Belfast Telegraph

Economy lost Labour the election

By Boyd Black

When Labour Party NI (LPNI) members arrived home after the count in the City of Chester constituency, our predominant emotion was one of disappointment at the prospect of five years of an untrammelled Tory government.

This was somewhat offset by the satisfaction that we had contributed in no small way to the victory of the Labour candidate, Chris Matheson, in Chester.

LPNI had been twinned with the City of Chester constituency and we sent a strong team of members over on a number of occasions to help. Chris - an excellent candidate - won the seat by only 80 votes, after a recount.

We believe Northern Ireland members made a difference. We won the seat for Labour. But there were not enough Chesters for Labour. And why not?

The leadership of the party is critical. We saw at close hand that Ed Miliband was woefully inadequate and out of his depth when it came to Northern Ireland.

He was less popular in Scotland than even David Cameron and the threat of a Labour/SNP alliance helped spook the English electorate into voting Tory.

Critically, in my view, Ed never inspired confidence that he could handle the economy. This dates back to the period leading up to the crash, when Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband subjected economic decisions to the political imperative of winning Gordon Brown the premiership.

As a result, no matter that Labour had many good policies to address the cost of living crisis and much else, the general public know that economic competence and a thriving business sector is really what determines living standards. There was no convincing overall Labour message. A new leader must address these issues.

We want a cast-iron commitment that Labour will stop suppressing Labour Party candidates here and commit to transforming our politics as only it can do.

It must stop "honest-brokering" sectarianism and, instead, lead the fight against sectarianism here on the basis of Labour values.

The new leader must also address the linked issues of devolution and party organisation in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

And, with a referendum on the cards, he, or she, can no longer postpone the issue of Europe.

  • Boyd Black is secretary of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland

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