Ed Miliband’s narrow political strategy is a failure

by Samuel Dale

The Labour party is in a state of emergency. Rather than fighting this election with real momentum and confidence, we are in retreat across large swathes of the nation.

In the last five years of opposition Labour has drastically shrunk its core and failed to reach out to new voters. Ed Miliband has been outflanked on the left, right and centre leaving a party creaking at the seams.

If you design a 35% leadership strategy that aims to benefit from boundary anomalies then this is what happens. He talks the talk on One Nation but he has not done much else.

Whatever happens this week, the long-term consequences could be immense.

Scotland has been lost to the SNP in disastrous fashion. The independence referendum that split the nation is clearly the catalyst but Miliband must share some blame.

He is ultimately the leader who oversaw a huge defeat in the 2011 Scottish parliament elections and failed to respond. When she left in October, Johann Lamont famously compared Scottish Labour to a “branch office” of London last year.

Miliband is more unpopular in Scotland than even David Cameron. In February a Survation poll put said just 19% of Scots wanted Miliband as prime minister compared to 23% for Cameron.

That puts a spanner in the works of those calling for Labour to move to the left to win back Scotland.

The scale of destruction north of the border is perhaps unique but the complacency can be seen elsewhere in the north and Wales.

George Galloway fired a warning shot when he wiped out a 5,000-plus majority in the 2012 Bradford West by-election result in Bradford East. He held a 10,000 majority and could easily keep his seat.

More worryingly for Labour’s long-term northern future is Ukip. The Heywood & Middleton by-election was another warning shot when a 6,000 majority in 2010 plummeted to 600 in a 2014 by-election.

It’s not just by-elections. While its campaign is faltering, Ukip is expected to produce a strong performance in the north coming second in many northern constituencies such as Hartlepool, Rotherham and Heywood & Middleton.

It could prove a strong base to launch a full frontal attack at the next election.

Perhaps the Thatcherite Nigel Farage is not the man to lead a northern charge but, as Breitbart recently noted, if he loses South Thanet and the Red Ukip faction seizes control of the party then they could become a force.

And there is Wales. Labour took 26 out of 40 Welsh seats in 2010 and is on course to add Cardiff Central from the Lib Dem and Cardiff North from the Conservatives.

But that masks a bigger trend. In February 2012 Labour was polling high at 50% in Wales according to a YouGov poll for ITV Wales and Cardiff University.

The party plunged into the mid-30s at the end of last year and this is at a time of a Conservative-led Government.

We have recovered some of our vote share to around 40% as the election nears but at least 10% has been lost in just three years.

Ukip appears to be the biggest beneficiary, now polling on 13% while Plaid Cymru’s static polling positon points to a sleeping giant.

With major constitutional upheaval in the next parliament this could be a moment for Plaid to grow at next year’s Welsh Assembly elections.

After the Scottish earthquake and northern tremors, Labour should not take anything for granted next year.

Meanwhile no one is even pretending there is a southern strategy to win back Tory held seats that were lost in 2005. Most English progress is being made in cities.

Only London has seen sustained positive growth during Miliband’s tenure but he still lost the Mayoralty in 2012.

This is the Ed Miliband strategy in action. And this is in opposition so I shudder at the impact after potentially five years in a minority Government.

It did not have to be like this. Of course, fraying party loyalties and the growth of multi-party politics has driven huge change beyond his control. Each region has it’s own issues too. But Miliband has accelerated that shift significantly.

Voters across all parts of the UK want to feel inspired by a credible policy platform and Miliband has not done it.

He lags behind on all leadership polls, his economic policies are not trusted while price controls and “predistribution” are seen for what they are: clunky statism that will not work. Swerving leftwards will not solve these problems.

Labour is at a crucial crossroads. Does it continue on its retreat with a narrow, pessimistic political strategy that has left a vulnerable core and precious few new voters?

Or does it reach out dramatically once more to inspire the core and attract new centrist voters? A real One Nation strategy.

Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist

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10 Responses to “Ed Miliband’s narrow political strategy is a failure”

  1. Madasafish says:

    It’s not Ed’ s fault. It was obvious before he was elected that he had neither the life experience nor the gravitas to project himself as a potential PM. He may even end up as PM..

