The two big myths about Labour’s leadership crisis

by Atul Hatwal

It’s all beginning to feel very 2009. A weakened leader, panicking backbenchers and a febrile media have combined to generate the biggest Labour leadership crisis since the fag end of Gordon Brown’s ailing premiership.

Now, as then, the loyalist response is to perpetuate some easy “myths.” Though that’s the polite term. Here are the two biggest whoppers:

1. This is all the media’s fault

This was the line peddled on morning news shows and has been widespread across Labour’s Twittervist base.

But, as several journalists have pointed out, from the Guardian’s Rafael Behr to the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman, the reason this is being written up as a crisis is that Labour MPs have been privately complaining about Ed Miliband’s leadership to the journalists for months. In some cases, years.

MPs that have been on air in the last 24 hours, mouthing supportive platitudes, are among some of the most well-known serial lobby complainers.

The reality is that putative leadership campaigns have been organising for months. Leadership contenders have been positioning themselves, ready for the expected Labour defeat. Those rumours of an accommodation between Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham on a joint leadership ticket, or some commitment on second preference votes, have been circulating for over a year.

Anyone saying that this is purely a confection by the media, or froth, is being economical with the actualité.

Here’s a test: how many shadow cabinet members have made a specific point of going on air to defend the leader? Not as part of a pre-planned photo-opp where they have no choice but to field questions on the leader, but have sought out the media, even when they had no press events planned, to stand up for Ed Miliband?

By my count, the answer is a big fat zero.

On the Today programme this morning, the best that the loyalists could field was Peter Hain. Not only an ex-cabinet minister, but someone who is standing down at the next election. This tells us all we need to know about the esteem in which the shadow cabinet and shadow ministerial ranks hold their leader.

2. Ed can turn this around, he just needs time

In the last parliament, when a crisis approached the point of no return, Gordon Brown would meet backbenchers and play the listening card.

He’d talk about how he understood their concerns about his leadership, how he valued their opinion and how he would take on board their suggestions. He’d thank them “for all that they did” and commit to being a better Gordon.

The problem was that the public didn’t want Gordon. They had already made their mind up. And for that small cohort of voters who might possibly have been persuaded, Gordon didn’t follow through on his promises of change anyway. How could he? How can a grown man, a professional politician of several decades standing, suddenly become a different person?

The whole charade was absurd.

But it did, just, keep Gordon in the top job until the electorate passed judgement. So expect something similar from Ed Miliband’s operation over the coming days.

Briefings will emerge about how he’s reached out to backbenchers and feels their pain. Some moaners will be pleased as punch that they’ve had fifteen minutes with the leader and will say as much to the journalists. The crisis will pass, Ed will turn it around; that’s what the line will be.

And it will be as believable as when Gordon’s people gave it.

What has happened over the past few days and weeks is not some freak occurrence. It’s been coming for literally years. It’s what happens if a party refuses to address the electorate’s twin concerns on the issues that will matter most at the ballot box: the economy and leadership.

For months now, Labour has trailed by double digits on both issues and no opposition has ever won an election from such a position.

Failure to address these public doubts has left the Ed Miliband’s political immune system so weak that any random sniffle, something which should have been easily fended off such as forgetting a couple of paragraphs of a speech delivered from memory, will land him in the electoral equivalent of intensive care.

On the centre right of the party, there has been no shortage of voices predicting exactly what has come to pass.

Back in January 2011 – almost three years ago – I wrote about the dangers of not addressing public fears about Labour’s spending plans and the need for Ed Miliband to demonstrate his leaderly credentials.

At Uncut, since 2011 we’ve posted the best part of 100 articles warning that unless the fundamentals on leadership and the economy are tackled and Labour moves back to the centre, as the election draws near, the poll lead will evaporate and crisis will engulf the party.

Well, here we are.

Make no mistake, the crisis is real. The journalists aren’t lying; the Labour MPs protesting that there is nothing to see here, they are the ones not being straight about what’s really going on in the Labour party.

