Memo to Labour: Hold the champagne

Labour have done in the latest elections but have failed to connect to the public

Share

These elections were always going to be about how well Ukip would do. And pretty well is the answer.  But that’s as far as it goes. I agree with John Rentoul: this is probably Ukip’s zenith.

They’ve had a fair old run; but reality now bites. Next year they face a far more serious poll, where they may well remain outside parliament, along with their leader.

Of course, that's only if the increased scrutiny on their personalities, policies and party discipline does not lead to the whole thing unravelling, as it almost has at times during this campaign.

But Labour might also pause to reflect why some of their own former voters, not just former Tory supporters, are apparently opting for Ukip.

I'm talking of course about the “white working class”. We might argue that the metropolitan Labour overlooked this threat until yesterday, where the clear trend in Ukip’s gains was towards urban areas.

Yet it is not because their residents want Labour to ape Ukip’s policies. So talking tough on immigration or Europe is not the answer (at least, not if we want to avoid a political race to the bottom).

On the other hand, this white working-class group contains those who may also, quite justifiably, be fed up with the dodgy politics Labour often plays with Britain’s ethnic communities.

So you can begin to see the appeal of Ukip's siren song: “everyone seems to be getting a piece of the cake, except you.”

While its activists shoot in a slightly amateurish way, we could still avoid loading their guns for them.

And so to Labour itself. We have done respectably, maintaining a modest lead over the Tories; more than respectably in London. Well done us.

However, to the world in general, “traditionally left-wing city remembers it’s left-wing after six years of Boris” is not as barnstorming a headline as we might hope.

We might also reflect on whether, with Livingstone’s departure, some electors might happily feel they no longer have to hold their noses when voting Labour.

Read more: Full local election results

Outside London we needed to raise our game, but didn’t. And then there is the question of what bearing this has anyway. These are protest polls; a lame turnout of 36%. They do not reflect with the remotest accuracy how people will vote in a general election.

Nationally, the Times reports there are “knives out” for Miliband. While some changes are surely required, it’s also clear that Labour would be stupid to try and change its leader, less than twelve months from an election. But the overall prognosis is poor.

There was an obvious protest against an incumbent government. But there is also clearly a split in those protesting: those who genuinely see Labour as the solution (or, at least, the least worst option) and those who are so fed up of all major parties that they vote UKIP, Green and so on.

A winning party needs to have united a critical mass of those protesters behind it; Labour has successfully managed this in the past, but not today.

It could do again, but time is clearly running out; an opposition poll lead traditionally shrinks approaching a general election. Furthermore, as Atul Hatwal notes, the party is capable of a self-delusion over its own performance.

The truth is this: we seem to have exchanged, somewhere along the way, what we should be aiming towards – a poll lead which inspires confidence in victory – for grabbing whatever we can get.

Our longer-term political strategy, such as it is, appears not to be resonating sufficiently with the electorate. Take away that resonance, and what we now see is one last, slightly desperate roll of the dice. To the outside world, I suspect this is not an attractive sight.

Read more: Labour and Tories left reeling
Coalition tries to shift focus
Labour takes Cameron's 'favourite' council
Farage: 'The fox is in the henhouse'
Ukip: London 'too educated and cultured' to vote for us
'I'm not resigning' says Clegg

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition