Labour’s Eastleigh defeat could provide a map to general election victory

While Cameron and Clegg beat themselves - and each other - up over Eastleigh, Miliband can learn the lessons and prepare for victory in 2015 - if he wants it.

While Cameron and Clegg beat themselves – and each other – up over Eastleigh, Miliband can learn the lessons and prepare for victory in 2015 – if he wants it. (Cartoon: The Spectator)

Most of the UK is probably sick to death of Eastleigh by now.

We all woke up to the news that the Liberal Democrat candidate had narrowly held the seat for his party, with UKIP as the surprise challenger. The Conservatives came an ignominious third and some commentators have tried to get mileage from the fact that Labour came fourth.

The fact of the matter is, Eastleigh is extremely Liberal Democrat. The local council is entirely Lib Dem, if reports on last night’s Question Time are to be believed, and the party held the Parliamentary seat, even against Labour’s landslide of 1997. The headline result is no surprise.

But this election has shaken out a wealth of detail and the Labour leadership should study it well.

All parties agreed that the main national issue on the doorstep was immigration and the influence of Europe – this is why UKIP won so many votes. The British people think an undemocratic European bureaucracy has far too much influence over their lives and Labour now needs to shape its policy with that in mind. The correct way forward is to seek reform of the European institutions, to return power over matters like immigration – among others – to sovereign nations. Labour would do well to start discussing these matters with politicians in other EU countries, in order to seek consensus on a way forward.

Of course immigration into the UK has fallen, according to the latest figures, and the Conservatives have been quick to leap on this as a vindication of their current policies. It’s a bold claim, but not really supported by the evidence. What we’re seeing is an evaporation of interest in a country that is no longer an attractive place to live or work. So the Conservatives are admitting their policies are putting people off the UK. We’ll come back to this later.

The other big issue is a perennial problem for politicians: Honesty. If Labour comes away with anything at all from this by-election it is that the party must keep faith with the electorate. The Liberal Democrat share of the vote fell by more than 14 per cent – in what that party calls it’s own backyard. The blame for this can be fairly put on Nick Clegg, who spent the last week squirming under questioning about allegations against Lord Rennard. Did he know anything about this before? At first he denied any knowledge but when evidence came to light, he had to admit that he did. Is this an honest man? Of course not. As someone mentioned on Question Time, he said he was sorry in his video apology for U-turning on student tuition fees, but his current behaviour shows he isn’t at all.

Of course the honesty deficit in the Conservative Party beggars belief. How many of David Cameron’s election promises have proved to be untrue? Can anybody keep score any more? We’re all aware of the great betrayal of the National Health Service – and you can only hope for the success of opposition to the new regulations his government quietly introduced, to enforce privatisation of health services in England from April this year. That’s next month.

There are many other examples. To choose one that is topical, he promised that the bankers who caused the economic crisis would be made to pay for the disaster they caused. In fact, he is even now fighting to make sure that the European Union does not put a cap on the obscenely bloated bankers’ bonuses, that are still being paid by the UK’s financial organisations to the people who caused the crisis, even when those organisations have been losing billions of pounds per year. His reasoning for this is that these financial experts (and I use the word sarcastically) would probably leave the UK if they weren’t guaranteed these huge bungs all the time. Good riddance, I say. There are plenty of people both willing and able to fill the void and I dare say they would do a better job. Mr Cameron is trying to reward the financial betrayal of Britain. It is interesting to note, getting back to the point on immigration, that he has no problem with letting foreign bankers into our country.

His attitude to the richest in society contrasts brutally with his treatment of the poorest. It seems, if you are rich, you need a tonne of money to motivate you into work; if you are poor, you need to be made poorer, according to his philosophy. That is why the benefits budget is being squeezed so hard that the poor, sick and disabled are actually dying as a result – from lack of food, lack of heat, lack of medical care and lack of hope. Never forget that this man pursues economic policies that kill his own fellow citizens.

Now we hear that his government has been deliberately misusing evidence and statistics to misrepresent the plight of the poor, according to a report by a group of British churches. Evidence has been skewed to put the blame for poverty at the door of the poor themselves.

