Wednesday, 13 May 2015

We were defeated but we must not be defeatist

Still less than a week since the election and I am still angry, sad, slightly confused and deflated- we were defeated both here in Ipswich and nationally but we must not become defeatist.
We will now have that horrible period (which Labour seems very good at) of blaming each other and making the next leadership campaign one of left v right, ‘Blairite v Brown’ or stronger links to the Union or scrapping any sort of connection to unions.

I for one wanted Ed to stay on, to hold Cameron to task whilst we could have a long leadership campaign that not only chooses a new leader but sets out the direction the party needs to go.
But why did we lose? It was not down to either a lack of effort or poor organisation – here in Ipswich we spoke to thousands of residents, we leafleted, phoned and then went to speak to them again. There is talk that nationally that we focused on our ‘core’ support and did not speak to those who have voted Tory in the past – that cannot be said of us in Ipswich, in some wards we have spoken to over 80% of the electorate in the last 4 years – Labour voters, Tories, UKIP, and even the odd Lib Dem (when you could find them) But we lost the election because our national message did not sound like one of aspiration and we also did not allay the fears of those that thought a Labour Government would be one that would see interest rates and inflation rise.

Some local Tories (falsely) accused me of accusing the electorate of being stupid – words I never used – but we did fail to appeal to self-interest – but the point is do we want to appeal to the selfish side of people?

The answer has to be no, but we also do not just want to be the party of opposition, there are many in our party and even more so in the Lib Dems/Greens who prefer to be in opposition, much easier to shout from the sidelines rather than change things.

So we need to get back into power, we need to appeal to those who did not vote for us but not by just appealing to their selfish side but to persuade and reassure them that a Labour Government does not just mean higher taxes, people having an easy life on benefits and money being wasted on stupid projects.

Most people are slightly selfish – Thatcher, the Tories & Murdoch did not invent selfishness, greed and contempt for the poor & weak but they helped make them socially acceptable.
One way we could have done that was to be prouder of what we had achieved in power – here in Ipswich we have a University, a new college, a new 6th form centre, primary schools and a new building at the hospital – we hardly mentioned them whilst here in Ipswich, Tory Ben Gummer kept taking the plaudits for getting Ipswich academy (Holywells re-built) and Chantry school to be re-built soon – neither project as successful or as inspiring as the building of UCS.

Here in Ipswich the defeat is harder to stomach, because we had a great candidate in David Ellesmere, we had a better campaign team and we displayed to the Ipswich public that we could do a great job within difficult financial restraint but in the end people voted on national issues.

Ben Gummer who seemed to get more arrogant as the 5 year term went on may believe it was down to his own personal vote, for what he has done for the town and what he has pledged to do – not sure much of that had anything to do with his win. He did campaign hard, made good use of the media and is charming when you meet him but in the end he has delivered very little in the town.
But it is now important that we run a positive campaign for the next 5 years but also hold him to his 6 pledges, interesting within 48 hours of his win he was backtracking on one pledge as he stated there was little he could do to help with improving the town centre- did not read that in any leaflet before May?

The two Gummer pledges that we do need to monitor carefully, are the building of a ‘northern’ route and education. No longer can they blame everything on the last Labour Government though I did hear a Tory MP seriously state that they now had to clear up the mess left by the Lib Dems! On the ‘northern’ route, Gummer still seems keener on his Wet Dock crossing than pushing for a route to help the building of much needed homes on the Northern Fringe, and can now expect his Tory neighbour, Dr Poulter to do all he can to stop any road being built in his constituency so yet again Ipswich will suffer as the Suffolk Tories yet again ignore the needs of the County town.

On education he has pledged to help/force./push all Ipswich schools to achieve ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ when they are next inspected- I hope he achieves that, it is the least our young residents deserve- but I hold out little hope for this pledge to be achieved unless he holds the Suffolk Tory Council’s feet to an open fire – they have completely washed their hands of education in this county and they just seem hell bent on forcing all schools to become academies so that they no longer are held responsible for them.

So if Gummer wants to be judged on his pledges, we will make sure he is - but answer me this Mr Gummer – will you stand down in 2020 if you fail to deliver those 6 pledges (or 5 as you seem to have given up on one already) by the time of the next election? As Mr Cameron once said – n0 ‘ifs’ no ‘buts’.
The future? The Ipswich Labour party will campaign harder and longer, we will get fully involved in the debate on the new leader. We will continue to run Ipswich well at the same time holding the Tory run County and Ben Gummer to task.

We will recruit and mentor new members, much has been said about the link between the Labour Party and the Unions, here in Ipswich we have a great relationship with our local union branches – they did not just provide financial help but they were out with us on the doorstep every Saturday- talking to the residents, we need to keep working on improving that relationship. We need to and will continue to talk to residents, but not just on the doorstep we need to get out to other community events, talk to schools, churches, WI’s, firms – anyone who wants us to talk to them.
We need to speak to those who voted UKIP, understand why they did, talk about immigration and migration and offer solutions rather than try and just replicate the far right rhetoric of the Tory party.
We have to continue to fight, less than a week of a Tory Government and the union bashing has already started, and then the Tories wish to crush our human rights – we need to organise not mourn.

It will not be easy, the leadership election will be difficult at times, certain parts of the Labour movement will see this as battle of ‘left’ v ‘right’ but we need to come out of this stronger and more united.

At no time since the start of the 20th Century is the Labour Party needed more than now.

I will be fighting hard every day – we can win and must win in 2020.

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