Where will we be in May 2015?

by Jonathan Todd

Amid the fierce urgency of now, I look at possibilities beyond next May.

Labour majority

“Politics in Britain today,” according to a statement from Neal Lawson, Compass chair, “is not really about UKIP but about the failure of Labour in particular to present a coherent, desirable and feasible alternative to the Tories.” This was broadly the argument made by Atul Hatwal after the European elections and Ranjit Sidhu after the recent by-elections. As Sidhu was writing, John McTernan was bemoaning our politics’ lack of “lift, hope, ambition and above all life”. After the European election results, he told us that they meant Ed Miliband would be prime minister, while after recent by-elections, he laments that Labour is “in deep, deep trouble”.

McTernan’s seeming evolving view might denote the diminishing possibility of a Labour majority, while the repeated references to a lack of hope – straddling all from Compass to Progress – reminds us that many see little prospect of their lives improving. The major parties also suffer deficits of authenticity – widely presumed to be insincere and ineffectual – and public money – the fiscal position constrains resources to build hope where it is most lacking.

To secure a Labour majority, the deficits in hope, authenticity and public money must be overcome to not lose traditional supporters in Scotland to the SNP and in the north of England to UKIP, while gaining Conservative inclined voters in marginal seats in the south. Labour majority depends upon sufficient numbers of these disparate groups seeing the party as the bridge to a better tomorrow.

Reading Luke Akehurst suggests we seem reluctant to even sketch this bridge in Rochester and Strood, and does little to dispel Mark Wallace’s charge that Labour is “soft-pedalling” there. “Our mentality this close to general election ought to be that we are an unstoppable force,” Akehurst correctly notes, “not a party too scared of Nigel Farage to take him on in a seat we held until the last election”. As dispiriting as Labour appear in Rochester and Strood, Wallace is right that this by-election and Heywood and Middleton prompt resource challenges.

Does Labour have the capacity to successfully defend northern seats that UKIP will target and to robustly challenge for marginal seats in the south?

A recent article in the New York Times suggests that Labour fundraising may be improved by learning from ActBlue, an organisation raising funds for Democratic candidates. Whether this advance and others that Labour require comes quickly enough to secure a majority remains to be seen.

Labour as largest party in hung parliament

Martin Kettle reports that Labour has “a hard core of backbenchers [who] would … regard a coalition [with the Liberal Democrats] as a betrayal and would work against it”. Equally, he quotes a senior Labour source, “we haven’t thought [minority government] through”. Even short of coalition, such a government would probably require a supply and confidence arrangement with the Liberal Democrats – an option which Uncut’s sources say the Liberal Democrats are disinclined toward, seeing it as carrying all the costs of coalition without the benefits, posing another headache for Miliband.

Conservative majority  

The Conservatives also confront the absence of hope, authenticity and public money. But these are arguably less daunting to them. Because Labour majority requires that we are seen as a vehicle to a better tomorrow, while Tory majority may only demand that they show that this vehicle is faulty and that things, at least, won’t get any worse under them. From Downing Street’s bully pulpit, supported by large advantages over Labour on the economy and leadership, they might be confident about these messages. Whether UKIP upset this applecart is another question.

Conservatives as the largest party in hung parliament

Kettle reports that some Conservative backbenchers are as hostile to Liberal Democrat coalition as some Labour backbenchers are and that the Conservatives have done more thinking on how a minority government might be sustained than Labour. Perhaps they think that the SNP will repay the favour from 2007 of Tory votes sustaining Alex Salmond’s Holyrood administration? Or that Theresa Villiers has accumulated enough goodwill among Ulster unionists to sustain them? Or that UKIP might be able to play this role?

Imagine if Cameron granted free reign to local Conservative parties to come to accommodations with local UKIP parties on whether and how to fight the general election and to Tory MPs to campaign for EU exit in 2017 a la Harold Wilson in 1975, as well as swallowing whole Douglas Carswell’s agenda for UK political reform. In some senses, these would be audacious steps, in others they would be pragmatic minimisations of party management challenges. They have the potential, though, to make Nigel Farage, not Nick Clegg, kingmaker.

When Carswell published his book on political reform in 2012, I intended to blog on how Labour should crib it. I regret not finding the time to. I’ve never thought “I wish I’d blogged on how Farage has a point”. Carswell and Farage are different. It may be in the steps necessary to achieve rapprochement with Carswell, Cameron is most dangerous to Labour. Belatedly getting ahead of this possibility should be part of Labour’s response to lacking hope, authenticity and public money.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut       

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10 Responses to “Where will we be in May 2015?”

