Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Labour's Leader in the House of Lords
“Out of touch, unfair and incompetent” are the words that people used on the doorstep about the Coalition Government. Worried about their own jobs, about job prospects for their kids, about care for their elderly parents, about filling up their petrol tanks so they can get to work, about electricity bills, and about getting food on the table for their families - they simply do not believe that the government has a clue about the realities they are facing. And that’s why they have started to put their trust in Labour again.
But it’s just a start and, as Ed Miliband has said, there is much work to be done, especially in relation to all those people who simply didn’t see the point of voting. Fewer than one in three people used their vote.
Just two years ago, we suffered a tumultuous general election defeat and lost our foothold in the South, the South West and the East of England. In Government, we forgot the importance of our Councillors, the vital work that they do to serve the people they represent and in doing so, the trust that they gain in their communities.
Losing Councillors, Councils and MPs was a hard lesson to learn, and the people who suffered most were those whose lives, pockets and aspirations have been hit by the policies of the Coalition. The results of yesterday’s elections however, are tangible proof that not only are people now willing to listen to Labour, they are prepared to trust us with their vote so that our Councillors and our Councils throughout the UK can start to change lives for the better.
The results in Wales, the North and Midlands were terrific and it is fantastic to regain control of Birmingham and Cardiff, but results in the South, South West and East mean that we once again have strong foundations on which to build support for the election of Labour MPs in 2015. Exeter, Plymouth, Southampton, Harlow, Thurrock, Norwich and Great Yarmouth – all now Labour Councils that will make a real difference to the people and communities they serve. But many are also areas with parliamentary seats that are key to a future Labour Government.
In 2008 when the Conservatives gained 256 seats and won 12 Councils, David Cameron said that the results were “a vote of confidence in the Conservative Party” and proved that he had changed his party “for the better”.
That detoxification was short lived.
After two years of Tory policies – implemented only thanks to the support of LibDem MPs and Peers – people are suffering. Not only from cuts that are too far and too fast, but also from unjust changes to the NHS, housing benefit and legal aid, student fees and EMAs – all of which is beginning to bite. Meanwhile, everyone is worried about employment. And then there’s the deeply unfair budget where millionaires gained at the expense of hard working families. Is it any wonder that the Tories and LibDems lost so many seats?
Our task now is to nurture more trust in our policies and our Party. Labour Councils, including those we now run, will be faced with huge challenges due to cuts in finances and the increasing needs of their communities as government withdraws from its responsibilities. But I am confident that they will help us demonstrate that Labour in office is in touch, fair and competent, and with people in these tough and testing times.