And no, Ed won’t turn it around, because he has demonstrated a singular unwillingness to answer voters’ questions on Labour’s approach to spending or challenge Labour’s vested interests to show voters that he would be a strong and independent prime minister.

The squalls buffeting Labour’s leader at the moment might pass, there might even be some revival in the polls – particularly after the Conservatives lose Rochester and Strood later this month – but the weaknesses will not have been addressed and so inevitably, the crisis will flare up again; most likely around the time of the Autumn Statement in December, when the economy will return to the centre of political debate.

It’s going to be an agonising six months to the general election.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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39 Responses to “The two big myths about Labour’s leadership crisis”

  1. Madasafish says:

    I expect Labour – with Ed as Leader – to have the majority of seats after the next GE. Not A majority but more than anyone else.

    The electoral system gives them the equivalent of a 3-4 % points advantage… so to fail to achieve more seats than any other party suggests they would poll around 25%. I think that is unlikely.

  2. Michael Worcs says:

    Yes the stop David Miliband candidate was always going to be no-ones choice but what a story; the flawed election where Unions raised him above the votes of the party, back-stabbing his brother, hands on the open door and finger prints all over the spendthrift plans of McDoom

    It is going to make an excellent post election book. I suggest the title should be the reaction of Cecil Parkinson when was asked about the election of Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour party, his reply was ‘naturally I’m delighted.’

  3. paul barker says:

    The sad thing about all this is that its largely missing the point. When Voters say they would like to vote Labour but for Milliband what they really mean is that they would like A Labour Party, just not the one on offer. A big move to the Centre would get back some Voters but lose others, & vice versa.
    This is just the beginning, Labour have a long way to fall yet.

  4. Ex Labour says:

    Spot on Atul.

    Just done a quick trawl of the Labour blogs and its astounding how many apperatchiks have got their head in the sand believing this is some “tory media” conspiracy. What is laughable is this tory media is the BBC which, as anyone knows, is institutionally left wing and three DG’s have admitted it.

    They conveniently forget its the left’s own journals and papers that have said Ed is done for.

    No personality
    No policies
    No communication
    No understanding of the population
    No passion or drive

    Its over.

  5. bernard smith says:

    I for one really hope Labour do not get rid of him. If they do, they might well win the election. Anyway, what is it with Labour and weakling leaders? They are drawn to them like moths to a flame, then find out (usually when it’s too late), then crash at the forthcoming election. It’s true what they say – the Tories have no heart, and Labour has no brain. Guess what – you need a brain to win a general election, not a soppy, emotional notion of loyalty to a demonstrable weakling.

    See you guys after the next election, when you’ll all be saying ‘we should have got rid of him when we had the chance, but didn’t have the guts to’.

  6. Nockian says:

    Totally different from the Brown era. Labour voters are upset because they aren’t getting the usual promises of more jam for the workers and a greater squeeze on the wealthy. Miliband is right not to promise what he cannot deliver.

    At present he is being punished at the polls and in turn his party is punishing him in turn. However come the election the electorate will return and vote Labour into power because there are no other options. Lib Dems have blown their chances. Greens might pick up some additional disaffected voters. Those that threaten to vote for UKIP know full well Farage isn’t going to give them what they want.

    Conservatives have had it wether they know it or not. It doesn’t matter what they tell the electorate about the economy, because the average person just isn’t feeling it. Perception only gets you so far before it runs into the hard face of reality. The voters have watched their pay and any savings being eaten away for almost seven years. They aren’t falling for it. The incompetence over Europe will allow UKIP to gain a significant portion of that vote.

    The public like to pull down one of the elite and the press reflect that back as entertainment. I sense that having Ed at the wheel will not affect the outcome in 2015. It’s good copy for the press and sells media. Who in the UK doesn’t like a bit of politician/celebrity bashing ? Labour will win regardless of Eds goofy character and he knows it.

