The Labour leadership contest has been inescapable. If you were glad when the general election was over, you are out of luck. All of the name calling, mudslinging, insults and accusations seem to have been intensified in this new contest. All of the candidates are searching for the solutions to Labour's ailing electability, and for answers about the General Election. Deep internal wounds are being inflicted by each of the camps, all in search of success in 2020. Is it worth it? I don't think so.
There is no sole reason why Labour lost the election. For each voter who left Labour in 2015, there was a good reason. For some Labour was too left-wing and lacked economic credibility. For others, Labour was not bold enough and did not provide and alternative to austerity. For some, Labour was the party of mass immigration. For others, Labour was too quick to swallow Ukip's rhetoric and demonise migrants. The only obvious conclusion we can take from Labour's loss is that is was overstretched. It tried to please too many groups of voters at once, and ended up losing them all.
Three main groups dominate Labour's support. Working class voters, liberal/metropolitan voters and swing voters. These groups may overlap slightly, but in many ways they are incompatible. Working class voters, who have staunchly supported Labour for many years, now feel left behind by the likes of Emily Thornberry and a perceived 'liberal elite' in Labour. These voters are more socially Conservative and are leaking out to UKIP, especially in the North of England, Wales and in the South East. Don't forget that South Thanet was a Labour seat until 2005.
Labour was much more successful at capturing the votes of liberal and metropolitan voters. These voters tend to be young, well educated and left wing. They are, however, losing hope. They were disappointed in 2015 at Labour's 'controls on immigration' mugs, and it's lack of opposition to austerity. In Scotland, this group has jumped ship to the SNP and in England and Wales is looks increasing likely that they will turn to the Green Party or back to the Lib Dems.
The final group is the one that decided the results in many of Labour's target constituencies. Swing voters. This time around, they did not believe that Labour was credible on the economy. They were worried about the SNP. Crucially, they thought that David Cameron would make a better Prime Minister.
The constituency which epitomises Labour's affliction is Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. A target of Labour's which required only a 1.3% swing to win. In the end, Labour lost by only 523 votes. Labour's dilemma in 2020 is how to win enough votes to win. Should they chase the Green vote (3,401 votes), and risk alienating potential Ukip and Conservative supporters? Should they chase Ukip voters (6,731 votes) and risk alienating Greens and Lib Dems? Perhaps they should concentrate on the swing voters who voted Conservative and run the risk of losing even more ground to the Greens, UKIP and Lib Dems who are all in good position to grow in the next few years. In reality, none of these routes will win them the seat.
Since it's inception, Labour has been a broadchurch. No other party has a range of views as wide as Tony Blair to Jeremy Corbyn. No other party has such deep rifts. The sellotape that seals Labour's chasms? Our voting system. The only reason that Blairites and socialists put up with each other is because they know that it is the only way to beat the Conservatives. The right of the party remember the 1980s, when the SDP kept Labour out of power for decades. Chuka Ummuna and his ilk will have to grit their teeth and hold their tongues if Jeremy Corbyn wins.
Unfortunately for Labour, it's not the 1980s anymore. We no longer have clash of the titans, Labour vs Conservative elections. There are many more parties on offer, and whichever leader is elected, Labour will lose votes in some direction. Whether that is to the Green Party, Ukip, the Lib Dems, Conservatives or some other party has yet to be decided. The solutions that Labour leadership candidates are offering are simple and one-dimensional, but our politics no longer is. Labour won't win again by listening to every opinion in the focus groups. Something needs to be done differently.
The answer to Labour's woes is simple. Electoral reform. Each faction of the party connects with it's own audience but collectively they drive voters away. Separately, under a proportional system, they could win. A broad coalition in a proportional system would however allow socialists to vote socialist, and Blairites to vote Blairite. This new system would give way to a more dynamic 'rainbow coalition' which would attract votes from all sections of society without alienating the others.