I read Martin Kettle’s article (The questions Labour must face if it is ever to win again, Journal, 2 January) with interest and agree that Labour has to reconfigure as a matter of urgency, probably at the pivotal time when Johnson’s over-optimistic government starts losing its electoral kudos in the dreary, gloomy days of winter.
I must admit that my failing spirits revived at the news that Keir Starmer has found early favour with Labour members. I too find him a credible putative leader who can maybe unite the party and forge a sustainable way forward.
But Kettle is correct that there were many factors in this electoral defeat – one was obviously the navel-gazing over Brexit which managed to alienate leavers and remainers in equal measure.
He is right, too, that the old Labour base has now gone, but paradoxically its relevance is needed more than ever. It must stop going round in self-indulgent circles and address the problems this country will face in spades this decade, a time that has already been much-vaunted by the nation’s favourite showman, Boris Johnson.
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
• If those in power in the Labour party continue to take it further along the failed Bennite road, as Martin Kettle shows, it will move further towards electoral oblivion.
Despite what some in Labour might wish, the electorate has never shown any stomach for a Bennite agenda, and there is no evidence that it will suddenly do so in future, even under some progressive patriotic banner. If this is where Labour members want to take the party, they should realise they are paving the way for all of us to live under one-party government for many years.
Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
• Perhaps the first poll of Labour members showing a clear lead for Keir Starmer may be seen as an answer to some of Martin Kettle’s questions. Waking up each day to realise that Boris Johnson is prime minister may have brought brutal clarity to party members.
The next sign will be the decisions made or avoided by Labour’s NEC on Monday to agree the timescale for the leadership election and, more importantly, to agree the immediate appointment of a temporary leader to start the process of renewal. To be in denial about the election result is bad enough, but to claim 2019 was “quite the year” for Labour confirms a suspicion that actually winning power through the ballot box is not the driving force and priority for the current leadership. Time for reality to dawn.
Stockport, Greater Manchester
• I agree wholeheartedly with Martin Kettle’s analysis of what Labour must do to become electable. It can no longer be exclusively the party of the working classes, because over the years this demographic has shrunk due to social mobility. There simply aren’t enough of them left. In order to win power, Labour must widen its appeal to embrace the aspiring but fair-minded middle classes, many of whom have evolved from a socialist background but for whom the party offers only guilt.
• In describing Labour’s 32% share of the poll as an “electoral abyss” and “among the lowest in its history”, Martin Kettle obscures three uncomfortable truths.
First, it is higher than the dismal 29% achieved by Gordon Brown in 2010. Second, the centre ground has collapsed. The Lib Dems’ vote was halved since 2005, and all of the Change UK founders, flying under various colours, were rejected. Third, throughout western Europe, the “moderate” social democrat parties have been decimated since the 2008 financial crisis.
So, whatever the answer, it is not a return to “austerity light” or the centre ground. Furthermore, the anti-Labour swing was clearly very high in many Brexit-voting areas. The vote held up in Wales (compared with under Brown and Miliband), but collapsed badly in Scotland – a trend that started under Ed Miliband. Any review needs to look at these facts, as does the new leader.
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
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