I agree with Jon Ashworth’s first-person article (August 10, Leicester Mercury): “Labour must… change. We need to become full-blooded in speaking up in defence of public services.”
He is right that “Labour was routed in Scotland”; and it would be nice to think that Ashworth would learn the obvious political lesson to be learned from this predictable catastrophe. But he is quick to add: “Anyone who tells us there are easy answers here is talking out of their hat.”
So what lessons should one learn from the three further examples that Ashworth chooses to cite in his thoughts on Labour’s losses, these revolving around Labour’s electoral results in Loughborough, Sherwood and Derby North.
Ashworth “was convinced Labour could win” in Loughborough, but sadly, as he pointed out, “the Tory majority increased from 3,744 to 9,183.” But why would one expect otherwise, as this was simply a continuation of an already existing trend
Labour’s share of the vote in Loughborough had declined year-on-year from a high of 50% in 2001, to 41% in 2005, 35% in 2010, then dropping to 32% in 2015.
Similarly, in Derby North, Labour’s support steadily crashed from a high of 53% in 1997 to a low of 33% in 2010, while, despite Ashworth’s laments, their share of the overall vote increased to 37% this year. The latter reversal of fortune most likely being intimately linked to the utter collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote.
Finally, Labour results for the Sherwood constituency showed a decline from a high of 59% in 1997, to this years low of 36% of the vote. Ashworth’s only observation being to highlight the fact that in 2015 “the Tory majority increased from 214 to 4,647”.
But again this result was not entirely unexpected, given the matter that Labour’s loss of their Sherwood seat in 2010 saw Labour receive 6,552 fewer votes than the Tories.* This years result was merely an extension of Labour’s earlier problems.
Yet while Ashworth says “Labour must… change” his preferred candidate for Labour’s leadership, Yvette Cooper, does not promise such change. Cooper’s views are in fact quite consistent with those of her husband, Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Ball, who earlier this year famously promised that his party would not reverse the Tories destructive budget of cuts.
Thankfully, not all Labour Party members believe that further austerity must be inflicted upon the 99% of us. This is why it is so refreshing that local Labour Party members of Ashworth’s Leicester South constituency chose to back anti-austerity realist Jeremy Corbyn as their preferred candidate to represent the interests of the working-class.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 14th August. It was printed online on 19th August.
*Sentence should have read: “But again this result was not entirely unexpected, given the matter that Labour’s loss of their Sherwood seat in 2010 saw Labour lose 6,552 votes to the Tories, allowing the Tories to gain a majority of 214 votes.”