By David Hough, Labour candidate for Rayleigh & Wickford at the 2015 election:
On Thursday May 7th the Labour Party lost its second consecutive General Election. Although its overall share of the vote went up slightly, due to the way votes broke in the marginal, the strong performance by Ukip, especially in our northern heartlands, and the devastation wrought by the Scottish National Party, it finished some 26 seats down on the 2010 performance.
There will be post-mortems in abundance as to why this happened, and myriad reasons given, be it those who were never convinced by Ed Miliband, our failure to lay to rest the accusations that the previous government had caused the world financial crisis, that we didn’t offer an in/out referendum on the EU, or that we just weren’t appealing to people’s aspirations.
The post-mortem will continue, and as we all know hindsight is 20/20, but as defeat became inevitable, thoughts quickly turned to where would the party go from here. It was almost certain that Ed Miliband would decide to stand down, as indeed he announced the following morning. Typically he took full responsibility for what had happened, but he had fought a good campaign, stood up to much abuse and negativity throughout the campaign, and the preceding five years, and can leave with his head held high.
Now, however, as well as working out why we lost, we have two other big tasks ahead. First we have to provide strong opposition to the Conservative government, and we have to elect a new leader who will map out the direction they feel we need to take.
As I write this, there are four candidates who have declared their interest; Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh. To my mind the candidate who is best placed to take the Labour Party forward and lead a strong opposition to the Conservative government is Yvette Cooper.
As Yvette said in her statement announcing her candidacy:
“We need a Labour party that moves beyond the old labels of left and right, and focuses four-square on the future. Credible, compassionate, creative, and connected to the day to day realities of life… that is why the next Labour prime minister needs clear purpose; a clear view of the problems we face and a clear priorities for the future.”
Yvette understands that to move forward doesn’t mean forgetting everything the Labour movement stands for, but that we also need to ensure that we speak for everyone and not just those the system is leaving behind. We should also be proud of much that we have achieved; the NHS, the minimum wage, Sure Start, expanding universities to name a few. Labour must look to the future, but must not forget its past and what it stands for.
The Labour Party that Yvette Cooper would lead would look to move beyond the old politics of left and right. We must appeal to those from all parts of our society, not by giving up on our beliefs, but by ensuring that they are expressed in a way to meet the challenges of the modern world, as Yvette wrote in the Mirror on Friday, “that’s why Labour needs to be bigger in our appeal, bolder in our ambitions and brighter about the future.”
This I why I am supporting Yvette Cooper to be the next leader of the Labour Party. I believe she has the experience to guide the party through a thorough and realistic examination of why we lost. She also understands that the Labour Party has to widen its appeal, and speak to all sectors of British society, and build a vision to unite us, and not divide us.