  7. Landless Peasant says:

    “And no, Ed won’t turn it around, because he has demonstrated a singular unwillingness to answer voters’ questions”

    Exactly. He’s ignored all my repeated requests for answers and offers us nothing. He refuses to pledge to abolish Benefit Sanctions and to increase State Benefits to the correct legal amount – he ignores this completely and at his peril. Many of us will NOT vote for a Labour Party that is Tory lite or Blue Labour. We want real Socialism and an equitable redistribution of wealth. We want an end to DWP oppression. We want an end to Foodbanks. We demand that the State meets its responsibilities and its duty of care. We want an end to the lie of Austerity. Ed won’t budge so I’m voting Green instead.

  8. 07052015 says:

    Deathwish labour alive and well .

    Every time the tories know bad news is coming ,this time paying the EU bill,they coordinate thru the gang of four editors an attack on miliband .So not all the medias fault but I know a conspiracy as opposed

    Sadly yes potential leaders are always calculating and that includes keeping stum.

  9. George S says:

    have had 2 labour canvassers at the door in last 8 weeks. each time I ask about Ed and his policies I get the same embarrassed look, breaking of eye contact, shuffling of feet and evasive answers. think that says a lot.

  10. James March says:

    Labour are being both led and managed by political pigmies and the public do not trust what labour are trying to ‘sell’. Where is the vision and where is the statesman to lead? Surely all can see by now that the UK would be far better off out of the EU.

  11. swatantra says:

    Its going to be an absolute disaster; and theres nothing anyone can do about it; its like being stuck in a slow motion film, lemmings tumbling over into the abyss. I doubt we’ll be even able to mtigate our losses.
    There’ll be quite a number of MPs collecting their P45’s and a big fat pension, though.
    The warning signs were there 4 years ago and nobody did a thing to stop it happening.

  12. Mike Homfray says:

    You will just have to accept you are in the wrong party. We are not going to accept Tory views and if they are the ones you require, then join the Tory party

    Labour will never return to the right wing policies you want to see.

  13. John Reid says:

    All the replies here, are right, apart from. Ad asa fish, who I personally disagree with regarding labour have most MPs I predict labour losing 5 to the toores 5 to Ukip, and many in Scotlnd to SNP ,even if Lsbour gain 5 from the tories,and 20 from Libdems it won’t be enough,

    Landless peasant, when you say Ed does’nt listen to voters question, there maybe a few hundred who feel labour is too right wing in benefit cuts, but the hundreds of thousands of ex labour voters he isn’t listening too, ar concerned, that tackling benefit cheats isn’t going far enough,

    Nockian, has the best reply about this article

  14. 07052015 says:

    Self indulgent anti labour twaddle.

    Mps frightened of losing their seats,austin,danscuk,can at least plead self preservation.

    Some others ,claim to be labour,but cant wait for us to lose,so they can rerun the 2010 leadership election with a new candidate.Despicable.

  15. D-503 says:

    There is nothing that wrong with Miliband as a leader anyway – it’s just that the Labour Party have no policies that the public are interested in.
    Given that Balls’s view on the economic situation has been consistently wrong, and that Burnham’s running of the NHS lead to patients having to drink from flower vases to survive, Labour can’t fight the Tories on either of those tickets. Let’s not even think about immigration, yeah?

  16. Madasafish says:

    Politics is the art of the possible. There is no point in having super policies if you cannot implement them as you have lost the General Election. Or win the General ELection and cannot implement them as there is no money.

    After all, look at the Tories: promises made on immigration from the EU which are impossible to meet. Far better economically and politically to restrict immigration from non EU countries.

    Or the LibDems who promised free tuition fees when it was evident they could never give them.

    So Ed is in my view right to be cautious on policies. He cannot promise huge spending rises and anyone who thinks he can must live in a world unaffected by austerity…After all, he is NOT a fool: the ageing population spells far bigger spending demands on the NHS and Social Services in the nest 10 years.

