Sunday, 10 May 2015

Why did Labour lose this election and why did the Conservatives win?The evidence is clear to see

I am an aspirational, tax cutting, public service supporting, pro business, deficit reducing, One Nation, middle ground, socially liberal Conservative. I drove and walked a lot of miles at the election and met thousands of voters these last months and learnt a lot from the countless conversations I had. These are some of my impressions of these last five months on the campaign trail.

The British are aspirational, they want their country to live within their means, want security and have a broadly centrist view of the world. They want local champions who will fight their corner, and do what they can to improve their local area. I have tried to do that. 

Many different types of people voted Conservative, both locally and nationally, who were doing so for the first time. Several voters felt that the Coalition and the Prime Minister may have had to deal with a tough hand to play, but that they had also made mistakes. I agreed, and made the point that no government, no parent and no businessman or woman gets it right every time. But, on the broad principles of trying to live within our means, taxing the low earners less, supporting job creators, and safeguarding and protecting the NHS and 4-16 education budgets, whilst making big sacrifices in other departments, most voters I met felt that we had got it broadly right. 

Labour must do its own post mortem, but the impressions I gained from voters from prudhoe to Haltwhistle and beyond was that labour lost because of several reasons:
- the public clearly felt that Labour under Blair and Brown had spent too much and all but bankrupted the country. The veteran labour MP Frank Field has set out his clear view of where his leader messed up today in the Mail:
- they did not see Ed Miliband as a Prime Minister, or Balls as a custodian of their money. I agree. Balls is no loss to parliament. I am not sad to see my nemesis go. Miliband is a decent man, just very misguided - I would not trust him to run any business let alone the country. His Ed Stone tablet is now presumably being sold on eBay, or used in his second kitchen. But Balls is the only Labour politician who had genuine enemies and doubters inside his own Labour Party.
- the Labour campaign started left wing, under their most left wing leader for a generation, and veered ever further leftwards under threat from the SNP and others.
- it was striking that I could find no man or woman, either in or out of my constituency, who ran a SME or business who thought that Labour would run the economy well, such that the economy and their business would prosper.
- the public accepted the principle that you only have a strong NHS and public services if you have a strong economy. Yet on the issue of competence on the economy the Labour Party had nothing to say. They had no answer to issues on tax, for example.  On tax for the job creators, the richest 1% now pay 30% of our tax revenue, compared to those 1% paying only 21% in 2003; whilst the lowest paid had been taken out of Income Tax, as well with the minimum threshold rising to £10,600 from £6500 in 2010. Minimum wage is up, apprentice wages are up and the job numbers in the north east and across the country are remarkable. A 50% reduction of unemployment and a doubling of apprentices since 2010 in the Hexham constituency speaks for itself.
- on constitutional changes, immigration and Europe the Labour Party refused to engage with the issues. The public deeply distrusted a proposed deal with the SNP. They want English votes on English issues, and a fair settlement on devolution to all parts of the UK. They want reform of our European relationship.
- I found that people fully understood that whilst the 2010-2015 Coalition had been forced to make tough decisions, they did not want the debts of the Blair / Brown eras being passed on to their children.

Labour are losing votes to the Conservatives in the centre ground and to ukip and the greens on the left, but their choice of leader post Miliband will be crucial. If they continue to veer further to the left then their disastrous election result last Thursday will be repeated. The hard left types like Andy Burnham have nothing to say to middle Britain, to the owner of an SME, to the aspirational mum and dad.
For my part I am heading back into Westminster tomorrow morning first thing. There is much to be done nationally and locally. It is an honour to be asked to serve the people I represent in Northumberland. I remain humbled by the opportunity.