Labour must listen to what one voter told me on the doorstep – Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray

While out campaigning ahead of the general election that left him as Scotland’s only Labour MP, Ian Murray heard a simple vision of a better society that some politicians have forgotten.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:00 am
Jeremy Corbyn cost Labour votes, says Ian Murray. Picture: AFP/Getty

The corridors of Westminster this week echoed with Labour’s election legacy.

A legacy which resulted in 60 of my former MP colleagues packing up their offices and saying goodbye.

Over the years, the occupants of these offices have held Conservative governments to account, and some were used to transform this country in previous Labour governments.

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Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South

They also leave behind their constituents who, when it came to the ballot box, felt unable to put their trust in Labour in this year’s General Election.

The result? Another five years of Conservative austerity, hostile policies and a Prime Minister who plays fast and loose with the truth.

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I’m very lucky to have been re-elected with the support of my constituents in Edinburgh South who trust me to work hard for them both locally and nationally. Whether they voted for me or not, I will always be on their side.

Elsewhere in the country, many voters were desperate to support the Labour Party but could not bring themselves to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I have been criticised for saying this, but unless we are honest about what the public were saying to us all then we will make the same mistakes again.

Since our crushing defeat, Jeremy Corbyn has argued that our manifesto was hugely popular and “won the arguments”. The simple fact is that “winning the arguments” (and I don’t believe we did) in this election without delivering a Labour government achieves nothing.

Where our Labour manifesto was able to put forward credible plans for a government to enact proper change – such as our plan to tackle the climate crisis – policies were drowned out by a tsunami of incoherence. Voters do want more investment in our public services, with full funding for our NHS and opportunities for proper education, training and jobs that pay a fair wage. But we failed to offer a credible economic plan to deliver these promises that the country could get behind. Voters were saying to me “it is just not deliverable”.

A better future for her kids

The election strategy, our manifesto, and hopes of an election victory were not fought on visions of improving the lives of real people who have suffered at the hands of the Conservatives.

If Labour are to become a credible government in waiting, we must be clear in accepting that it was not the party leadership alone that was rejected in the election, but also the leadership’s own brand of politics and policies. This is not just my experience but that of every Labour candidate the length and breadth of the country. That is what voters were saying on nearly every doorstep.

Of course, we have important lessons to learn as a result. Those lessons are clear for all to see. I was struck, in particular, with what one woman told me on the doorstep. She said all she wanted was a better future for her kids. A good school, a reliable NHS when she needed it, dignity and respect for our older generation, safe streets, and a fair system that allows you to take out when you need it and pay in when you don’t. It is a simple concept that I think politicians have forgotten.

But we must not spend the next six months talking to ourselves instead of listening to the clear message sent to the Labour Party by the electorate. This means honest and open discussion, both inside and outside the party, to reinvigorate our movement. That means it is not just a new face with a fresh voice, but a new direction.

This starts with a new leader who can face up to the huge challenges facing our country; crippling inequality; the technological revolution; a Union in intensive care; and a Brexit cliff-edge. We must wipe the slate clean and move forward with a new leadership and a new direction, one which can restore trust in our party, unite our country and carry us to a Labour victory.

I thank all my constituents for their support. I won’t let you down.

Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South