Well Labour didn’t win, Better luck next time!

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Labour ‘hasn’t a hope in hell’ of winning elections, says resigning peer” was written by Nicholas Watt, Patrick Wintour and Ben Quinn, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 20th October 2015 09.11 UTC

The Labour party faces an existential threat and “hasn’t a hope in hell” of winning the next two general elections unless it changes tack and understands why it lost the 2010 and 2015 elections, the former health minister Lord Warner has said.

As he came under fire for becoming the first Labour parliamentarian to resign from the party after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, Warner said he had decided to leave to try and force a debate within the party.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after releasing his letter of resignation to Corbyn on Monday night, Warner said: “My own view is that the Labour party now faces an existential threat. If it doesn’t change itself very rapidly indeed it hasn’t a hope in hell of winning the election in 2020 or indeed in 2025.

“It has to understand why a large number of people chose to vote for four other parties on 7 May. It hasn’t done that re-examination. I want to try and push it to do that and I think the best way I can do that is make a stand and leave the party.”

Warner, who served as a special adviser to Jack Straw in the Home Office in Tony Blair’s first term in office before serving as a health minister between 2003 and 2007, was criticised by senior Labour figures for resigning. John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, and Owen Smith, the shadow work and pensions secretary, highlighted his proposal in 2014 for people to be charged £10 to use the NHS.

Prescott tweeted:

Smith told Newsnight: “He voted with the Tories a couple of years ago under the last Labour leadership to privatise parts of the NHS. He’s someone who has advocated charging for the NHS, charging to stay overnight. I think he’s been leaving Labour for quite a while. I’m not sure we will miss him too much.”

Warner denied Smith’s criticism. He told Today: “I haven’t been leaving the party at all. A friend of mine said to me last night: you haven’t left the Labour party, the Labour party has left you. This is a very personal decision.”

In his letter to Corbyn, Warner said he would sit as a crossbencher in future after deciding that Labour was no longer “a credible party of government-in-waiting”. He added: “Labour will only win another election with a policy approach that wins back people who have moved to voting Conservative and Ukip, as well as to Greens and SNP. Your approach is unlikely to achieve this shift.”

Warner said he would continue to argue for progressive causes on the Lords benches, but he does not believe “those are likely to be those you or your kindred spirits espouse”.

He continues: “I have watched for some time the declining quality of the Labour party’s leadership, but had not expected the calamitous decline achieved in 2015. The Labour party is no longer a credible party of government-in-waiting. The approach of those around you and your own approach and policies is highly likely to to worsen the decline and in the Labour party’s credibility.

“I fear for the future of the Labour party if your supporting activists secure ever control of the party’s apparatus and process, and the role of the parliamentary Labour party diminishes further in the selection of a leader and the formulation of policies likely to win an election.”

Warner was instrumental in pushing through many of Blair’s health reforms, but was also a key adviser to Straw as home secretary.

The Corbyn team may dismiss his resignation, but they will be wary of saying anything that alienates other Labour peers, partly because Warner is widely respected as an assiduous peer and expert on healthcare reform. The Labour leader does not have many supporters in the Lords, where peers are not subject to his patronage.

In his resignation letter, Warner quotes the late Labour chancellor Denis Healey, who said in a 1959 speech to party conference after its third successive general election loss: “There are are far too many people who want to luxuriate complacently in the moral righteousness of opposition – we are not just a debating society. We are not just a Sunday socialist school. We are a great movement that wants to help real people living on this earth at the present time. We shall never be able to help them unless we get power.”

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