Good results for Labour but the UKIP surge augurs ill for Ed

by Atul Hatwal

This morning Ed Miliband will be luxuriating in the breathing space afforded by the local election results. After a torrid couple of weeks where the Westminster narrative has palpably shifted against him, yesterday’s gains will disrupt the flow of negative stories, temporarily at least.

Not only is Labour on track to do well but UKIP – the new ball of wool for the media kitten – has performed sufficiently strongly to occupy days’ more column inches of reflection and dissection.

The Labour leader deserves his moment of respite. Winning lots of new councillors will revitalise local constituency parties up and down the country and help rebuild a Labour campaign machine that rusted and fell apart over thirteen years in power.

But Ed Miliband should be under no illusions: as good as Labour’s results are likely to be when all the results are declared, they will accentuate  the irreconcilable conflict at the heart of his political positioning and no number of smiling photo opportunities with new Labour councillors can avert Labour’s strategic dilemma.

On one side of Ed Miliband is the public. Contrary to the self-affirming assertions within Labour’s online echo chamber of activists and wannabe MPs that the centre ground of British politics is moving left, yesterday’s elections demonstrate something very different.

Whatever is said about UKIP, one thing is clear: disillusioned voters using it as a vehicle for protest are not headed left. There are plenty of left wing options for the type of nihilistic anger harnessed by UKIP but the voters didn’t pick any of them. It wasn’t the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition that surged yesterday.

The electoral gravity exerted by this type of fourth party shock should pull Ed Miliband towards the political centre. It’s not hard to envisage what a centrist Labour platform might look like that could appeal to electors angry with the Tories but unable to countenance Labour: credible commitments on spending restraint that address the party’s biggest economic negatives, a fiscal stimulus to get the economy moving that is fully costed and the political smarts to avoid falling into George Osborne’s welfare traps which pit the party against the majority of public opinion.

But, even if the Labour leader wanted to hew towards the centre, which is debateable, there’s a problem. On the other side of Ed Miliband are the unions, exerting an equal and opposite force on him to the voters.

When Miliband was a new and vulnerable leader, potentially threatened by parliamentary assassins from among both the Blairites and Ballsites, it was the unions that gave him succour. Their robust support protected the leader, bolstered his authority and enabled him to quietly quash the immediate threats to his position. They have generously funded the Labour party and are responsible for his current security of tenure.

The unions do not want Ed Miliband to head into the centre. Quite the reverse. Their need is for Ed Miliband to head resolutely left and explicitly repudiate austerity, spending restraint and those centrist positions that might entice an angry UKIPer to take a second look at Labour.

The result is that Ed Miliband is trapped. He cannot move towards the swathes of protesting voters looking for a general election alternative because of the unions. But neither can he give the unions what they want because of the likely impact on Labour’s vote.

He has been politically paralysed in this position for most of his leadership. Until now Labour’s studied ambiguity on the mythical “tough choices” that it would make in office have enabled him to muddle along without getting pinned down to specifics by either voters or unions.

This is all about to change. The spending review will make it extremely difficult to placate both groups with warm words. Ed Miliband’s WATO interview at the start of the week is an example of the type of hammering Labour frontbenchers will get if the party’s tax and spending policies remain a blank sheet of paper.

On June 26th, when George Osborne lays out the specifics of the government’s future spending programme, the internal contradictions of Ed Miliband’s strategic positioning will start to play out. Yesterday’s election results are a timely warning: for all the pressure the unions will bring to bear internally within the party, out there in the real world, the floating mass of angry anti-government voters sit to the right of Labour.

Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut

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14 Responses to “Good results for Labour but the UKIP surge augurs ill for Ed”

  1. Felix says:

    You can always trust embittered Uncut to p*** on the parade before it’s even begun.

  2. LesAbbey says:

    So its obvious the Tories will have to head rightwards to catch up with those protest UKIP voters. Therefore in Atul’s Labour Party, they too must race rightwards to keep up with the Tories.

