Dear Liz, Andy, Yvette and Jeremy,
It’s exactly one month to the day that I stood in the West Lindsey Leisure Centre to hear my result in the 2015 General Election.
Whilst I was hardly expecting a landslide in a safe Tory seat, I had hoped that Labour would make some in roads.
The local party had been moribund for some time, I was only selected in December so I thought I’d give it a good go.
I promised a ‘Fresh Start’ for Gainsborough, to help small businesses, defend the NHS, sort out a social housing repair backlog, cut tuition fees and scrap the bedroom tax.
I thought it was a good mixture of local and national policies.
I did a video, using Facebook’s tools to specifically target just the 17,000 people on the social network site. It was watched by more than 10,000 of them!
We also did our fair share of those five million conversations on the doorsteps and in the sixth forms.
I took way too many campaign selfies!
We went from third to second, increased Labour’s vote by more than 36% and I managed to get the only swing from Tory to Labour in Lincolnshire (1.15% for those of you who like stats!)
We also managed to get three great council candidates elected.
Of course I still got stuffed, Sir Edward Leigh’s majority increased by nearly 5,000 to 15,000 and the 2010 Lib Dem vote (they went from second to fourth) seemed to split equally to UKIP, Labour and the Tories.
And although I was happy to get 10,500 votes (up from 7,701) a little bit of me was still a bit surprised we didn’t get more, especially in the town of Gainsborough.
Two of its wards are in the top 10% of the most deprived wards in England. I fact a recent study found the boys born there today can only expect to live healthily for 52 years.
This morning, I received this email from a woman called Keziah which went some way to answering my question.
I print it in full here in the hope that you see what she has to say and hopefully provide an answer.
A month ago you stood as a candidate in my constituency of Gainsborough.
I didn’t vote for you.
Why would you be interested in this? Because I should have voted Labour. I am from a background that would traditionally vote Labour.
Working-class, left-wing, of a generation that grew up under the Tories and understood how destructive that was.
Like much of the country, I woke up on the 8th of May disbelieving, angry and scared. But I didn’t vote for my Labour candidate. Why not?
My concerns about the current government (and the previous one, in coalition with the Lib-Dems) were about their callous treatment of the ordinary people of Britain, and their blatant disregard for human life.
Coupled with this has been a rhetorical and media campaign designed to dehumanise and demonise vast swathes of society – amongst whom benefit claimants and migrants. And a bunch of lies about the economic situation.
I read the Labour party manifesto. Did it challenge the lies? The myth of the deficit and that the only way to clear it would be to make cuts – to the NHS, to the welfare state, to the ordinary services of the people of Britain? No it did not.
I see that Labour is still failing to challenge these lies, lies which are disproved repeatedly by top economists. Instead it is jumping on the Tory bandwagon and talking about benefit ‘scroungers’ and the like. Why?
I’m concerned, in the aftermath of the election, as Labour licks its wounds and candidates consider why they didn’t get votes, that you may have been listening too much to the right-wing media campaigns, the ones that say you lost because you were too left-wing. That’s not true. You lost because you were too far to the right.
With your meek and watery acceptance of Tory lies and rhetoric you lost your left-wing voters. But you didn’t gain the right-wingers, who will always prefer Tory. In one group of which I am a member, a poll showed that 96% of people thought that Labour are too right-wing.
Voters don’t trust you because you don’t challenge the Tory propaganda. Why is this? Do you think that we have spaghetti for brains and believe all that stuff? Or are you actually morally on a par with the Tories? Neither of those stances will get you votes.
I would urge you and your fellow Labour party members to take this into account, as you regroup and choose your leader.
This is what lost you votes which, when I was growing up, would have safely belonged to Labour.
You’re not an effective opposition because you’re not opposing. Please do see this email as constructive feedback – yes, there is some criticism, but only because I’m seriously concerned that the Labour party has been out of touch with the electorate.
With very best wishes,