Liam Byrne on why Labour lost

A friend recently pointed me in the direction of this rather interesting pamphlet, written by the former UK Labour cabinet minister Liam Byrne, on why Labour lost in 2010.

The parallels with New Zealand are stark.

Byrne discusses that Labour’s loss in 2010 was due to a mass desertion away from Labour, mainly amongst working middle-Britain…

But today, too many families – working in retail, manufacturing, the service sector and construction – feel they’re working as hard as ever and just not getting on. They’re not wrong. My research shows workers on between £20-30,000 a year have now faced huge forces in our economy squeezing pay packets and the cost of living for at least five years. That’s why so many are so frustrated with welfare reform and immigration.

These voters are the bedrock of our coalition. But their support for Labour has fallen off a cliff. In 2005, 43 per cent of C2s were Labour. Now MORI says it’s down 20 per cent – to just 23 per cent. This loss cost us seats. The group marketeers call ‘Blue Collar Enterprise’ makes up one in six of the residents in half the seats we lost.

We could debate for hours how relevant this is to New Zealand, but without any proper research at hand (as a side note – Byrne and UK Labour’s extensive use of proper segmentation is very impressive, and something I’d like to see the NZLP look at, resources permitting), we would simply devolve into a spiral of anecdotes.

This is not to say that people were up in arms against Labour’s platform – as we’ve seen in both New Zealand and the UK, conservative erosion of Labour’s achievements is slow – they know how unpopular it would be to remove the British minimum wage, or to sell off KiwiBank.

Every MP I’ve spoken to found no love for the Tories on the doorstep. Lots of people knew what Labour had done for them: low interest rates, tax credits, better pensions, decent schools and a transformed NHS. But voters want to know what’s next.

Did Labour’s values become stale? I doubt it. The bedrock of our social democratic parties is strong and our roots are deep. The problem wasn’t that people didn’t like what Labour had done, they, and us, needed a better idea of what we were going to do.

Liam also has some very good ideas about where Labour needs to go next. In my mind these are even more relevant to New Zealand. I will do a follow-up post regarding the way forward in the next day or two.

1 thought on “Liam Byrne on why Labour lost”

  1. It’s a reasonable effort, less New Labour fundamentalist than I’d feared at the time. Definitely some useful parallels.

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