First an apology: my job was to look at the polls and do my best to interpret them based on my years of election experience. I, like, many others got carried away with the story the opinion pollsters were trying to tell. I should’ve had the foresight to warn against taking too much notice of the polls when my head was telling me something different. If only I had a position I could resign from as of now, a speech to make that would, by its very nature, be humble and yet inspire future generations. If only…
Now in my defence I did predict last week a late swing to the Conservatives of up to 2.5 per cent and that the polls would cluster together for fear of one being out of line and wrong. Survation admitted that they got it right on Thursday 37 – 31 but were too scared to report it, lest they be the one everyone was laughing by Friday.
For Labour, Thursday was a disaster and for many who depended on Labour to help them – the NHS, those on Zero Hour contracts, paying the Bedroom Tax etc – it was also a disaster.
So who to blame?
Three names come to mind – Len McCluskey, Ed Miliband and Arnie Graf.
Len McCluskey for using his trade union, Unite, to override the wishes of Labour MPs, Labour members and Labour supporters to impose the wrong Miliband on us.
Ed Miliband for thinking it was the right thing to stand against his brother and, as the media put it, stab him in the back.
Arnie Graf for giving legitimacy to the idea that if you have an unpopular leader all you need to do is organise in the community to spread your message and people will vote for you.
In truth, Labour didn’t have a coherent message that would reach out to millions of voters. It did have a fantastic machine which, for someone involved in the 1997 election, I can only stand back and admire. It was truly magnificent that Labour was able to have a conversation with up to 4 million voters in the six weeks of the campaign.
But what were they saying? Frankly offering more doctors and nurses, freezing energy prices, and increasing the minimum wage sometime before 2020 is no more than a “retail offer” – where was the vision, the hope and the excitement? Why did Labour have to wait for the resignation speeches of Jim Murphy, Tom Harris and Ed Balls to be inspired?
There will now be a contest for leader and deputy, a chance to craft a message of hope and inspiration and to galvanise the left of centre vote. And a time to find someone who can articulate a compelling narrative for all of Britain.
- John Braggins, pictured, worked for the Labour Party for 10 years leading up to the 1997 General Election. He was head of local government for Labour from 2000 to 2002 and senior press officer for the newly formed Greater London Assembly
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