Even people who supported Labour at last month’s election were privately relieved the party did not win, Harriet Harman has admitted.
In a candid interview with the Independent, Labour’s interim leader said the widespread doubts about the party’s leadership and economic credibility cost it dearly. She added that Labour’s much-trumpeted six million conversations with voters counted for little because the party had the “wrong message”.
Many people felt Labour was not talking to them because it raised issues such as zero-hours contracts, the living wage and food banks, she said.
Ms Harman has commissioned Deborah Mattinson, who was Gordon Brown’s pollster, to find out why voters spurned Labour and to assess their current mood as part of a no-holds-barred inquiry into the party’s crushing defeat.
Initial post-election focus groups by Ms Mattinson, founding director of the BritainThinks consultancy, uncovered a feeling of relief among Labour voters that the party had not won. One supporter in London’s Ealing Central and Acton constituency confessed to being “a little bit disappointed and a little bit relieved”.
The same view was expressed across the country, highlighting how even Labour voters lacked confidence in the party’s ability to govern – a graphic reminder of the huge task facing the party if it is to regain power.
Ms Harman said: “Sometimes after an election, you get a sense that people think: ‘Oh my God, that is terrible, what a disaster’.
“That’s what a lot of people felt because we got nearly 40,000 new members who were very disappointed. But there is an even greater number of people, even though they were not enthusiastic about the Tories, who feel relieved that we are not in government. We have got to address it. It was not a blip.”
Labour faces three big regional challenges – the rise of the SNP, a threat from Ukip in the North of England and poor performance in the South of England.