Monday, May 11, 2015

It's the Electoral System, Stupid

The more time I've had to think about it, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that we shouldn't all be so quick to condemn the pollsters for their apparent inability to predict the outcome of last week's general election.  Virtually all of them were putting both Labour and Tories on 33%-34% in the run up to polling day. The actual figures (Labour 30%, Tories 37%) are therefore pretty much within the 3% margin of error all polls allow.  The problem, as I've already ranted about, lies in our electoral system: 'first past the post' rewards 37% of the vote with over 50% of the seats, (it's even worse in Scotland, where less than 5% of the total UK vote can get you over 50 seats).  However, this doesn't mean that Labour can just shrug off its defeat as one of the vagaries of the electoral system: the fact is that they should have polled higher and more widely, reaching more voters in the Midlands and South (where they failed miserably to capture many key marginals).  Moreover, not only do they have to embrace electoral reform, but they have to find a way to win under the existing system.

What they shouldn't do is listen to the advice of has-beens like Mandelson, Blair and David Miliband.  Labour's defeat doesn't show that moving leftwards is a vote loser - indeed, just when did this shift left occur?  It certainly wasn't evident in their economic policy or stance on immigration, let alone their approach to social welfare.  It's clear that their attempt to be Tory-lite was what turned voters off: why vote for a pale imitation when you can have the real thing?  The kind of people they were trying to attract were never going to vote for them anyway and their traditional supporters were alienated.  It's all very well the likes of Miliband D, Blair and Mandy going on about how the centre ground is the key to success and Labour needs to build on the success of 1997, but that was nearly twenty years ago - time has moved on, what worked then won't work now.  They are the ones living in the past.  It's those working class and lower middle class people who voted UKIP or, worse, didn't vote at all, who are the key to Labour's future: they are the people the party used to represent and who feel abandoned by Labour.  The party has to convince them that it understands their concerns and wants to address them - they need to convince the Ukippers that their problems won't be solved by stopping immigration and leaving the UK as they are actually the result of a socio-economic situation created by government policies.  Likewise, they need to convince the young, the unemployed, the disadvantaged and the low paid that their best bet of alleviating their problems is by voting for a Labour government.  It won't be easy, but if they don't try, then there is no hope.

Well, the good news is that I think I've finally got the fall out from the election out of my system   You'll all be glad to know that, in reaction to that awful election result, I spent a large part of the weekend watching yet more schlocky movies.  So, hopefully, we can get back to the usual business here soon!

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