Labour's identity crisis lost it the election

Labour led their campaign with shallow, soundbite-driven focus-group rhetoric, whilst the Conservatives concentrated on reducing the deficit and making tough decisions. Labour has an identity crisis, and a mere change of leadership may not do the trick

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Dean Russell
On 19 May 2015 07:35

There are many theories why the Conservatives triumphed so resoundingly on May 7. Commentators across all party lines are picking apart the polls to understand what happened. A recent Parliament Street event highlighted many of these from the likes of Damian McBride and Toby Young.

In my view, there is a clear explanation. On the surface we Conservatives had a brilliantly simple and effective campaign drumbeat -- we gave Ed & co enough SNP rope to hang themselves whilst hammering home our economic record. Underpinning this, our campaign tapped into a much deeper crisis at the heart of Labour.

Beyond the debates, bacon sandwiches and the #EdStone, our campaign proved Labour are a lost party that lacks conviction about who they are.

As the Parliamentary candidate in Luton North, I stood up against Labour’s staunch socialist Kelvin Hopkins MP where I saw first-hand how important conviction was in this election.

Kelvin is a man of deep belief around his politics -- even if they were mostly at odds with his own Party. He wants us out of Europe, believes the government should buy back all the land in the UK and (rather bizarrely) openly stated in a hustings that business is the root cause of terrorism. He said all this with an air of congeniality and belief that somehow people didn't mind.

At times I felt like I was fighting both Labour and an Independent. However, as much as I opposed his views, I had to admire the fact that unlike the rest of Labour, he stuck to them no matter what.

When comparing Kelvin to the rest of the party it was easy see the crisis at the heart of Labour’s ideology. Ed & co really didn't believe what they were saying.

You could read it in their eyes. Labour were unable to say if they were old new Labour or new old Labour. Instead of communicating who they were, they spent all their time saying what they were not. Ultimately their entire campaign was built upon a calamitous mix of contradictions and amnesia.

Like Harry Enfield’s Kevin & Perry, Labour members acted like embarrassed teenagers when father figure Blair gave them support. They denied responsibility for the economic crash, pretending Brown never uttered ‘end to boom and bust’ whilst trying to convince voters they would be economically competent.

Milliband attacked the rich with millionaire Russell Brand whilst living in a London ‘mansion' with two kitchens. And, most irreconcilably of all, they wanted to borrow more whilst talking about the need for cuts.

Compare this to the Conservative position. Since day one in the coalition, we were committed to reducing the deficit, and made -- to quote George Osborne -- ’tough decisions’. This was a singular focus of the campaign, but people knew we meant it.

They may not have liked us for it, but they knew we were committed to it. We showed a depth of conviction to do the right thing that Labour simply failed to live up to.

This is why the SNP were such a gift to us in the campaign, and why, Cameron was right not to take part in all the debates. Sturgeon’s SNP held a mirror up to Milliband's Labour, showing the UK what truly passionate socialists really look like.

Allowing Labour and the SNP to go toe-to-toe in the debates provided perfect fodder for the UK public to see how far from their roots Labour have travelled.

Ultimately, Labour led their campaign with soundbite-driven focus-group rhetoric: something they are still suffering from in the preamble to their new leadership elections too.

In doing so, they are quickly proving they are no longer a party with an ideological stance.

In fact, they are proving what many of us have known for a long time: in the post-Blair era, Labour's main goal is to be in power at any cost, but they have no clue what to do with that power if elected.

Dean Russell was the 2015 Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Luton North. @dean_r

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