Five Million Conversations

Five Million Conversations


How Labour lost an election and rediscovered its roots

Iain Watson

ISBN: 9781910745267

Binding: paperback

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Back cover text:

We have had five million conversations. This will go to the wire. ED MILIBAND

Iain Watson was the BBC Political Correspondent assigned to follow the Labour campaign. He shares the gaffes and glories of the 2015 general election culminating in the notorious ‘Edstone’ and humiliating defeat. He offers a colourful account of the intimate day-to-day moments not captured on camera and reveals the divisions, doubts and delusions of Miliband’s core campaign team. 

As self-proclaimed winners of the ‘ground war’, how could Labour have got it so wrong? 

How could Labour’s activists talk to a record number of voters – and end up with fewer seats than at the previous election?

What was the nature of those conversations?

How will the party’s next leader avoid the same mistakes?

This huge democratic exercise … all across this country showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society.  JEREMY CORBYN

Table of contents:


Acknowledgements 9

Preface 11

The Accidental Leader 13
There may be Trouble Ahead – The Election in Microcosm 41
Deal or No Deal 48
The Battle for Downing Street 53
From Builder to Soldier: Britain Succeeds When Working People Succeed 58
Funny Business 63
Zero Sum Game 69
We’re all Labour Here 76
Happy Warrior 83
Chips off the Old Block 86
A bit of Politics 89
A Taxing Issue 90
Education, Education… Fratricide 93
One Nation, No Vision? 96
Unions and the Union 100
Worry Points 102
A Flock of Starlings 108
13,000 Conversations 111
In Good Health? 114
Hold the Front Page 116
Missing a Trick? 120
Invitation Only 122
Campaign Stop 127
Not a Big Enough Difference 130
Put to the Test 133
Immigration and Exploitation 135
Marriage of Convenience 141
A Day at the Races 143
The Most Unlikely Cult of the 21st Century 146
Blood on His Hands, Blood on the Carpet 148
New Town Blues 151
Generation Rent 154
Marred by the 

SNP Myth 156
A Trip to the Theatre 158
Building Non-Traditional Support 160
Labour’s Brand Problem 162
Dangerous Territory 164
No Question of Deals 168
A Question of Credibility 171
Mayday, Mayday… Scottish Labour’s Existential Threat 178
Facebook v Foot-Weary: Right People, Wrong Conversations 184
Luvvies for Labour 190
Edstone 192
Message, Not Mileage 197
Five Million Conversations 199
The Strange Disappearance of Arnie Graf 205
A Little Less Conversation: Food, Drink and Fun 208
Breakfast in Doncaster 213
The Loser Always Wins? 215
Moment of Truth 220
Nuneaton is the New Basildon 223
Exit 226
A Question of Leadership 230

Appendix 1 Clause 4 – Aims and Values 265
Appendix 2 Labour Party Leaders 266
Appendix 3 Selected quotes 268
Appendix 4 Labour Votes at General Elections 273
Appendix 5 Campaign Chronology 274
Appendix 6 Labour Party Leadership results announced
12 September 2015 277
Appendix 7 Miliband and Corbyn buzzwords 278


A gripping, well-crafted insight into Labour's failures.  Mark Aitken, Sunday Mail