Honest? Trustworthy? Fit to govern?

Again, there are lessons for Labour. Ed Miliband’s party must realise that the Conservative Party’s attitude to social security – and New Labour’s before it – is completely at odds with public feeling and must be scrapped in its entirety. The social security system needs an overhaul with new values placed at its centre – values of fairness to the claimant, whether they are jobless, sick, disabled, or simply poor. It is the need of the person applying for help that must define what they receive – not a grubby money-grabbing plot. Above all, Labour must accept that any policy that leads to a claimant’s untimely death must be halted at once.

The fact that the Coalition has allowed these deaths to continue – and in fact increased their frequency – should be a matter for criminal proceedings in the future.

The question of how we pay for social security leads us back to the nation’s economy. Labour must come forward with a robust plan for investment in the nation because – if done right – this will pay for itself. Conservatives run down the idea of borrowing to invest, even though this is how Tory entrepreneurs made their own fortunes, but it is the only way forward. The economics of the Coalition can only lead to ruin.

So: Reform of the economy; reform of social security; reform of the health service; reform of our relationship with the European Union; and trustworthiness, to keep its promises. That’s how Labour will win the next election.

Let’s face it; there’s no opposition from the other main parties.

The only way Labour can lose is if it doesn’t see what’s staring it in the face.

9 thoughts on “Labour’s Eastleigh defeat could provide a map to general election victory

  1. Alan Beresford

    Excellent article mate.Let’s hope them who should take notice of the point’s you make,do notice them.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Thanks. I should probably say for clarity that these are all my own opinions, not those of the party, and they are all reactions to the result and to the context in which this by-election took place – but that should all be obvious, really.

  2. James S

    Well said. Ed Miliband will only have himself to blame if he fails to mount a strong, compelling opposition to the floundering Coalition.

  3. Shanna Carson

    Is it now time for a British Unite the Right movement, and also a merger between the Conservatives and UKIP? Because if this result is replicated across the UK in 2015 there could be a majority of votes cast for right wing parties but a massive left wing, Europhile majority in Westminster after the next general election.

  4. Terry

    An excellent artical defiantly ! ,but I fear the Labour party is not what it was (value system wise) & this will fall upon deaf ears . By example MP Andy Burnham has already said if they win next time he want’s to undo the Conservative damage to the NHS & scrap their workfare program etc… So what has Ed Milliband said ?? NOTHING ! , oh yes the 10p tax rate will come back , to little to late Labour has had my vote for the last 28 years of adult life but no more, after Blair & brown it would take real courage & bold promises that will be delivered unlike the housing deal ,a shambolic disaster .
    I seriously Doubt that Ed or the Labour party has the grit anymore , after 18 years of Tory governance we had 13 years of Labour what a great opportunity they had to improve the lives of the ordinary ,some good was done but so little to what was possible .

  5. pat


    Mandating to Universal Jobmatch: Update
    The Secretary of State for DWP will make an announcement on 1st March 2013 that, with effect from 4th March 2013, Frontline advisors can mandate claimants to register for UJ. This will be done via a Jobseeker Direction. Importantly, however, management have acknowledged that mandatory sign up to UJ will not be a blanket approach; instead, FLAs should encourage claimants to use UJ. Mandatory sign up will be on an individual basis, if the FLA feels that UJ would be beneficial to the claimant, and they have ‘unreasonably refused’. Management will be issuing guidance around this shortly.
    Access to UJ Account
    If, and when, a claimant signs up to UJ, they will be encouraged to give DWP access to their account. HOWEVER IT IS ABSOLUTELY CLEAR FROM A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE THAT THE CLAIMANT DOES NOT HAVE TO TICK THE BOX TO GIVE DWP ACCESS TO THEIR ACCOUNT

  6. jack johnson (@jackjoh01219520)

    Labour must stop soft pedaling and use the hard pedal. We must make it clear
    to people that government policies are driving vunerable people into deprivation,
    use every institution we can to attack this governments anti social policies and
    shame into change.Though to feel shame you need morality,which they do not
    possess. .

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