    Even the most short sighted of politicians realise the current systems don’t work and cannot be made to work with a lot more OAPs – Period.

    And anyone who thinks taxing the rich is going to solve the problem has not done the sums..

    Having said all the above, Ed is his own worst enemy..Given teh above, I’s tell it as it is, blame the Tories and say that a combination of austerity, modest tax rises and restriction of non EU immigration we can reduce pressure on housing and services.

    Couple that with a refocus of the NHS to make those who self harm pay and go to the end of the queue, and stop consultants working in private practise would signficantly reduce A&E loads and increase available resources.

    Stand up for the EU, promise a Referendum and say you will campaign vigorously for an Stay vote.

    So that’s
    the Tories scuppered on financial competence
    and UKIP countered
    and Labour’s social conscience reaffirmed.

    What’s not to like?

    Of course those who want unrestrained immigration and people to drink themselves to near death and the NHS to rebuild them free will be totally opposed.. But as they cause part of the mess… they can be ignored.

    And finally establish a new modern prefab house updated from Past WW2 and roll it out in factories.. That way 200,000 new homes a year is possible.. (no other way is – certainly not for 2020)

    Ain’t going to happen.

  17. John Reid says:

    Mike Homfray,what right wing policies, can’t see any in the article,or the replies, apart from James March saying leave the EU, and what are right wing policies,it was Ber wrid get and Attlee, who said that welfare was an example of a SUCSESSFUL left wing govt ,it was a failure that the werent ways for those without to help themselves,and also that ,welfare was there to subsidise those without for. Short term, not a lifestyle,

    And look at those other Tory policies the left disliked, selling of council ho,e, first proposed by Labur in the1959 manifesto,And then also discussed by Labour fter the 1974 election till Tony Benn blocked It, you say labour will never turn to right wing policies,what is right wing, Ed miliband has done more to denounce immigration than Tony Blair

  18. John Reid says:

    07052015 even Bennites accepted,had the 1983 election gone on a week later Labour would have come 3rd, maybe those hoping this election comes around sooner than not,feel the longer Eds in charge the worse Alabours result will be,after all the economy on the mend, means the tories picking up points,

    And if the are those who wnt and gone, I can’t believe they feel had David win the leadership we’d be any higher in the polls now,

    Ed realised how unpopular labour were ,among our core vote, David didnt, but those distraught now, are those outside the Westminster bubble, who see how labour have lost the Working Class vote in the outside part of London ,Essex,or Newcastle, and by working class vote ,I don’t mean a mythical, working class voter,who wants a return to the union laws ,the belief that the state should distribute wealth for our housing and the pricing income of the 70’s

    Dore anyone really think those ex working class labour voters ,abstaining,or voting Green or SNP are interested in labours policies on education, lords reform, the EU, foreign affairs or the enviroment

  19. Ralph Baldwin says:

    Well you are in a pickle aren’t you because ironically the Labour Leadership have closed the doors on their own Party. You are stuck with them. Their ambition is bow to their masters and their masters are not the Members of the Party and they are certainly not some group of ideological socialists who wish to improve the lot of the poor whom they despise.
    Even if you had people who could reverse all this, there is no process within the Labour Party that can allow this happen. The very chains that keep your precious leaders in their occupied positions are they very chains that prevent the party responding to the real world. In essence Labour has become the greatest benefits abuse there is where the sense of entitlement and greed are so fundamental to it. All those lucrative Government contracts just waiting for them and top jobs…all you all have to do is keep delivering the leaflets, knocking on doors and the Leadership can continue to look down upon you all disdainfully and laugh at the drive and beliefs that you have but they lack.

    No Conference, no meeting can change this, only a seriously radical move within the Party…and that cannot happen until you have faced the truth, that you do not need puritanical fanatical leaders, the cause of lesser people can only be realized by representation and your cause can only have life and a sense of shared ownership and a shared interest with democracy….Labour loses its breath without it and people leave to realise their hopes and dreams elsewhere…and turn to those who do give them a say, a choice and who share power.

