What Can The Democratic Party Leadership Learn From The British Labour Party? [Opinion]

On May 7, 2015, then-British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron was returned to Downing Street in one of the country’s most shocking elections in recent history. Then-Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who was widely expected to become prime minister, was left drastically short of the parliamentary seats required to form a majority government.

In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s surprise defeat to Republican Donald Trump was eerily similar to Ed Miliband’s defeat the year before, as Clinton failed to pick up support in areas of the country where her party would typically win comfortably. The Democratic Party now finds itself in a similar place as where the British Labour party was in 2015, following its shock election defeat. So what can the once-triumphant Democratic Party learn from the once-triumphant Labour party?

Former Labour party leader Ed Milband.
Former Labour party leader Ed Milband. [Image by Jack Taylor/Getty Images]

After Ed Miliband’s loss to David Cameron in the 2015 general election, he swiftly resigned, as is customary of party leaders in the country. However, it was a subsequent leadership election that saw the party elect radical left winger Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the opposition. Corbyn, who much like Bernie Sanders, identifies as a democratic socialist and throughout his over 30 years in parliament has remained on the party’s back benches, not once invited to join the cabinet and even frequently voting against his own party in government.

As to be expected, Corbyn has moved the party drastically to the left, adopting a socialist agenda and even attacking the party’s former three times election-winning leader Tony Blair. However, it’s a strategy that isn’t paying off. According to the Financial Times, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is now polling 18 points behind the Conservative Party and its incumbent leader Prime Minister Thersa May. The particular poll puts the Labour Party under Corbyn in its worst position since 1983, when Michael Foot was poised to endure a general election wipeout.

There was further humiliation for the party last week when the resignation of Labour MP Jamie Reed triggered a by-election in his Copeland constituency. Despite the seat behind held by Labour since 1935, the Conservative Party swept to victory, marking Copeland the first by-election gain for a governing party since 1982.


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The Labour Party has learned the hard way that by re-electing a right wing government following five years of tough austerity, the British people weren’t calling for Labour to move further to the left. And in the United States, that’s a lesson that the Democratic Party, which lost under moderate candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, needs to learn from.

When choosing a candidate to take on President Trump in the 2020 election, it would be easy for the Democratic Party to swing further to the left by nominating a radical progressive, like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. However, the lessons learned by the Labour Party should tell Democrats that when people elect a right-wing administration, they’re not calling for the opposition to move further to the left. In fact, the Democratic Party needs to do what the Labour Party neglected to do and pick up those voters it lost to the right.

Failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. [Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images]

Meanwhile, the Labour Party’s woes continue. According to the Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn continues to insist that he is not to blame for the party’s defeat in Copeland and remains adamant that he won’t resign, almost ensuring yet another Labour Party defeat to the Conservatives in 2020.

Following Hillary Clinton’s surprise defeat in 2016, it’s imperative that Democrats look to the Labour party and ensure they don’t walk the same path.

[Featured Image by Leon Neal/Getty Images]