This is a moment of profound economic and social distress for the country. Bold action is desperately required to cope with the crisis. Yet we are six months on from another election that Labour lost badly.
This is the backdrop for the Labour Together report on the 2019 defeat, which we are publishing tomorrow. Our report is clear that the party cannot abandon its commitment to bold economic transformation – indeed we believe there is a winning coalition to be built for it. To deliver that transformation, Labour must learn the deep lessons about why the public did not believe in the change we offered in 2019 and the deep roots of our defeat.
Every part of the party needs to understand the mountain we have to climb to come back. To win the next election with a majority of one, Labour will have to increase its total number of seats by 60%, something no party has ever done.
There is a broad consensus about the immediate reasons for our defeat. Just like when I lost in 2015, issues of leadership mattered; so, too, did the dramatic wedge that Brexit drove through our coalition and a sense that, whatever the popularity of individual policies, our manifesto package as a whole was not seen as credible.
However, our report concludes that these issues conceal much deeper forces. In 2019, the so-called red wall crumbled; but the bricks had been gradually loosening over a long period through a combination of industrial change and alienation from the Westminster party. In the seats we lost in 2019, such as North West Durham and Rother Valley, the gap between the Tories and us had been closing for two decades.
At the same time as we have lost our old heartlands, we have a new core vote, of younger graduates, mostly in our big cities. But they are not enough on their own to win us the election. Every leftwing party across Europe is facing a similar challenge, often recording historically low vote shares.
The deeper forces that have led us to this point require deep thinking to lead us out, as Keir Starmer has said. Our task is to build a new coalition of younger, metropolitan voters, along with those in our former core vote who deserted us over time, as well as swing voters, including those in the south of England.
Listening to voters does not lead to abandoning a belief in economic transformation. We are clear that people want real, profound change and Labour must be the agent of it.
The party conducted detailed polling analysis of hundreds of thousands of people and organised a citizens’ jury, bringing together town-dwelling leave voters who had left us and urban remainers who had stayed. The shared concerns included investing in public services such as the NHS and education; building social housing and creating decent jobs; and fair taxation and redistribution.
This sentiment for big economic change was seen in the Brexit referendum, among millions of leavers who felt neglected by politics and wanted an economic transformation that spoke to their community and town. This desire is still evident among leave and remain voters.
Since my defeat in 2015, I have learned lessons about the appetite for greater boldness compared to what I offered. Today, the lessons from 2019 are that we must have change that people can believe in. People simply did not buy into the idea that the transformation we were promising last December would be delivered. Whatever our good intentions, if people think change won’t happen, they won’t vote for us.
Winning the case for change is also about the work done in the years between elections, not the months before. Our report recommends that we use every part of our movement to rebuild the bonds that link us to voters. Unless we make our politics more relational, less transactional, we will be deeply vulnerable to simplistic, populist arguments from the other side.
Our organisation and campaigning is not fit for purpose: our methods still owe more to the 1990s than the 2020s. And while we prided ourselves on digital innovation in 2017, the Conservatives were miles ahead of us last year. A top-to-bottom transformation is required.
To make the most of our wider movement, we must put aside the factionalism and division of recent years. We owe it to the people whom we represent to look outwards to the country rather than inwards.
There is no consolation in defeat – only a country that has grown more unequal, more unfair and more divided. The Herculean task of winning the next election will require vision, imagination, discipline and unity. Every part of our movement must be part of it. We hope our report can be a starting point not just for winning an election but what really matters: a radical transformation of our country.
• Ed Miliband is shadow business secretary and former leader of the Labour party