  20. J Dalton says:

    The economy and leadership!

    You just blew it again. That’s maybe what labour voters who stop to talk to you on the doorstep because they broadly share your views. But for the vast majority of voters its immigration and public services.
    As long as you deliberately fail to recognise that, it doesn’t matter who’s in charge.

  21. Mike Stallard says:

    I am a conservative and I am going to vote for either UKIP or the Conservatives. Having said that, I am in a terrible muddle. I also consider that with the conservatives split neatly down the middle, the election ought to be in the bag for Labour.
    Secondly, the Labour movement has always been a Trades Union Movement with a strong dose of intellectuals. Karl Marx was in no sense a member of the working class. Neither was Frederick Engels. Neither was Clement Attlee. Wedgewood Benn and Harriet Harman are both from the aristocracy. Mr Miliband has university written all over him. That is normal.
    It does not mean that none of the above care about ordinary people, does it. And it most certainly doesn’t mean that they cannot lead a Trades Union movement. In fact, I should have thought that Mr Miliband makes a very good parliamentary leader who listens to the Trades Union Leaders in their concern for the working poor, especially in London.
    I should not have thought that you needed someone from the Bullers who is a smooth man with a PR background. When Labour tried that last time, the only two real working class Labour supporters I know well both left the Party on the spot!

  22. Helen says:

    All over the country ordinary people are giving up their time and energy running local labour parties – canvassing – knocking on doors – working hard to get the labour message of equality and fairness for all – a message that Ed Miliband leads on. He raises issues of fairness and speaks for ordinary people. Who are the critics? Are they the £40k a year people who have been promised a £2000 a year pay rise if the Tories get in? The labour people who are running down Ed Miliband are letting us down – if they spoke up for Ed and supported him he might have a chance.

  23. Tafia says:

    A thing I have noticed – that the big three seem to ignore, is that the days of Labour/Tory/Lib Dem are over – forever. UKIP and the Greens are here to stay – and outside of England there is not only UKIP and the Greens but also the SNP & Plaid. The days of the big two calling the shots with the Lib Dems limping along like a dog on a string are over. And good riddance. The voters that still bother voting have become consumers – and like consumers they shop around and rightly so.

    Devolution in Scotland, Wales & NI will only go one way sooner or later – Devo-Max and finally independence. It will not stand still – pretending otherwise is pointless. For Westminster parties to try and keep things the same is doomed to failure and will lead to their destruction.

    Did you know that Cameron is more popular than Miliband in Scotland?

  24. 07052015 says:

    John Reid I can see you now on that podium in afghanistan making that speech about doing the job without firing a shot.Sad to remind you of that on this day of all days.

    Yer man david would have us now in a ground war in syria ,with the americans of course.

    There would be no 50per cent top rate,no mansion tax,no intervention in the energy market ,no intervention in the rented sector……..

    And no serious action on tax avoidance or evasion.

    I just want a labour leader who is brave enough to take on the establishment,the rich ,the powerful- ed might be the man but we both know yer man isnt/wasnt that man.

  25. Tafia says:

    All over the country ordinary people are giving up their time and energy running local labour parties – canvassing – knocking on doors

    No they aren’t. I live in what has become a marginal due to the failings of Labour at local and regional level to address core issues and not one single Labour party member has knocked on my door for over a decade. The local Labour party is probably incapable of canvassing anyway as it consists mostly of pensioners with the odd student. During the last Assembly elections they brought people in from England – who couldn’t pronounce the place names and couldn’t speak welsh – a quick route to failure in a heavily welsh area. Unsurprisingly they lost in a massive swing away from them. Similar in the county councils – they now only have 2 Labour councillors out of 45, both of which are totally inept (they did have three, but one left the Labour party after 40+ years over what he viewed as corruption, poor leadership and not listening to the local population by the local party.)

    Next year Plaid will take this seat off Labour – very very easily and comprehensively. They know it and what’s left of the local Labour party know it as well.

