A Labour contribution to our Voices of Portsmouth series, from the party’s Portsmouth Council Leader, Councillor John Ferrett: http://govfaces.com/en/john.ferrett
The 2015 General Election produced one of the most dramatic and unexpected outcomes in living memory. For the preceding five years the opinion polls had been fairly consistent in predicting a hung parliament and right up to May 7 the overwhelming view of commentators was that no single party would have a majority in the House of Commons. Therefore, a result that produced the first Conservative majority government in 23 years caught everyone by surprise, including, it would appear, the Tories themselves. However, despite the unexpected nature of the win the Conservatives have not allowed this to inhibit them in pushing ahead with their manifesto commitments. Indeed, we have already seen a budget that has delivered some radical changes to the minimum wage, tax credits and inheritance tax.
For those of us on the left of politics the 2015 General Election has resulted in a great deal of soul searching and questions being asked about the role and purpose of the Labour Party. Social democratic parties have recently faced defeats across the developed world and appear to be struggling to develop a policy agenda that is appropriate for the post-crash economy and the constraints that austerity has placed upon governments. In the UK this manifested itself by the Labour Party being unable to win the trust of the electorate on the economy. Allied to an extremely unpopular leader, who was perceived to be anti-business and anti-aspiration, and the collapse of the Labour Party in Scotland, the result of the election does not appear so surprising after all. Indeed, history tells us that the economy and leadership are the two key issues that determine general elections, and Labour faced a massive polling deficit on both these indicators.
If the Labour Party is to resurrect its fortunes in both the UK and Portsmouth it must firstly elect a leader who is seen as a credible future Prime Minister. My fear is that the party will opt for a leader who appeals to their sentiments as Labour activists, rather than the aspirations of the electorate. My hope is that the party chooses a leader who can win over current Conservative voters in England, a task that is crucial if we are to ever have a majority Labour government in the foreseeable future. For that reason I am supporting Liz Kendall for leader and would urge other Labour member and supporters to do likewise.
Voices of Portsmouth is a series of articles coming from various stakeholders within the Portsmouth community, from members of political parties to academics, students, or members of NGOs. The series highlights some of the most important challenges the city faces today.