    I wonder how right wing these people want Labour to be? Is there any limit for them?

  3. aragon says:

    A Vote for UKIP is not a move to the right but a ‘non of the above’ or protest vote.

    This is especially true on Europe and Immigration.

    Labour have no credible position on immigration but people suspect a resumption of the ‘open door’ policy.

    On Europe no change.

    What is more Ed is seen as weak and ineffectual.

    On radical policies:

    We have a limited Job Guarantee, a good policy that is new, but limited in scope.

    Moving the Minimum Wage to a Living Wage, so watered down as to be ineffective.

    Progressive renationalisation of the Railways, a popular, distinctive and attractive policy. Sorry that is not Labour policy.

    A VAT cut to 17.5% from the current 20% for one year ?
    A temporary cut, that will not change the fundamentals.

    Increased house building. Given the failure in the Brown years this is to be welcomed, but numbers are uncertain.

    Full disclosure: I have originated and advocated the policies of the Job Guarantee, Minimum Wage (equal to the living Wage) and progressive Renationalisation of the railways.

    It is clear radical policies are likely to be rejected out of hand, so there is no point proposing them, and the two Ed’s are not distinctive enough to be regarded as a move to the left.

    They represent the status quo that is been rejected by UKIP voters especially on immigration.

  4. Frankie D. says:

    @Aragon “A Vote for UKIP is not a move to the right but a ‘non of the above’ or protest vote.”

    Only if the voter is too thick to know who they’re voting for…

  5. swatantra says:

    The UKIP vote is just a protest vote and will not stand up in a GE, or future local elections. The new UKIP voter hasn’t much idea of what they are actually voting for despite what aragon says, and niether does the average UKIP candidate, so Nige had better not prepare for Govt just yet. Seats gained will be lost just as easily. The electorate is fickle and pretty bloody minded at the moment, so prepare for a hung Parliament in 2015.

  6. Henrik says:

    @Frankie D – ah yes, those imbecile voters. They don’t deserve a franchise if they’re too stupid to grasp the inherent rightness of Labour, correct? We shouldn’t sully ourselves by trying to persuade, convince, inspire – they’re too dumb to understand that they should just jolly well take it on faith that Labour won’t treat the nation to a repeat performance of the Brown Years if re-elected. Or rather, that it will, but this time, this time, comrades, if we do exactly the same as last time, we’ll definitely get a different result.

  7. andy says:

    UKIP will continue to grow. They will be bigger by the Europeans and bigger still by the next General Election.

    Beating them is frighteningly easy. Sadly we have dorks in the main parties.

    All you have to do to beat UKIP if has totally transparent policies – definately for something, definately against other things. No prevarication, no areas open to interpretation.

    That is why UKIP are doing so well and why they wil continue to do even better and better- Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) , If your policies cannot be understood by someone who is only intellectually capab;e of stacking shelves in Tescos then your policies are rubbish. Simple as that.

    UKIP have got where they are because that is where they deserve to be. The damage they are doing to the other parties is 100% entirely avoidable, 100% self-inflicted and 100% deserved.

    And I don’t even like UKIP.

  8. andy says:

    And I’ll add to that. There are no thick voters – the minute you think there then you are UKIPs greatest ally and it’s you that’s thick.

    UKIP are no longer a protest vote – ordinary run-of-the-mill people understand what they are about – and that’s largely the main parties fault – and being as they caused it, they can hardly complain.

    We live in a consumer society and voters are now viewing politics that way. If you want to survive, you have to move to the voter – to expect the voter to move to you is laughably amateur. And to get the voter to move to you you have to have a 10 second simple message or you are dead in the water.

    UKIP haven’t anywhere near reached their peak yet – and like I said, I don’t even like them but hellfire you have to realise what they are about at street level and stop being arrogant or they will be far far bigger by 2015.