  26. Tafia says:

    07052015 says: John Reid I can see you now on that podium in afghanistan making that speech about doing the job without firing a shot.Sad to remind you of that on this day of all days.

    He’s not that John Reid.

  27. Voice Of Truth says:

    Landless Peasant, when you say “We want real Socialism and an equitable redistribution of wealth”, do you mean other people have more money than you and you’d like some of it please?

    Why don’t you just ask! Instead of dressing up your own desire for money as “equitable restribution of wealth”.

  28. 07052015 says:

    Tafia -really !? He had me fooled.

  29. Tafia says:

    Just watched Eamonn Holmes own the golden child Chuka, He did it without even breaking a sweat as well. Made Chukka look very lightweight,

  30. BenM says:

    Labour has a leadership crisis, the Tories certainly are a Party in crisis (hilarious their their pom pom fan club are more obsessed with Labour’s problems than their own) with a fast becoming discredited leader at the helm.

    And on top of that FPTP is about to be exposed as an anti-democratic farce yet again.

  31. John P Reid says:

    07052015′ I use to go by John P Reid,but as the other fella retire, I went back to my own name

  32. Landless Peasant says:

    @ John Reid

    “the hundreds of thousands of ex labour voters he isn’t listening too, ar concerned, that tackling benefit cheats isn’t going far enough”

    Then they must be enlightened as to the error of their thinking because, as Ed Miliband could have pointed out but didn’t, any losses via Benefit fraud are negligible, and are less than the margin of error in administration. And no one can accuse our Benefits system of being over-generous when UK State Benefits are illegally grossly underpaid.

  33. Landless Peasant says:

    @ Voice Of Truth

    If you think it’s perfectly acceptable for thousands of people to be reliant upon Foodbanks and Soup-Kitchens in 21st Century Britain then I’m sorry but I disagree, and will fight you & your ilk until my dying breath.

  34. John P Reid says:

    O.k you think pointing out to the electorate that , ther are benefit cheats, so they shouldn’t vote for a party that oppose them,is actually enlightening, that their opinion is wrong,good luck

  35. Landless Peasant says:

    @ John P Reid

    No, there are not any ‘Benefit cheats’, and the electorate shouldn’t vote for any Party that pretends there are. The Rich are our enemy, not poor people claiming State Benefits.

  36. Tafia says:

    No, there are not any ‘Benefit cheats’,

    Really. So the County Councillor and busnissman round here that was prosecuted for over £14,000 of non entitled benefits was a figment of the local and regional presses imagination then was it? And the whole county iimagined it all.

    What about this one –

    And this?

    And there are literally thousands and thousands more, with dozens of succesful prosecutions every week, right across the UK – and those are the ones prosecuted, many just pay the money back straight away and avoid prosecution or are only minor and agree to a direct debit to pay it back – again avoiding prosecution.

  37. Landless Peasant says:

    For the last time, any losses due to Benefit Fraud are entirely NEGLIGIBLE and are LESS than the margin of clerical error. The real Fraud is committed by the Rich parasites.

  38. Tafia says:

    So now you’ve gone from ‘there are no benefit cheats’ to ‘negligable’ only one of these statements is true, the other being a blatant lie.

    The sum, which is negligable in comparison to the total, is actually slightly north of 2 billion quid. Negligable as a percentage, a staggering amount of money as a hard figure enough to eradicate a sizeable chunk of the NHS’s debts.

    Incidentally, The Crown Prosecution Service has announced it will press for longer sentences for benefits cheats. Director of Public Prosecutions say suspects will now be charged under the Fraud Act instead of social security law, which could mean a maximum sentence of 10 years instead of seven.

  39. Madasafish says:

    I enjoy reading all the local Court cases in our local paper which covers North Staffs and Southern Cheshire..

    This week’s edition contains one case of a woman who stole “nearly £30,000” in benefits. I don’t call £30,000 “negligible” but others better off than I may do so.

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