How Labour can make itself electable again | Letters

Readers respond to a piece by Martin Kettle in which he says the party needs to take time for judgments to settle about its descent into the electoral abyss

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.
Judith Daniels
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.
Jonathan Harris
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.
Andy Sellers
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.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

• 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.
David Ryden
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

• Join the debate – email

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit

• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Putting fear of Corbyn’s Labour in perspective | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to a piece by Jonathan Freedland in which he asked how Jews can vote for the Labour leader


11, Nov, 2019 @5:24 PM

Article image
Labour needs to shine a light on Tory failures | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to a piece by Andy Beckett, where he argues that the Conservative party is avoiding blame for the dire state of Britain today


02, Dec, 2019 @6:37 PM

Article image
Unconventional wisdom on Labour ‘heartlands’ | Letters
Letters: Ian Wrigglesworth discusses the awkward fact that there is a substantial Tory vote in the north, Roger Backhouse advocates Old Lefties for Labour to win back the pensioner vote, Robert Leach says Labour should take a tip from the late former MP Jack Dunnett, and Dr Alyson Hall Yandoli proposes a new way of testing the leadership hopefuls


13, Jan, 2020 @5:42 PM

Article image
Should Labour try to win back ‘red wall’ voters? | Letters
Letters: Steve Smart warns Labour against simply trying to win back its traditional supporters in the old heartlands, Roy Boffy says these voters will be lost for ever unless the party seriously reappraises its parlous position, and Ron Glatter thinks the ‘northern problem’ is in danger of being overstated. Plus Derrick Cameron on Corbyn as a leader and Starmer as a manager


16, Dec, 2020 @6:15 PM

Article image
Could tactical voting save Britain from the Tories? | Letters
Letters: John Lynch and Declan O’Neill respond to an article on how tactical voting, as seen in the recent byelections, could reshape British politics. Plus a letter from David Smith


26, Jun, 2022 @4:42 PM

Article image
Election panics, polls and prophecies | Letters
Letters: Guardian readers respond to the news that Britain will once again take to the voting booths on 12 December


30, Oct, 2019 @6:20 PM

Article image
Labour team needs new style of play to win again | Letters
Letters: readers react to Andy Beckett’s prediction that party policies might sow the seeds for success ahead


22, Dec, 2019 @6:15 PM

Article image
Shifting alliances that might swing the election | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to Nigel Farage’s decision to stand down Brexit party candidates in Tory-held seats, and the possibility of Labour joining a progressive anti-Brexit pact


12, Nov, 2019 @5:39 PM

Article image
Which Labour leader do Tories fear most? | Letters
Letters: Jeremy Beecham says the fact that Conservatives are vehemently attacking Keir Starmer is telling. Donald Roy says it is not the case that only true Corbyn candidates were rewarded with volunteers and resources


31, Jan, 2020 @5:25 PM

Article image
Will defining Starmerism put Labour back in No 10? | Letters
Letters: John Rowe is sick of Labour being honest and defeated, John Airs refers to Keir Starmer’s 10 pledges, Carolyn Kirton likes that fact that he eschews the cheap and empty drama of Johnsonian bluff, while John Shanahan suggests the Labour leader looks elsewhere for inspiration


11, Sep, 2020 @4:03 PM