The Campaign for a Labour Majority

The missing 30

First published on Progressonline

Labour was founded, not to bring about socialism – that came later with the 1918 Fabian-authored Clause IV, but to put working-class people into parliament. Initially groups like the National Union of Miners stayed with the Liberal party, hoping for scraps off the table. Soon it was clear that only Labour was committed to this first fundamental aim; the NUM and the working-class voters in the new franchise switched accordingly.

Labour led the way for women’s representation. Not the first women member of parliament, but the first in the cabinet and soon by far the largest group of women MPs in the House of Commons. The party stands on the shoulders of giants who entered Westminster in tougher times. Harriet Harman joined parliament in 1982 and was quickly derided for raising issues then deemed non-political, such a childcare. In 1997 a huge breakthrough took place and over the 13 years that followed most big offices of state was headed by a woman at some point. We had the first black woman in the cabinet and appointed Britain’s first woman European commissioner; Valerie Amos now heads up a United Nations agency and Cathy Ashton last year completed her term as first vice-president of the European Union. That government transformed women’s lives and these women transformed the policy environment we now live in. When Labour wins, women win.

Research by Progress shows that, had Labour won all its target seats in England and Wales in May this year, the party’s ranks would have been boosted by an additional 35 women. If it had not lost any seats to the Tories, it would have been 39. The House of Commons, with an overall net gain of 30 women, would now boast over a third, 34 per cent, of its membership as female. Instead women make up just 29 per cent of the famous green benches. This would have transformed our international standing. Currently the Commons is 38th in the league table. Under Labour it would have been 26th, joint with Serbia and one place below Uganda. This would have seen the United Kingdom leapfrog three European Union member states – Portugal, Italy and Austria – and seen us ahead of New Zealand – which remains one of the few countries to elect a woman Labour prime minister. (more…)

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Now is not the time for timidity

First published on LabourList

The Conservatives should not even have been in contention in this election. With apparent disregard for its failure to win a majority in 2010, the Tory party abandoned modernisation as soon as it entered office. It haemorrhaged support, in both voter base and parliamentary party, to the United Kingdom Independence party. It has presided over sluggish economic growth which was not felt by most across the country. And it has entrenched negative attitudes about itself – which will endure now for many decades more – among previous swing voters in places like Scotland, Manchester and London.

And yet for all these failures, the Conservative party’s aggressive belief that it alone speaks for the majority of Britain – arrogant and wrong though it may be – dragged it from the depths of the omnishambles budget in 2012 to apparently neck and neck with Labour on polling day. (more…)

Campaign for a Labour majority

First published on Progressonline

When Labour loses power it does worse in the following general election. Think 1955, 1983. Even in 1974 when we returned to power after one term, we did so on a lower share of the vote than we lost with in 1970. Even when we create new political institutions, we follow suit: sadly this is a trend the Scottish Labour party repeated in 2011.

For all those of us who worked tirelessly for a Labour government in the days, weeks and months that preceded Thursday’s dire result, it is a sickening blow that we ended up with fewer members of parliament than Gordon Brown bestowed his successor in 2010. While there were some good-news stories of the night, these were dwarfed by the loss we feel for candidates who outdid themselves but fell short through no fault of their own. (more…)

‘D’ is for disillusioned

First published on Progressonline

Arriving in Kingswood on the outskirts of Bristol to be met by Labour’s candidate Jo McCarron, a clutch of local activists, croissants and hot coffee, was the sounding gun of a week-long tour. Our trusty battlebus, sadly not pink, toured 21 of Labour’s 106 target seats. Another team visited the south Wales marginals on Tuesday while we covered north Wales.

The most interesting but not surprising finding is that the polls are bang on. The election is wide open. There is everything to play for. Labour is out-working the Tories, the Tories are out-spending Labour. Nothing new here, but, considering the late stage of the parliament, huge swaths of voters who have traditionally decided elections are still unsure. Door after door, activists would return to the board-runner – the person who holds the clipboard containing the chosen voter information from Labour’s national ContactCreator system – with the code ‘D’. Normally noted to signify that the corresponding person in their most recent conversation is a ‘Don’t know’, this time ‘D’ is for disillusioned. (more…)

The 80 per cent strategy

Progress editorial | First published on Progressonline

The political establishment is running scared. The United Kingdom Independence party is a phenomenon that it barely understands and cannot quite work out how to outmanoeuvre, let alone outsmart.

While Ukip has given those who do not vote, or reluctantly vote for a mainstream party, somewhere to go, the party has real and present limits to its support base. It might not have reached it yet, but it sits around the 20 per cent mark.

Herein lies the opportunity to win a majority at the next election. Twenty per cent of the electorate may be leaning Ukip, but the rest are not, and there is no party that provokes greater antipathy than Nigel Farage’s. The leader best able to represent and lead the ‘anyone-but-Ukip’ vote has a prize waiting at the end. (more…)

Operation Flight

Operation FlightFirst published on Progressonline

Richard Angell explains Progress’ new campaign to capitalise on the coalition MPs abandoning their seats

It is clear that the Tories do not believe in David Cameron’s premiership. There has long been sniping, if not the threat of outright revolt. Many of his members of parliament, though, are voting with their feet. Two have taken their ball with them and gone off to play with the United Kingdom Independence party. Louise Mensch quit for New York and handed her seat to Labour’s Andy Sawford. Among the 29 who have announced they are standing down, eight are doing so after just one term and seven are in Labour’s list of 106-target seats. Each might have their own given reason but what Cameron cannot deny is that this is a historic abandoning of their posts. Worse still, it is a damning critique of the first Tory government of the 21st century. (more…)