The elections weren’t an earthquake but a confirmation of what we already knew

by Jonathan Todd

It would, obviously, be wrong to wholly attribute to Nigel Farage responsibility for Nick Clegg’s political predicament. They are largely trading in different parts of the political market and the Oakeshott disaster is a wholly home-grown crisis for the Liberal Democrats.

Instead, Clegg’s low share price derives from decisions – in particular, betraying the platform on which he stood in 2010 – taken long before his debates with Farage.

Clegg isn’t fighting for his political life because of Farage. The blood on Farage’s hands is that of Nick Griffin’s. The real UKIP earthquake didn’t happen in Westminster but beneath the BNP, revealing part of UKIP’s appeal.

As well as taking support from the BNP, half of UKIP voters in the European elections voted Tory in the last general election. It would be a potentially decisive boost to David Cameron’s hopes of remaining in Downing Street to get these voters back. Hoping that this doesn’t happen, and that Lib Dem recovery is also avoided, is perilous for Labour.

There are other factors beyond Labour’s control that help Ed Miliband toward Number 10, such as the vagaries of our constituency boundaries and Cameron’s incomplete Tory decontamination project, which means that mistrust of his party remains more pervasive than it would otherwise be. Rather than speculate as to how low a ceiling this places on Tory support, and whether it is lowest among ethnic minorities, northerners or women, Labour should be seeking to complete the decontamination project that the last general election confirmed we require.

The trouble is that this project has barely begun. Miliband launched his bid for the party leadership talking about immigration. But it’s not clear that Labour are now any more convincing on this contentious topic than when we were ejected from office. Even more damagingly, we also left office with trust corroded in us as responsible custodian’s of public money. In austere times, we seem over keen on spending other people’s money, whether that of taxpayers or private businesses, and disinclined to make savings. While Miliband has spoken more frequently about welfare than fiscal discipline, this is another big negative exposed in 2010 that we’ve failed to recover.

By failing to address these big national challenges – recasting the state as both affordable and capable of effectively fulfilling the economic and social functions that we depend upon it for; building immigration and welfare systems in tune with popular morality – Labour has diminished our relevance. Shadow ministers grumble that without credibility on spending nothing else will be heard.

We’ve appeared more like an amalgam of pressure group interests than an aspirant party of government. Without the discernment to weigh competing claims or the strength to come down in favour of the right one, these tendencies seem likely to be connected to two significant Labour shortfalls: falling further behind on leadership and economic competence. No party has come into government losing on both these fronts.

It should be clear that if we want to return to government, we wouldn’t go via this route. But should we start rowing in different direction? Anthony Painter says ‘yes’. Dan Hodges says ‘no’. They assess the situation in broadly the same terms. Dan, though, feels it is too late for Ed to be anything other than Ed. Given that, according to John Rentoul, the leaders of our party are “preparing for defeat“, it’s difficult to know exactly what will happen next.

We’re not gripped by the same blind panic as the Lib Dems but fatalism is building in the Labour bloodstream. Which would quicken if the Lib Dems got round to keeping Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister and replacing him as party leader – the compromise between fulfilling their coalition responsibilities and giving them the fresh voice that they so desperately need.

Economic recovery will also encourage Labour fatalism if it continues to improve Tory polling – a trend that Tories will seek to reinforce by endlessly proclaiming their “long-term economic plan”, a somewhat disingenuous claim but now the most predictable and perhaps resonant attack line in British politics. And if Cameron seduces the UKIP voters that he is pursuing – with his lead over Miliband on leadership an asset in this battle – this fatalism will further deepen.

All of which is the stuff of avoidable tragedy. The government’s headline commitment on immigration – tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands – will be shattered. Instead of fixing welfare, they’ve given us the universal credit shambles – with a major report on this failure sneaking out the day after polling day. The coalition was supposedly formed to rescue national finances. Yet George Osborne will borrow more in 5 years than Labour did in 13.

The government is failing to address every key national challenge. Not because they are uniquely morally deficient, as Labour tends to insist. But because they are incompetent. We know that they are so because they are failing to deliver what they said they’d deliver – sound finances, reduced immigration, reformed welfare.

Labour must demonstrate our ability to meet the UK’s biggest challenges and the government’s failure to do. There are no shortcuts to this task. Believing that there are, whether through retail offers on the cost of living or otherwise, is a chimera that only lengthens the distance that we have to travel. We owe it to our country to provide solutions that the government have shown they cannot.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut      

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8 Responses to “The elections weren’t an earthquake but a confirmation of what we already knew”

  1. swatantra says:

    Those who think the Lib Dems are finished are frankly living in Noddy Land.
    Their core vote is always going to be around 10% and thats enough to hold the balance of power in any future Govt. Any thoughts of a Tory or Labour absolute majority can be dismissed from now on; all future Govts are goping to be coalitions, its its no bad thing. Left to their own devices both Tory and Labour Govts have shown an unacceptable degree of arrogance, and that needs to be tempered. So I’m not too unhappy about the future. Labour will have to develop a new mindset about

  2. paul barker says:

    Your attempts to suck up to The Labour Left by showing how much you hate The Coalition/Libdems will do you no good, they will still despise you.
    On the more general point, there never was any chance of Labour winning in 2015, the best you could ever have hoped for was a new Coalition with The Libdems. Even that possibility vanished when you chose Unity (Ed) over Reform.
    Sometime this Summer normal Polling will resume & Labours lead will have vanished, time to boast about not panicking if you handle that.

  3. Rallan says:

    “We owe it to our country to provide solutions that the government have shown they cannot.”

    Labour has a 100% record of economic mismanagement, and allowed more immigration into the UK during 10 years than had come into the UK during the preceding 1000 years. Your current leader and shadow chancellor have both got proven track record of failure, and both are sorely lacking in charisma.

  4. Rational Plan says:

    What a load of crap. Blaming the Tories for borrowing too much, when all you proposed before the election was to borrow even more. Since the election all you’ve done is oppose every cut and promise higher taxes and even higher borrowing.

  5. John reid says:

    Rational plan, kind of destroys this post.

  6. Chetas says:

    The individuals of the fireplace were additionally changing into extinct, like us; we have a tendency to were all being integrated into one global-class, supposed or not however thus it appeared, then it had been. In time, I knew there would be only 1 culture left, one assemblage of individuals, the Stone-People [Builders] that was my guess. nevertheless it had been additional down the road to be.

  7. Madasafish says:

    Labour must demonstrate our ability to meet the UK’s biggest challenges and the government’s failure to do.”

    You mean like supporting welfare reform, reducing immigration, and improving standards in education – all measures which Labour has opposed in Opposition.

    You mean like addressing the problems the last Labour Government created or failed to solve.

    I am afraid this article has as much credibility and appeal as a bacon sandwich..

  8. uglyfatbloke says:

    Swatantra..I think you are probably broadly right about the glib-dumbs – though 10% may be a bit ambitious – but that does n’t mean that their support will be reflected in MPs elected. They are pretty much resigned to losing all of their Scottish MPs apart from Kennedy and Carmichael; the tories may well gain one (but lose Mundell), Labour one or possibly two and the gnats will most likely pick up the rest.
    I would have thought- perhaps wrongly – the glibs would face losing quite a few MPs in England and Wales in the same way through a general reduction in their vote. Clearly various prominent figures will get back in through the incumbency factor, but will the glibs benefit from tactical voting so much as they have in the past?

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