Let’s get a grip for a moment.
Labour finished the local elections on 31%, two percentage points above the Tories and in first place. Despite the fact the election was fought on the same day as the Euros and the intense level of UKIP hype – fuelled by Nick Clegg’s masochism strategy of televised debates with Nigel Farage.
We must remember this – this was a low turnout election. Labour always performs better in higher turnout elections. Next year the general election turnout will be roughly double, so more Labour voters will turn out and the election will not be dominated by Europe.
That’s not complacency. I’ve been around long enough to see Labour perform below media and members’ expectations twelve months before an election, but for us to win a year later. I’ve also seen us perform badly and lose twelve months later. I don’t smell defeat this time and we shouldn’t let ourselves be talked in to it.
One of Labour’s key seat candidates that I was talking to yesterday was quite down, a combination of tiredness and too much time watching Sky News analysis. He perked up when I reminded him that if last night’s result was replicated at a general election he would be swearing in as a MP. The projections of being the largest party in a hung Parliament (2 seats short of an overall majority) on Sky would more likely convert to a modest overall majority on a general election turnout.
It’s not as good as Labour supporters are hoping for, but it’s not time to start looking inwards, attacking the leader, shifting rightwards on immigration or bellyaching about lack of policies when the policies are out there, with more coming on-stream in the coming days as the Party’s Reviews are published.
It’s been harder to cut through with our messages this time, with Farage’s easy saloon bar style dominating the media. Cameron’s approach in opposition of appointing cerebral vice-chairs from outside of the cabinet for the Today Programme like Michael Fallon and Sayeeda Warsi (less cerebral but effective) helped him reach a broader audience and take some pressure off him and his Shadow Cabinet.
Ed has people we could use in a similar way. Alan Campbell, the straight-talking MP for Tynemouth has probably spent too much time in the whips office and would be a solid northern common sense voice for one. Pat McFadden understands diversity, is a good communicator and has a calm demeanour. He may not be seen as a natural Ed person but his skills could come in handy.
But let’s not beat ourselves up; Labour is set to win next year’s general election, as long as it remains calm, focussed and united.