Unless you live in Telford yesterday’s election results and latest polls for Labour were dire.
The council result in Telford was the one bright spark where Labour took a seat from the Conservatives with a 20 per cent increase in vote share. It is particularly significant because it is a marginal Tory Parliamentary seat won from Labour in 2015 by a right wing libertarian and pretty offensive Mp, Lucy Allan. A local blogger, Telford resident aka Neil Phillips, has blogged about her offensive tweeting.
The person defeated was her press officer and interestingly the Lib Dems and Greens did not stand. Also according to a local party tweeter,Andy Hicks, the Labour council financed a pretty formidable campaign against local NHS cuts so Labour was seen on the side of local residents..
But apart from a holding a council seat in a ward dominated by Lancaster University the results were appalling for Labour. They were fourth in the Sleaford by-election behind the Liberal Democrats and UKIP and their poll standing dropped to a new low of 25 per cent. An experiment in another council by election in Tonbridge and Malling – where the Lib Dems and Greens consciously stood down so Labour had a clear run bombed. The Tories romped home and the Labour vote barely moved up. Disaster.
So what is going wrong. First the huge row over Corbyn’s leadership which split the Parliamentary Party has been no good for the party or the voters. Divided parties are doomed. The good news is that Corbyn’s decision to bring back old hand Nick Brown as chief whip has brought some real strategy and discipline to the Parliamentary party. This was shown by the way Labour pushed the government into having to say something about their Brexit strategy last week. But so far this has not yet resonated with the electorate that the row is over..
Second the party has a lot to say – and this is shown in increased support in council by elections in their heartlands – for the poor. But the problem for Labour is not everyone is poor although one wonders under present government policy how many more people will end up being poor by 2020.
Third Labour’s Brexit position is a mess. The Lib Dems have a simple message – vote Lib, stay remain – and UKIP have – vote for us and we get out now, no if’s or but’s. Labour, rather like the government, is somewhere in the middle – we have to leave but we’re not sure how we are going to do it.
Fourth, Labour has a good strong message on the NHS but has no other strong message on jobs or Britain’s future. It has a very good point in defending employment rights – but it needs to ram this home in much simpler terms so its core vote sees what it means..
No one in Labour has spelt out in simple terms what sort of society it wants – and what it means for people.
But all is not lost. Paul Nuttall has still to convince me that he is going to replace Labour. His party’s vote is at best flat lining or, in worse case scenario ,losing council seats to the Tories and the Lib Dems. Labour is not being challenged in its heartlands by UKIP – it is the Lib Dems that are starting to sneak back in the metropolitan cities. And I am afraid I thought their progress in the Sleaford by-election in Lincolnshire – where UKIP had previously found fertile ground- was pathetic. Their share went down when it should have gone up or they should have able to repeat the Lib Dems shock victory in Richmond Park. They didn’t. This leaves Labour a lot to play for -if only it can get its act together.