  1. swatantra says:

    Just as ‘The Boyo’ was seen as unelectable and not PM material, so is the novice ‘Milly’. As Gordon said : its no time for novices. The omens are not looking too good for us come May 2015.

  2. Madasafish says:

    The major parties also suffer deficits of authenticity – widely presumed to be insincere and ineffectual …!

    I see neither of the two major parties having any broad public appeal – to their supporters. To their non supporters, they are out of touch, elites and living in a bubble cocooned from the real world by self approved pay rises and a generous expenses and benefits system.

    Even worse, democracy – the idea that you for for a MP who represents you – has been sullied by Head Offices choosing candidates – either all women lists, friends of the leaders or political advisers seeking posts.Or sons and daughters of past party grandees.

    These practises are illegal in normal work environments – or greatly frowned on – but politicians think they are acceptable.

    And then leaders make promises they KNOW they cannot keep. Not once or twice but all the time.

    And given the above, they wonder why they are despised and people vote UKIP? I think they are fortunate we don’t string some of them up by the nearest lamposts “pour encorager les autres”..

  3. paul barker says:

    I think the point you missing is the extent to which Labour & Tories have come to define themselves by each other, Labour as Untory, Tories as Unlabour. Its that polar opposition that provides the glue for both Parties & that glue is dissolving. As soon as big chunks of the Voters start to think in terms of 3, 4 or 5 Parties the idea that Labour are uniquely Untory becomes untenable & you begin to fall apart.
    Complaining about Labours lack of vision or soul misses the point completely. Milliband was elected primarily to stop your Party splitting not to lead some moral crusade. Labour are doing as well as you could hope to do without tearing yourselves apart – this is as good as it gets.

  4. Tafia says:

    arrangement with the Liberal Democrats

    There are two glaring errors with this that you have deliberately avoided:-

    1. Twice in the last fortnight – once in a Times interview and once in their conference, the LibDems have stated quite plainly that a coalition with Labour would not be possible unless Ed Miliband stood down.

    2. There is no guarentee the LibDems will be the third largest party. Current polling in Scotland throws the possibility that the third largest party may well end up being the SNP. That puts Labor (or the tories) in the position of having to seek a coalition with 3 or more other parties with wildly divergent policies of there own.

  5. Landless Peasant says:

    Many old northern Socialists are defecting to the Green Party now as they are seen to be more Socialist than Labour, with policies to help us fight this brutal Class War that’s being waged against us by the Rich. An estimated 50,000 people have died so far as a result of Tory Welfare reforms. People are starving. Labour supports Benefit Sanctions. Labour allowed the Tory scum to use their Time Machine to back-date the Law and rob the poor. Labour & Tory have become as One. Democracy is dead or is at best an illusion, as proven by the ever-present Lord Freud. The Left/Right paradigm is merely the Hegelian Dialectic being enacted over time; Thesis Vs. Antithesis produces Synthesis. If you are opposed to NWO Capitalism and all its evils then the only option is to vote Green.

  6. Tafia says:

    Quote from a local Labour Councillor I was chatting to earlier today about Miliband “I wouldn’t vote for him even if I was held at gunpoint.”.

    In mitigation, English Labour is not held in very high regard in Wales anyway hence the ever-widening chasm between Carwyn Jones brand of Labour and the English version inflicted on them.

  7. swatantra says:

    ‘Class’ is dead, as is ‘Socialism’. We now just have ‘ the Haves’ and the ‘Have nots’.
    Many of the ‘Have nots’ are the ‘Squeezed Middle’, and many of the Working Class are now Thatchers Children. Many of the Greens and UKIP and Lib Dems are part of the Establishment, so don’t be fooled by them.

  8. Henrik says:

    @Landless Peasant: “An estimated 50,000 people have died so far as a result of Tory Welfare reforms” – oh, really? Care to back that up with some statistics, ideally not from some frothing Leftie maniac’s little website?

  9. John Reid says:

    Landless peasant,I’ll put money on The greens doing worse next year than 2010

  10. uglyfatbloke says:

    I expect they’ll get a lot more votes but of course in a pseudo democracy that doe n’t mean seats. All the same, I expect they will make a gain or maybe even two. Same with UKIP; they may pick up a lot of votes and probably get a better result than the greens, but I doubt if there will be a big raft of UKIP MPs – maybe 4 to 5 at most. In an electoral maths sort of a way I suppose UKIP are where the Libs and the SNP have been for years – decent quantity of votes, very few seats, but the difference is that the gnats are now in a position to break that point in the vote share which brings totally disproportionate results. Obviously this happened (on a smaller turnout but the proportions give the same sort of result) at eh last Scottish elections, trouble is, Westminster GE’s don’t have a proportional list element where the loss can be offset to some degree.

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