01 Jul Why Labour needs a Renaissance
Our Chair, Stephen Kinnock MP, explains why we have launched Renaissance…
For Labour members and supporters the 10pm exit poll on Thursday 12 December 2019 was a hammer blow. The collapse of the Red Wall followed, and the events of those nightmarish early hours of Friday 13th confirmed the worst – that this wasn’t just a defeat, it was a trouncing; and indeed it turned out to be Labour’s worst election result since 1935.
Let’s be clear: 12 December was not a spectacular Conservative victory, it was a catastrophic Labour defeat, due to our failure to retain the support of communities which had voted Labour for their entire lives.
How refreshing it is, therefore, that Keir Starmer’s election as leader has provided the party with the sturdy foundations upon which to rebuild. But we should be under no illusions about the scale of the truly daunting challenge that we face. Labour needs to win 43 seats in 2024 just to deny the Tories a majority, and an eye-watering 123 seats – a swing over 10% – to win outright. 63% of the seats Labour needs to win are in the north, the midlands and Wales; 13% are in Scotland; and 24% are in southern England. 104 are in towns rather than cities.
Our journey to the summit must start with listening, and any analysis must accept the view held by many former Labour voters – that it was the Labour Party that deserted them, not the other way around. In the aftermath of the election Labour Together produced a comprehensive and insightful analysis of why we lost, and made a number of important recommendations about what we need to do as a party and movement, to regain the trust of those whose support we lost in December.
Some months later Deborah Mattinson published ‘Beyond the Red Wall – why Labour Lost, how the Conservatives won, and what will happens next?’ an equally powerful reflection on why so many people in the Red Wall towns no longer see Labour as a party that listens to or understands their concerns.
Both the Labour Together report and Deborah Mattinson’s book leave the reader in no doubt about the deep-rooted nature of the problem. Yes, the previous leadership of course played a major role, as did the challenges of Brexit. But Labour’s decline amongst the social groups that moved away from us in 2019 – older voters, those who haven’t been to university, small town residents, and those with traditional communitarian values – started a generation ago. Even the 2017 election – which saw Labour’s vote share increase nationally – accentuated the decline amongst those groups.
If Labour is to rebuild over the next four years, the party will need to understand why those voters feel that way. It’s not enough to state the fact that for every Labour voter who left school at 16 there were two who voted Tory, nor to simply point out that the biggest dividing line in elections is now age rather than class. We need to engage with these voters, and give them an opportunity to tell us the reasons why they felt Labour went astray. But we also need to propose solutions, in line with Labour’s values, which strike accord with the values and priorities of the working people and families, and once again give them reasons to feel that Labour is their natural home.
Yet Keir Starmer can’t do this alone. And nor can the Labour Party. The Labour Together report and the Beyond the Red Wall insights are a great start, but we must build on them to start a conversation with voters that will ultimately enable us to scale the electoral Everest that stands before us.
And this is why we’re launching Renaissance.
Renaissance will support Keir in his mission to make Britain the best place to grow up in, and the best place to grow old in – as set out in his Labour Connected speech, and the accompanying Party Political Broadcast.
Renaissance will give a voice to those voters who are rarely heard in public life – voters of all backgrounds who get their heads down, work hard and do right by themselves and by their families. As a voter engagement initiative, it will place a particular focus on those former Labour voters who have left us over 10 years.
We’re working with organisations such as Republic, one of the UK’s leading exponent of politics-related focus groups, to engage with those voters – and to help find ways in which the Labour leadership can reconnect.
We’ll be speaking to voters directly, but you can get involved too – by signing up as a Renaissance supporter. Join Renaissance today and help us shape a Labour Party that the British public can vote for with pride.