  9. postageincluded says:

    UKIP supporters are not neccesarily deficit hawks. A lot are attracted by the party’s anti immigration, anti-gay, anti-Europe, anti-modern world stance rather than it’s austerian street cred so dragging Ed Balls up as George Osborne isn’t going to going to help.

    But apart from being wrong Atul’s piece is also just snide. “This morning Ed Miliband will be luxuriating….” Actually, Atul, I suspect he won’t be – you know as well as I do that he’s just too much of a geek to do any such thing, you’re just wanting to suggest that instead of being the hard man who makes the difficult decisions he’s a sort of effete epicene incapable of facing up to real life. You’re just not man enough to say it direct.

    And as for all this stuff about “illusions” and “the unions gave him succour”, just silly and childish and trivial.

  10. Save Penrhos says:

    UKIP don’t do so well outsiode England. They are still very much regraded as an ‘English’ party in Wales and Scotland.

  11. uglyfatbloke says:

    UKIP’s inroads into the Tories (and Labour to a lesser, but not insignificant degree) will probably be less dramatic in 2015 and may actually help Labour overall by the split in the Tory vote. OTH Labour is looking at a dreadful election in Scotland, but ignoring the situation in the hope that somehow it ‘ll all be sorted. It won’t. Even if Salmond loses the referendum – and that’s not co certain as most folk seem to think – the gnats are still likely to take a bigger portion of votes than Labour and will certainly give the Glib-Dumbs an absolute hiding. Angus Robertson may end up as the leader of the 3rd party in the Commons.

  12. John Reid says:

    Flux, I don’t know what other left wing blogs you read, but do they have bloggers called things like Ex-labour, IE the sort of people we need to persuade to come back to us,if we what to win, if not, then your criticism of Uncuts take on how labour is doing, is unfounded, as patting ourselves on the back didn’t do us that god in the 80’s ,did it,

  13. Mike Homfray says:

    We can’t win back people called ‘ex-Labour’ if they are ‘ex’ because they no longer support Labour values.

    Labour can’t simply be what people ‘want to vote for’. We offer our answers, people make their choice.

    If we lose, that’s democracy. But better lose being honest than lie in the hope you can fool people

  14. Faridah says:

    1. This is another sign that the tratey will be renegotiated. Most important one of course the EZ stuff has to be put in it, including countries getting out etc.2. Seen in that light 2014 is even a bit late. Difficult to see that this would be made a 2 or 3 step process with all the approvals referenda required, courtcases that would take 15-20 year or so.3. Barosso knows that will have to happen. Probably not fully aware of the UK interests. Not really a decisionmaker. But somebody who can mess things up in say the procedure and drafting.Furthermore a guy with an ego the size of Everest and fully focussed to put the Commission on the map. Fully predictable in that respect as we see with all stuff re bankingunion and Euro rescue.Furthermore a guy who thinks he is considerably smarter than he really is.Combination ego and not the sharpest tool in the box, but thinking otherwise, probably makes it better not to let him dig himself in especially in the beginning of the reneg process.So let him realise (in the way he also acts according to it, he realises that the Euro might fail but simply not acts according to it, it has to be brandmarked in his brain.)it first before the reneg is really brought up.Let him come up with this brilliant new point himself.4. No escape for the UK boyz, they should really know that this will come up during their time and they will have to deal with it. And better deal with it properly if you want too be reelected.Another one of Merkel’s bad choices.5. For the UK probably best already start with the lobby. And make it clear on other topics that nothing goes without them, when they really realise that it is time to start the real negotiations.6. The EU assumes basically that the EZ will end properly and that a lot of trateychange is required.In other words havenot got a clue about the chances of things. If the EZ goes belly up earlier than expected it might negatively influence the UKs position.Also if the tratey change will get approved, which is also pretty doubtful (too much wishful thinking). Better make the split up a seperate part (likely requiring less approvals.

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