In the early hours of 8 May, Labour suffered the worst electoral hammering since 1983. Stunned activists emerged blinking into a new, blue dawn and realised the political landscape had shifted to the point of being unrecognisable. The SNP utterly dominated proceedings in Scotland, UKIP took second place in large swaths of the North West and the Midlands, we have only 3 Labour MP's in the South West of England and in the South East, outside of London, we have one. We have entered a new uncertain era; old rules and conventions no longer apply. On the left, the failure to win the election has sparked a new debate on exactly what it is we stand for at a very fundamental level.
The Conservatives led a campaign of fear-mongering, pitting Scottish Nationalism against English nationalism while running a nasty and extremely personal negative campaign, focusing on economic insecurity and Ed Miliband's capacity to lead. However, we cannot simply blame nationalism or the negative campaign for the scale of our defeat. We lost because our arguments did not speak to the hopes and dreams of a majority of the British Public.
Over the last five years the party made many mistakes, we did not do enough to dispel the myth that we caused the global financial crash of 2007-2008, our inability to speak openly to people's concerns about immigration made us appear out of touch and remote. In addition, our strategy of appealing to our core vote and relying on the quirks of our electoral system to creep into number 10 on 35% of the vote was simply wrong. We simply cannot win if we remain so narrowly focused and we must now truly live up to our One Nation rhetoric if we are not to slip into irrelevance.
Like many Labour activists, I have spent the last 18 months on the doorstep campaigning around the country. We had a strong ground game with enthusiastic and effective volunteers, but despite this we need to re-assess our approach to canvassing. Too much of our time was spent speaking to Labour voters and not enough to those undecided. We need to listen to voters on the doorstep not just ask the odd voter ID question or spout party lines at them, our approach must be tailored based on the needs and concerns of the individuals we meet and the things they tell us.
It is also vitally important we learn the lessons from our success, as well as our defeats, such as Ilford North where a superb get out to vote strategy, was implemented, enabling the amazing Wes Streeting to overturn a 5000 majority. On polling day, I observed a disciplined staff, manage 100s of volunteers guiding them to key target areas using advanced local data.
Although this is not simply about the way we campaign, as a party it is time to deeply reflect on what we stand for. We must move beyond the labels of left and right, Blair, and Brown while not discrediting our past achievements. Tony Blair is our most successful leader in living memory, his administration achieved much good in government and we must be proud of his record. To continue to distance ourselves and discredit our achievements in the Blair-Brown years not only does our party a disservice it also makes it harder to move beyond our past.
If we look at the bigger picture we see a crisis growing at the core of Social Democratic movements right across Europe. This crisis stems from our inability within the left to step out of our comfort zones and ask the very hard and difficult questions we need to in order to remain relevant to people's lives. The Labour party thrived in the early to late 20th century as we were a movement guided by our fundamental principles of equality and fairness for the working man and woman. But our world and our country has undergone huge changes since the emergence of our movement, we now live in a globalised world in which the nature of work has changed, we no longer have the heavy industries of the past and the new digital economy now dominates. We must, therefore, ask ourselves with such fundamental change, how can our party adapt to meet the demands of modern Britain? We cannot win 2020 using last centuries arguments, nor can we ignore the message sent to us by the electorate in May.
The answers will not be easy to gain, and over the next few months we must all continue to critique and question our direction as a movement. However, in order to renew we must rebuild, the next Labour majority will only occur if we form a truly new politics, one which leaves the ideological burdens of the last five years behind. A platform rooted in Labour values but capable of reaching the whole country.
In order to achieve this, we must at all costs seek to represent the whole country, not just our core 35%. We must aim to have a presence in all constituencies, strengthening and growing Local CLP's, raising our ambitions and speaking to people throughout the next five years, not just in the few weeks before polling day. The Conservatives only represent England, in fact only Southern England and the rural parts of the north and Midlands, whilst we can deliver for the entire United Kingdom. The Labour Party is not only a movement but a party of government, therefore we must re-orientate, renew and rebuild if we are to change lives and govern once again.