Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

End of Term Report: Labour

Labour lost the last election (like all the other parties) and did not go into government – so they have not been able to keep any of their promises (something the Liberals seem incapable of pointing out).  The maths of majority coalition government also makes it very difficult for the opposition to claim much success in blocking policy.

So it is a matter of looking at how well they have handled the politics.

The first bit of raw politics was the election of a new leader. Ed Miliband beat his brother David by a narrow margin and has failed to neutralise the “back stabbing” accusation. But why is what he did any worse than what Thatcher did to Heath or what the Tories eventually did to Thatcher – or the Liberals to Kennedy?

They also failed to neutralise the accusation that  Ed is the placeman of Unite because it was the Union vote that eventually won it for Ed. They also allowed Len McCluskey to become a bogeyman. There is a problem with Unite being so dominant within the Trade Union Movement – but that is irrelevant to the leadership election as the Trade Union section of the leadership election is decided by the accumulation of the votes of individual trade union members of the movement.

They have failed to capitalise on the fact that Ed is actually leader of the Labour Movement. Not good politics.

Despite Ed Miliband having some successes – such as standing up to Murdoch – he (and his party) have struggled to create a consistent narrative that has traction with the electorate.

They have produced eye-catching policies like the energy price freeze, but have not managed to put them in a context that allows normal members of the electorate to develop an instinctive feeling for what Labour would do. It feels as if it has been all tactics and little strategy. It is not just enough to be able to annoy “Flashman” Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions – that just proves that you are an adequate leader of the opposition, not that you lead a credible alternative government. I least that is how I perceive it in my corner of the North East of England.

Scotland has been an epic and possibly fatal failure.

I do not think this is simply a matter of Labour being pro-union and the majority of Scotland being separatist. If that was the case, you could argue that Labour has been principled and refused to swing like a weather vane for short-term electoral advantage.

I think, from just South of the border, that the London dominated Labour party has misread what is going on outside London and because of the existence of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Nationalist Party, the Scots – unlike say those of us in the North East of England – have a means to express their total frustration with Westminster style politics. They know that they have a potential alternative to look to if Westminster refuses to reform – separation does not look that bad.

This has led to uncertainty in the election campaign when it comes to how to deal with the probability that Labour will not get a majority and might need, if not a formal agreement with the Scots Nats, the support of Salmond and Co if a Labour minority administration is to be effective and more than a short-lived stop-gap.

The last five years seem to have been a missed opportunity, possibly not on the same scale as that following 1979, but none-the-less a failure of politics.

As Ed said to me – he emailed me last night! (I don’t know if he knows but Justine as also been sending me emails!)

David Cameron believes that if the people on top do well, wealth will trickle down and all of Britain will prosper. I believe that Britain succeeds when working people succeed. If I am elected as Prime Minister, I will make every decision with that idea in mind.
This election is going to be the closest we have ever seen — it is going to go down to the wire — and your vote tomorrow will make a difference.
All very true – apart from my vote making a difference (I am Outside the Marginals), but the self-belief of the Labour Leader is not enough, that belief has to be widely shared by the electorate (as it was in say 1945 or even 1997) – and it is not today.
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