Labour’s long road back to credibility

Labour needs to find a leader that can pull the party out of the doldrums. Emily Hohler reports.


The Real versus the New the New cleaned up

It's clear from the "array of platitudes" issuing from the contenders for the party's leadership (Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh, Tristram Hunt and Liz Kendall) that it will be a "long road back" for Labour, says Chris Deerin in the Daily Mail.

The questions that must be answered are: "what is it I'm leading, and who am I leading it for?" When Tony Blair took charge in 1994, he "glued himself to the centre-ground" and "cleaned up. Three times." But his mass appeal so affronted party "purists and the ideologues" that they put "Real Labour" Gordon Brown in No. 10, then installed Ed Miliband.

Having just lost another election, Labour is again in the doldrums. The fact that the Unite union provides just under a third of its funding suggests the party is "doomed to its deathly embrace" with Len McCluskey's "vampire squid", but it's time this anachronistic link was severed. Labour needs the kind of "bottom-up crowdfunding" that led to its "creation in the first place a time when it could justifiably call itself the people's party".

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To regain the votes of its traditional supporters, Labour must start coalition-building at a grassroots level, says John Harris in The Guardian. Its vote share has in fact been "sliding since 2001". Visit any number of supposed Labour heartlands and you will understand why there is "generalised hopelessness" and "no idea of the values" Labour claims to stand for.

Labour can now either wait for the Tories to become "incapably clapped-out", or "do the right thing" and rebuild the movement that Labour used to be. This will take "decades of work, way beyond the party and the unions".

The "sad thing" is that "Labour really does not think that it lost the argument", says Rod Liddle in The Spectator. It talks of reconnecting with voters, but there is "no conception" of how this might occur. Yes it needs to reconnect, but it also needs to "estrange" the metro-left. Otherwise Labour will become a "gradually deliquescing rump": the party of the "affluent, secular, achingly liberal London middle classes plus all those minorities who have not yet decided to vote Green".

All the party is really suffering from is "analysis paralysis", says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Labour lost because "its prospectus was too left-wing" and its leader was a "liability". There is nothing wrong "that leadership and moderation cannot fix".

What counts in politics is judgment. It is why the Tories have run Britain for much of the past two centuries. They read the national will, and they think clearly. Labour is a party of "clever fools" who will "seemingly excuse any misjudgment, however catastrophic, if it is backed up by exhaustive analysis".

Labour MPs and activists say that choosing a new leader matters less than answering the bigger questions. But the reverse is true. The answers to the big questions will emerge through "trial and error". What matters is to have "a leader in place with the right instincts", and it is Labour's job to find one.

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.