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Why Labour Lost

Having spent the last couple of months campaigning, knocking on doors day in and day out, I was hoping for a weekend off. You know, reacquainting myself with things like family and sleep. Giving myself time to grieve after investing body and soul into an unsuccessful campaign.

You couldn’t even give me a weekend, could you Blogosphere?

No. This weekend, everyone and their dog has decided to pick over the pieces of the election and explain exactly why Labour lost and what the way forward should be. In what can only be a massive coincidence, everyone’s reasoning just so happens to reinforce exactly what they believe already. Meanwhile various individuals jostle for position in order to steal the dead man’s shoes before the body’s even cold. (FWIW, I think it’s incredibly tacky and a sure fire way to go down in my estimation. You know who you are.)

So I join the fray, and present my own thoughts.

Why did Labour lose this election? I don’t know.

That’s right! I don’t know! I’m not arrogant enough to presume to know the motivations of 37 million different people who didn’t vote Labour.

“Labour was too left/right. Ed Miliband was too aggressive/not aggressive enough. Media narratives this. Psychological incentives that. Insert more opinions here.” When I read articles saying things like this I always say, how do you know? Did you ask? What proof do you have exactly that whatever reason you’ve stated is applicable in more cases than that of the two people you overheard on the 65 bus?

I believe in evidence-based policy. But that doesn’t only apply to government, it should apply to governance in general. I have no evidence of why people didn’t vote Labour besides anecdotes, inklings, and gut instinct. Basing your decisions on anecdotes, inklings, and gut instinct does not lead to good results. Michael Gove’s tenure at the Department for Education should have taught us that. (Zing.)

If we truly want to know what we did wrong, we have to talk to people. We have to gather a representative sample of those 37 million and ask them why. We should hold consultations, take stock of criticisms and then analyse the data that we get back. Only then can we say for sure what we got wrong, and then proceed to take steps to prevent it happening again. Taking a stab in the dark at what might work and hoping for positive feedback in five years at the ballot box simply isn’t efficient enough. In any other industry, this would be obvious.

It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy. It would probably be painful and unpopular with many in the party hierarchy. But ultimately, I’m a scientist. And I want to see research and hard facts in front of me before I make important decisions. The direction the Labour Party takes following this defeat is surely an important decision.

In any case, it is my belief that the party would benefit from taking its time to decide which path to take. Leadership structures are overrated anyway, especially within a party that already knows that its power comes from its people. Whenever any organisation panics about a lack of leadership, I like to point out that Belgium survived without a government for a year and a half.

Belgium you guys. Belgium.

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Co-founder and contributor to Scarlett Nation

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