Friday, 6 May 2011

Election Reflection

Like most political junkies, I stayed up too late last watching the results begin to come in. Reflecting this morning after some sleep, and seeing further results, I think Labour has some thing to consider.

Projections show that Labour will probably end up as the largest party, at around 37%, with the Conservatives a few points behind. Andy Burnham on Today this morning compared this result to the Conservative one of 1998, which puts last night firmly in the box marked 'a good start'.

However, some things lay deeper that Labour must reflect on, and improve on.
Firstly, Labour's gains, especially in the North of England and Wales, are based on a catastrophic collapse of support for the Liberal Democrats, and the transference of much of that vote to Labour. Can Labour really rely on this nadir of Liberal support from hereon? I suspect not. The Conservative share of the vote is broadly in line with last years GE, despite lots of bad news. If this is the low point of the Conservatives, David Cameron will be a happy man.

Secondly, the SNP gains in Scotland are a serious threat to Labour, which normally requires a good Scottish contingent to win a GE. Since devolution, Scotland has developed a strong and distinctive voice and is growing a real self-confidence. Alex Salmond personifies these values. Scottish Labour has struggled to reflect this change in Scotland. Clearly many Scots did not feel Iain Gray could lead a confident, distinctive Scottish Parliament.

Thirdly, the Conservatives had maintained their strength in the South East. If Labour is to ever form a Government again, while their Scottish MPs are under pressure, they cannot rely on northern urban areas and Wales to provide enough MPs, Labour must wins many more seats much further south.

Last night wasn't a disaster for Labour, with some positive signs. However, there remains much work to be done.

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