top of page

Charles Clarke: Labour should tell McCluskey to stop bullying or get lost

Party must learn the lessons from aftermath of 2010 defeat

Labour’s disastrous defeat on May 7 has its roots in the party’s failure to get things on to the right track immediately after the 2010 defeat. Between May and October that year Labour was focused entirely internally. This allowed the coalition to establish its own narrative of Labour economic failure. Untrue though it was, it was never successfully challenged and it was the core basis of the Conservatives’ 2015 electoral strategy and the main reason for their victory. Similarly, questions about why Labour lost in 2010, how it should oppose in the new parliament, and what its strategy for 2015 should be were all subsumed within the over-simplified process of selecting a new leader and so not properly considered. To make matters worse, the procedure of selecting the leader was seriously flawed, as trade union leaderships imposed their political agendas and Ed Miliband was elected, another factor contributing to Labour’s defeat this year. Labour must not repeat those mistakes now. First, from the outset, the party needs to engage fully with the Tory programme, with newly appointed spokespeople making their cases strongly. Second, it needs an explicit process of open discussion about the reasons for defeat and what has to be done. That means appealing to every part of the population and not returning to misleading language such as “Blairism”, “Brownism”, “core strategy”, “aspiration” and “working people”. Third, the leadership election must be fair and seen to be fair. Above all, it must not be a Unite-driven coronation. When Len McCluskey says “it is essential that the correct leader emerges” and threatens that, if not, his union will leave Labour, his bullying has to be flatly rejected and his putative departure welcomed if that is what the union wants. Fourth, Labour absolutely must perform well in the Scottish parliament election. It will be difficult to overcome Jim Murphy’s resignation but Labour in Scotland urgently needs its own policy platform. My view is that an entirely independent Scottish Labour party should be created, constitutionally controlled entirely from Scotland. The whole party across the country will need to commit to what is a very tough and challenging agenda. How well Labour tackles these hard questions will tell us how serious it is about winning in 2020. Charles Clarke was Labour home secretary and education secretary 2002-06

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page