NEC Report: Special meeting on 2019 election defeat and lessons for the future

Shortly after the 2019 general election defeat, Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) asked to have a stand-alone meeting to discuss the defeat and learn lessons for the future. 2019 seems like a very long time ago, and when we agreed the meeting we had we had no idea of the challenges 2020 would bring. The meeting took place later than intended but was an important step to understanding why we lost and what we need to rebuild and deliver for our communities and everyone who desperately needs a Labour government.

The purpose of the meeting was to analyse and evaluate the 2019 campaign, what went well, what didn’t, and how we can move forward to win in 2024 (and in future local elections). The meeting focused on topics such as voting trends and demographics, campaign strategy, the manifesto, campaign themes and messaging.

Keir Starmer introduced the meeting, highlighting the importance of reflecting on 2019 and ensuring we don’t make the same mistakes in future. Keir noted that while the NEC may not agree on everything, it is important that we engage constructively and understand what we need to do to win future elections. Keir told the NEC that if we don’t win the 2024 general election, we will have let down an entire generation who will have lived for 19 years under a Tory government.

Angela Rayner talked to the NEC about our strategic role in taking us forward and winning future elections. She referred to the crucial elections taking place across the UK in 2021, which is a massive test and opportunity for Labour. Angela talked about how we all must put aside any past differences to win together for our communities.

The NEC was reminded of the scale of the 2019 general election defeat, where we ended on 202 seats, recording the lowest number of seats since the 1930s and our fourth lowest vote share ever. We lost votes to all parties and non-voters.  Boris Johnson gained a huge parliamentary majority. The SNP significantly increased their vote share in Scotland. We lost seats across the country that we have never lost before or hadn’t lost since the 1930s. Our vote share fell everywhere. The Lib Dems increased their vote share but this did not translate to winning seats.

It was reported that in the last general election Labour had 138 target seats. The majority of these were seats we hoped to gain. Universal national swing was used to inform seat targeting for early selections. It was recognised that there were issues with our targeting and resource allocation.

Representatives from Labour Together presented the findings of their general election review. The NEC was talked through the long-term trends that contributed to some of Labour’s challenges and the global trends effecting Western politics. The presentation examined the challenges of Brexit and some of Labour’s strategic and organisational errors. They also talked about some of things the Conservative Party did very well, like fundraising, targeting, digital campaigning and messaging.

The NEC broke into smaller groups for discussions on key areas and then regrouped to talk about future plans. Areas for discussion included:

  • Use of CLP twinning for future elections and general resource and activist allocation.
  • The best way to deliver manifesto messages and values that cut through with voters.
  • What our strategy should be for engaging with the media and putting across our messages effectively.
  • How to use social media and digital campaign to reach and persuade new audiences, avoiding operating in an eco-chamber.
  • The future of community organising in the Labour Party.
  • Future fundraising strategy.
  • When and how to selection parliamentary candidates, and how to ensure these candidates reflect the communities they represent.
  • The role of councillors in rebuilding the party, and how to train and support them to be community champions and organisers.

Labour’s general secretary will report back to the NEC on progress and bring further papers for discussion. The next full NEC meeting is at the end of this month.

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