Peter Hoskin

Understanding defeat

Understanding defeat
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With the government spin machine heating up lines about "difficult circumstances," it's worth heading over to Progress for a levelheaded Labour response to their defeat in Norwich North.  The author is Paul Richards - Hazel Blears' former SpAd - and he sets out five lessons for the party, starting with "Let's stop shooting ourselves in both feet," and ending on a sublime note with, "We are not characters in Monty Python and the Holy Grail."  The standout lesson, though, is the third:

"Lesson three: it wasn't all about the expenses scandal. It would be convenient to dismiss our defeat in Norwich North as the electorate taking their revenge for the expenses scandal. But that doesn't stack up. If the voters were motivated by revenge, why have they elected a Tory MP? Why reject a Labour candidate who isn't implicated in the expenses row because he isn't an MP? Why did so many tell pollsters that they would have voted for Ian Gibson if he'd stood as an independent? Why haven't the independent candidates such as Craig Murray broken through? The harsh truth for Labour is that a previously safe Labour seat has become a Tory seat in this by-election because people have switched their support from Labour to Tory, as they did in Crewe & Nantwich, well before the expenses scandal. That means a more sober analysis is needed of Labour's message, policies, and popular appeal. Instead of defenestrating Labour MPs, perhaps the NEC could lead such an analysis in time for conference?"

One thing that many Labour figures may be pondering is whether it's worth pleading with Ian Gibson to return as their candidate for the general election.  Not only does a lot of "on the ground" testimony suggest that he'd have picked up more votes, but you wonder whether Labour's vote was depressed as a direct result of his suspect treatment at the hands of the party hierarchy.  Either way, you suspect Gibson wouldn't accept any offer now.