by John Bateson 25/05/15
I would like to thank all members of Westmorland and Lonsdale Labour Party who helped in so many ways during the long campaign in the constituency for the 2015 General Election. It was a well organised campaign, and we succeeded in putting the Labour party back on the map after our very disappointing result in 2010. Our vote share increased by 3.2%, or times 2.3 on the 2010 result.
Altogether I attended sixteen hustings, as well as radio debates and a television appearance. At each of the hustings I found very positive support for Labour values and principles, even among those who still intended to vote tactically or for other parties. At nearly all the events people stressed their concerns about a wide range of subjects with economic issues dominant. I was always aware that the Conservatives considered the economy their trump card and I knew it was vital to stress the failure of the coalition government to pay off the deficit, reduce the debt and secure economic growth. I also stressed the acute and damaging social consequences of austerity reflected in zero hours working contracts, the rapid rise of food banks and increasing poverty and social exclusion. It was brilliant to see many party members at the events, as well as canvassing, leafleting and visiting Labour voters. Thank You.
Of course the national result was deeply disappointing and we all need to take time to consider, carefully and rationally, why our vote only increased by 1.5% on our disastrous 2010 figure. Clearly the loss of Scotland and the fear of an SNP influence on government was one issue, and there are many others. The almost complete collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the rise of UKIP affected constituency results negatively for Labour, as did the targeting by the Conservatives of certain marginal seats. In the north west our twin seat of Morecambe and Lunesdale and Carlisle were among the targets for the Tory election strategists, who had financial resources way beyond our means.
On a positive note we won Lancaster and Fleetwood from the Conservatives, it's brilliant to see Cat Smith elected who will be a fantastic Labour MP. I have also congratulated Sue Hayman for becoming Cumbria's first woman MP in Workington, and Jamie Reed and John Woodcock for retaining their seats. I also sent a message to Steve Rotheram who attained an 81% Labour vote share in a five way contest in Liverpool Walton !
As we enter our leadership contest my hope is that it will be a good natured and mature event, with positive proposals for the future emerging. In all my years in the party I have always believed that we should speak for the majority and not for sectional interests, but in doing so we should never abandon our core beliefs in equality and social inclusion. Toryism is organised spivery rooted in fear and division. We have a much better message - let's make it together and win in 2020.