Labour are a London centric, Public Sector skewed party, and it’s hurting them. It’s no secret that half of Labour party members live in London. Nor is it surprising that a disproportionate number of Public Sector workers and those depended on state spending support Labour. And if the members are the heart and soul of a party, this matters. If Labour try to make the Tories out of the Party of the Few (more on that below), then the Tories can and do portray Labour as the party of legions of petty bureaucrats in cushy jobs, addicted to tax and bloated levels of spending. Is this simplistic hubris? Yes. But does some of it stick? Absolutely.
Labour didn’t ask voters what they wanted, they told them what they should want, and called it leadership. Every party has its strong points, areas they feel comfortable talking about. But there’s a difference between emphasising your chosen topics, and steamrolling over issues your potential voters want to talk about. In an election that was always going to be about stability and the economy, Labour initially refused even to accept the deficit was an issue. Instead Labour picked up the banner of the NHS and woolly talk of fairness and ran with it. The problem was they were running towards their own supporters and away from undecided voters concerned about the still fragile recovery and worried about the effects of another giddy Labour spending binge. Even on smaller issues like immigration and an EU referendum, Labour cemented their image as an out of touch elite who scoff and sneer at Little People who don’t know what’s good for them.
If the Tories are the part of the rich, election results would suggest 37 percent of the population are ‘rich’. That’s an awful lot of rich people. When you’re part of a club or a team or a tribe, you need an ‘other’. Anthropology demands as much and political tribes are no different. And just as you proscribe noble attributes to your tribe, so the other tribe need traits and labels. Labour seem to take particular glee in dehumanising Tories (‘Tory’ of course being a catch all term, a net that’s cast way beyond the 100,000 actual members). But as well as demonising Tories, Labour supporters convinced themselves that their opponents really were the monocle wearing chinless toffs of fantasy. Although this makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, it fatally underestimates what actually draws people to the Conservative message… and it’s not promise of a double-barrel surname or an ivory back-scratcher.
You can be compassionate without wanting Big Government as the solution to every problem. This is a hard one for many on the Left to get their heads around, given that more government is their default reaction to every real or perceived challenge. Millennials in particular increasingly see government as just one of a number of agents for change, a trend that’s only going to continue as technology continues to develop and interaction between people and groups happens at a depth, pace and fluidity creaking bureaucracies cannot hope to match.
Labour have spent the last 30 years trading on the strength of the brand.
I like to think of Labour like the James Bond franchise. It’s so deeply ingrained we can’t imagine a time when we didn’t have it. But like Bond, we know in our heart of hearts that its best days are behind it. Sure we keep dutifully paying our fee to see the latest offering, but it feels shallow, plastic, too dependent on flashy effects and lacking in the characters and personalities we reminisce about its golden era through inch thick rose tinted glasses. Some would argue the same could be said for the Tories, but they’ve always been less of a party and more of a loose confederation of warring tribes. And although that makes running the party difficult, it makes it easier to adapt to a changing world. Labour want to keep being Bond in a world that doesn’t want to admit it’s grown out of it.
Calling Tories monsters is why people lie to both pollsters on the phone and to you on the doorstep. There’s been a lot of analysis about Shy Tories and what makes them shy, but it’s no mystery to anybody who even casually follows politics on social media. Spite, bile, vitriol and even threats of violence make the online world an unpleasant and even intimidating world for anybody who isn’t ‘on message’. All parties engage in name calling, but those who are anti-Tory are in a different league. Heck, they’re in a different sport.
When you shout down/block/ignore anybody who disagrees with you, the echo chamber you create is not representative of the real world. Following on from the previous point, it’s human nature to seek validation, and the sheer range of news sources and blogs makes it very easy to create a cosseted online world where you only hear from people who already agree with you. And like any rarefied environment, imperfections and impurities are automatically purged, restoring harmony and sanctity. But just like the child who has been shielded from dirt and bugs as a baby, when echo chamber residents are exposed to the real world and all its new and strange organisms, their systems cannot cope.
Labour targeted their campaign towards the country as they want it to be, not how it actually is. Most people get into politics to change things, to make the world a better place. And when you immerse yourself in the language and vision of your chosen course it’s tempting, especially when surrounded by similarly minded people, to believe that your ‘truths’ are self-evident. Taking your own opinions as fact taints everything you do and everything you see and hear. When you think of yourselves as the party of the Working Class, for example, it’s very easy to assume that your opinions are automatically going to become the opinions of Working Class people by default. Because you hate ‘Tory Scum’, of course every sensible caring person hates Tory Scum. It’s circular logic of the worst kind.
For better or worse, leadership and economic competence are the Alpha and Omega of electoral prospects, and Labour were found woefully wonting on both. It’s worth remembering that Labour party members didn’t even want Ed Miliband as leader, instead favouring his brother. Every poll, including Labour’s own, told them they’ve landed themselves a duff. But if the Tories are too quick to oust an underperforming leader, then Labour are painfully slow to pull the ripcord. Further, rightly or wrongly voters still blame Labour for the debt and the deficit (they’re a bit more forgiving on the causes of the recession), but a sure fire way to the proverbial bullet in the head of your economic credibility is to maintain that Labour didn’t overspend when in government which Ed unashamedly did during the leadership debates. Whether Labour admit it or not, the idea that government spending has to come down has become firmly established in the national psyche.