by David Talbot
In the end, Ed Miliband was just a better-dressed Michael Foot. An apocalyptic result in 2010 was turned into a near-existential one five years later. The coming post mortem must be detailed and clinical. A complete overhaul of the party, of its policies, ethos, outlook and thereby electoral appeal is now a necessity. There can be no nostalgia, ingratitude, mistrust, and even downright bitterness, which, sadly, has already been witnessed, of the electorate and the verdict it delivered last Thursday. The Labour party is, as my Uncut colleague Atul Hatwal has already noted, the sole signatory of its own downfall. Only it can pick itself up and offer itself to the nation anew come 2020.
The scale of the defeat must now be fully absorbed, understood and then acted upon. It is obvious to note given the scale of the defeat, but this was a process almost entirely lacking in the leadership election of 2010. The wrong conclusion was reached. The party had chosen to be comforted rather than challenged, and we witnessed its sorry aftermath on Friday morning. The electoral landscape as it now currently is, with Labour 99 seats behind the Conservatives, means that being out of office for twenty years is a very real possibility. The importance of whom the party chooses next as its leader is now central and vital to its fortunes.
Leadership contenders will be positioning themselves in the coming weeks, with Andy Burnham an early front-runner. But for the very reason that he is the epitome of a Labour figure who would rather pander to the party’s base then reach out to the nation, he must not succeed. Merely repeating “the NHS” is not – as we have just painfully witnessed – a successful election strategy. Burnham was at the heart of this. Candle-lit vigils, people’s marches, nonagenarians deployed at party conference – Burnham descended into the politics of demagoguery over the NHS. All wistful, nostalgia nonsense that fired up our base but was ultimately ignored by the electorate.