by Alex Shattock
Whenever we talk about Labour’s chances of winning the next election, there is always an elephant in the room that nobody wants to speak about. We thought it would go away, sort itself out. It hasn’t. Frankly, we can’t ignore it anymore, because it’s beginning to hurt our chances of success in a very visible way.
The elephant is the vocal minority in the Labour party who don’t believe we can win with Ed Miliband as our leader. It’s time to talk about the problems their defeatism is causing, and why it is misguided.
The MPs in our diverse shadow cabinet have done an admirable job in maintaining party unity. Their success is not, however, reflected by everyone in the party. The vocal minority who don’t believe in Ed Miliband are making their presence known, whether it is an unnecessary intervention by a former leader, or a (not so) subtle swipe at a pressure group conference. Their murmurings are becoming louder, and the media is starting to hear.
Their main criticism is that Ed has a “charisma” problem: but we all saw Ed’s fantastic One Nation speech. He can give a great performance when it counts. I suspect their discomfort runs a little deeper than that. The charisma problem is really an ideological problem: “We’re not polling better because of the direction Ed is taking us”.
It sounds to me like the defeatists don’t believe a centre-left platform can ever win a UK election. Perhaps they don’t believe it ever should. “Labour just isn’t connecting with business”, someone told me last week. “I mean, look at Ed’s speech about predators… He isn’t showing businessmen he wants to help them make money.”
The Labour party wasn’t created to help businessmen make money. There is a place for business in Labour’s vision, of course there is: but our primary concern should be building a better society.
Labour politics is about businesses as employers, the poor as deserving, inequality as a problem. We should not sacrifice our beliefs on the easy altar of populism. We should make the case for our beliefs in the public domain.