We should listen when people vote

Labour did well on Thursday, May 5th.

But not as well as a certain graphic suggested.

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Just look at that “sea of red” for 2016 – so much better than Labour’s best General Election result.
Yep.  Completely bogus.
But in the first lesson we should learn from the 2016 elections – UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SUPPORTING WHEN YOU RE-TWEET SOMETHING, OR SHARE IT – we saw too many friends share this graphic as if it was real.
(BTW, took me a while to realise that the graphic had given Devon & Cornwall to the SNP.)

13177740_10209041222685653_4392817868422998045_nBut why say Labour did well.  OK, I have to qualify it, but in essence –
a) English local councils – in seats last contested  four years ago, Labour appear to have lost a nett 20 or less when national voting intentions have been equal or against, when 4 years ago, national intentions gave Labour an 8 point lead.
b) Police Commissioners – Labour gained 4 and lost 1, when again 3 1/2 years ago, Labour had an 8 point lead;  indeed, in Notts Paddy had a much larger share of the vote; (and an even better performance in Bridge ward than last year);
c) City Mayors – gained London and Bristol; spectacularly so in London despite a racist dog whistle Conservative campaign; a result that has become a message to the world;
d) Wales – lost some ground, but not huge, and again in defience of national opinion polls;

Scotland is not an electoral  victory for Labour.

Now there are critiques that draw upon 3 main themes –
– Labour should have done better cos a new party leader always gets a bounce;
– Labour should have done better because the Conservatives are having a bad time; divided over Europe, having to drop policies that were to hurt the disabled, in trouble over forced academisation of schools, leading Tories tied in with tax evasion, the economic recovery still not coming;
– Labour should have done better cos Corbyn supporters said he would – able to motivate activists, reach out to Scotland like others couldn’t, tapping into a vein of working class vote that was not voting for New Labour, Sanders showing a new grassroots campaigning in the United States;  The first point was always specious.  The second and third points are true.
There was huge potential to do more damage to the Conservatives and David Cameron was openly gloating about how he feared worse on the day after the elections.  It’s arguable that grassroots campaigning capacity has never been worse and the ‘momentum’ promised is non-existant.

I am frustrated by the notion that Labour is hanging on in English local government.
Turns out any Labour councillor who started this campaign defending a majoirty of less than 7 in 100, started off as second favourite.
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Labour did lose 83 out of 1307, but we gained 65.
A net loss of 18 councillors when our national rating fell by 7 points.
Can this be explained by superior organisation (despite some of what we witness)? Perhaps, but are we better now than 4 years ago?
Surely the explanation is the resonance of the arguments being made over the services being provided (or not provided) and the ambition being shown for places we represent – cutting through any fog created by images of hate posted on social media and lines of hatred and distraction transmitted across the airwaves.
The result is a condemnation of the Conservative national government approach to local councils.
Councillors might now want to take the opportunity to say so.

Some have called for Jeremy to resign as Leader.  But “desperately dissappointing” is not how it’s panned out, cos 1. the results were not as bad as some predicted. Further 2. tactics from dissenters within were so crass, that people see it for treachery and bitterness, rather than wisdom, especially when things were said in the short weeks before the election; 3. the referendum on remaining in the European Union has to be the focus; 4. the dissenters have no alternative candidate; 5. the dissenters have no vision for the country.

All the things that should be said – the labour market, the housing, the lack of opportunity, the poor governance, the health service going backwards, the tumult starting in our schools.  What is being done is just so set to undermine working people’s abilities to deliver a real commonwealth.

But what of “when the voters tell us on the doorsteps that they can’t picture our leader in No 10”.  Well, yes, all of us have to reflect on such feedback, and yes I got a voter on Thursday telling me she loved Jeremy Corbyn, and I just don’t think a final judgement it’s clear yet.  Jeremy is not slick – ‘strong message here’, ‘we won’t lose any seats’, ‘hanging on’ – but is perceived as genuine and now scores higher than Cameron.

“We have to listen.”  So what have people said.  That they are concerned about what’s happening to English local councils.  That they are more relaxed about Police Commissioners being party political and that Labour party members have done enough with the role.  That they realised that the Conservative jibes against a Muslim candidate should not be supported.  That the potential loss of a major steel works in Wales brought a new focus.  And then there was Scotland.

Other lessons (all known before May) –
– social media is anything but; so don’t just accept what is presented; be wary of endorsing messages of passion, or hate;
– there is a major job to be done to enable Labour to win in 2020; it does need consideration; it needs to talk about quality jobs and security at work; it needs to be something that makes Labour seem big enough to govern;
– the big messages needs to resonate with big value statements that motivates people to vote and to campaign.

A more memorable campaign than I anticipated.  Norman Levett in Carrington,  John Bishop in Derby, Ken Livingstone on the Nottingham trams.  “Muslim others”. Distractions – of a planning application, hate on social media, one fact not telling a proper history.  Surprisingly good result in Notts.

[TO BE FINISHED AND UPDATED]

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