amongst this group. They went down from 1850 to 971. Fortunately in tight races in the past the Greens didn’t stand in Loughborough, something I will return to in future. I had some interesting discussions across the Progressive Alliance in the last few weeks… I am sure this is a discussion point for the future.

When you look at the shifts in votes it’s obvious the squeeze has taken Labour as far as it can go. Put simply we now need people who still voted Tory last week to consider voting Labour whenever the election comes. Whilst we were celebrating the reduction in the majority for Nicky Morgan she will be pleased that she still got a slightly higher % of the vote (up ,04% to 49.9%) and got even more votes (25, 762) up from 25,762 in 2015 and on a slightly lower turnout. You can see why you need to look at the figures from all angles. This was a vote for the Tories locally against a backdrop of the worst Tory PM I have ever witnessed and the worst campaign we will ever see. They had a manifesto that declared war on its own voters. And they still won. Again coming back to my sporting expertise, we would not take a defeat like this and not analyse every piece of data we have and get the feedback from everybody concerned. You just don’t shrug your shoulders or pat yourself on the back in defeat when there is so much at stake.

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I started doing this as you can imagine over the weekend.. and I believe there is a way to win Tory voters over. The ones I spoke to in the focus group I have created made that clear that many had held their noses and voted Tory and if we had a different leader & especially Chancellor they would have voted Labour. Now I know I am going to be abused for even reporting back what I am hearing. But this is the task for Labour still. We can’t just cover over the things we don’t want to hear. How do we maintain the enthusiasm and excitement, but create a level of reassurance about our credibility to win over Tory voters in seats like Loughborough. I have some ideas but I fear in the false self praise amongst the party we will not learn the lessons of this defeat. Whilst I doubt I will ever return to front line politics I will continue to offer my support and experience of switching Tories into Labour voters!   You learn more from defeat and failure. I hope somebody does this analysis as if we lost, not as though we won!

 

 

 

 

Exit Poll & Loughborough Count

10.30pm Whilst not quite ‘live blogging’ I will try to add a few thoughts as the night unfolds. I still had the Tories on a 40 majority based on the polls and gut instinct earlier today. Therefore I was as pleasantly surprised at the Exit poll as anybody else. At this stage a massive caveat. The Polls are within a margin of error of 20 seats either way.May *could* have a majority or it could be worse for her. Either way as I have said throughout this campaign – it has been awful for the Tories and May has been woeful. They threw it away. By the end this election was there to be won for Labour…

 

Postscript – 13th June…

The night turned out to be more exciting than I could imagine even at the Loughborough count and so the evening turned into a 5.30am journey home to Quorn still trying to take in what had just happened. This meant I didn’t get chance to add much on here but hopefully many of you caught up with tweets from the Count!

 

Polling Day Nerves

Polling day for #ge2017 has finally arrived. It does seem an age since May stood outside Downing Street and called the snap election for today. All the speculation over the last 6 weeks comes to an end over the next 24 hours as we finally understand what voters have been saying to pollsters over this election and we count real votes!

At the start of the election I had hoped to write a lot more. However, my election agent from the 2010 election campaign was selected to fight the Loughborough seat and he asked me to act as his Agent. As I agreed to help my thoughts on the performance of the various campaigns had added pressure not to rock the boat, so I felt it was worth holding off for a few weeks and starting to write again after the election. Given the polls and likely outcome it seems there will be plenty of twists and turns ahead in national politics to keep me busy. I think for all parties there will be some rethinking to be done…!

I have found over time that those less involved in politics (the vast majority of my friends) have appreciated a little bit of insight into politics from an insiders point of view. If this election is anything to go by that appetite has not diminished and it has equally been fun replying to questions on social media and emails on what is happening and what various claims from the Parties mean. There are plenty of people who do this far better than I could ever achieve and I have been happy to point people to Matt Singh for example if you want to understand how polling works and why there are such variations in their figures. However, I have also found social media unpleasant at times. Its only a narrow band of ‘friends’ who find it difficult to accept that not everybody loves Corbyn & so every post looking at the nuances of the election have been greeted with claims of betrayal! It has meant that I have toned down my thoughts for the election period but I will not be holding back when the final result is known and the new government formed next week. There will be plenty to say about the future of our country. My appetite for intelligent, clam political  discourse has not diminished… despite the role of social media in reducing the debate to 140 characters or a meme!

At the start of the election I did say this campaign was too hard to call. Even today I am feeling a little bit the same. I have in mind a set of % and seat predictions but I am less certain than I have ever been in confidently predicting the outcome. I did warn that events might overtake the strategy and plans of the Tories campaign. It certainly seems this has happened. Their robotic May and the awful campaign has not stood up well to the spotlight of 6 weeks of campaigning. Much of this has been self inflicted damage – a robotic May, hiding from the debates and a chaotic manifesto launch. The Terrorist attacks shifted the debate from BREXIT to police numbers for example and the PMS record in the Home Office. So quite rightly I didn’t set out any percentage or seat predictions. I didn’t quite believe the opinion polls in April so until doors were being knocked in large numbers it would be difficult to verify the national picture. After a week or so it started to settle until the wheels came off the Tory campaign and the election became a different beast. I have had to readjust my estimation about the Labour performance slightly upwards in light of the campaign period.  I am still going roughly on what I said 2-3 weeks into the campaign. The fundamentals hadn’t changed that much on leadership, and economic competence ie the true measures of how people will vote.

I have kept a record of my election thoughts and diary and will publish most of this after polling day – as a record for myself and exposing my election predictions skills.

Our local Labour candidate Jewel Miah has fought an energetic campaign and the feedback has been far more positive than I expected at the start – thanks to his daily campaigning. We have had to fight the election with few resources and nowhere near the number of volunteers we have had in the past as a Key Seat but we have certainly put everything into the campaign to give people a reason to vote labour locally.

But on election day even the most confident candidate has the odd moment of panic. By now you have done as much preparation as possible and all the leaflets, emails and door knocking mean nothing if people don’t turn out to vote. So with one big last push the job today is to encourage your own voters to turn out in greater proportion to your opponents. This is probably especially true in this election where age and turnout differentials could easily decide the outcome – just as it may have done with BREXT if young people had turned out to vote in the same numbers as the over 65s.

So don’t put off voting today. We take it for granted but should cherish the ability to choose our government. Whatever you feel of the calibre of our politicians they have given up their time and effort to make a difference. You only need 10 mins of your life today to give your verdict.. even if it is to say None of the Above. Exercise the hard fought democratic right you have been given.