    The problem is with the party with such an obviously cackhanded way of seelcting leaders. And Party which manages to select within the space of 40 years such obvious losers like Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed as Leader – has a problem. Compounded by its inability to get rid of them once their uselessness is evident..

    Not to say the Tories are any better – see Hague and Ian Duncan Smith for example.. but at least they cull them fairly quickly when it’s obvious they were a mistake.

  2. swatantra says:

    Wow! A very perceptive analysis of failure.
    Should EdM by any chance be propelled into No 10 as the polls indicate, then he has to start all over again, and clearly define his policy aims and goals. Or just be pragmatic, and run the Govt Day by Day, because that’s all that can be one with a Minority Administration which could collapse any time. What we could dom with is less dogma and more of technocratic Administration.

  3. Richard says:

    Labour under Miliband are Tory-lite.

    Miliband seems to think that the SNP are the enemy, rather than the Tories. In his comments on Question Time last night, he implied he would rather Cameron retained power than have a relationship with the SNP.

    He also is still in denial about Labour spending before the financial crash.

    George Monbiot’s analysis is spot on:

  4. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Labour were the architects of devolution. A not so well thought out move for them because Labour relied on Scotland and Wales Labour MPs. Labour are now seen as breaking up the UK as much as the SNP.

    “Ed Miliband’s narrow political strategy is a failure?”

    It’s not Ed’s failure, it’s Blair and Brown’s legacy of a poision chalice.

    “Or does it reach out dramatically once more to inspire the core and attract new centrist voters? A real One Nation strategy.”

    The only One Nation strategy left for Ed is an English one.

    The sell by date is up for the British Labour Party.

  5. Col says:

    Useful analysis which rightly focuses on strategic failings but should have also emphasised the gross strategic failure that was manifest from the first day of opposition, namely allowing the Tories to perpetuate a deeply damaging myth about the economy, both their false claims to economic success and their destruction of Labour’s economic reputation. Align that with Milliband’s tendency to take on Cameron in a presidential style competition rather than emphasising Labour as a party of team players (the Labour & Cooperative Party?!)- a competition he was always going to lose given his weak leadership persona. This coalition offered an open door in terms of criticism, they have done more damage than even Thatcher but Labour has utterly failed to marshAl a credible critique.

  6. AnneJGP says:

    Labour is at a crucial crossroads.

    Seems to me the crucial crossroads was the GE2010 defeat – but it was just not bad enough to start the real questioning. Five years on, Labour’s travelled a fair way further down the dead-end road it was already on. Sad; but I expect Labour will ‘win’ GE2015 in the sense that Mr Miliband will be PM. What then?

  7. Carol says:

    But what sort of Labour Party do you want? What is the Party’s raison d’etre? It was a party for those who laboured by hand or brain – whom does it represent now?
    How can Ed or anybody else lead a party to victory unless the party has an identity which the public understands?

  8. John. P Reid says:

    Richard, but the article says, What mad as a fish thinks, that Ed hasn’t the appeal, due to who he is, if he loses it won’t be because you think he’s tory lite, or the greens would be on 25%

    AnneJGP, if we do win, on 35% backed up by SNP in a 60% turnout, I don’t think we’ll have a mandate, yes Blair and Wilson won their third elections on similar circumstances, but having both won twice already, and a weak Tory opposition still burnt out, the electorate were prepared to see us rule,

    Apart from reversing the NHS reforms,and Balls austerity, plus more cevelution, there’s not really any policies that would beworth doing, and last time that happened after 1974 we were out of power for a generation

  9. james says:

    If the arithmetic added up I have a solution – A coalition with the Liberal Democrats

  10. Mike Stallard says:

    You are all talking as if the election is already in the bag!

    Yes, the highly paid experts have got it totally wrong. I for one am fed up by being shouted at by a small group of two or three men. So, judging by their faces, are the “totally undecided” audiences in factories. Even the little children who have their lessons interrupted all the time look condescending. (Has any politician got a CRB check please?)

    The real question which we must not shirk: Is it because the idea of the State being the answer to everything is past its sell-by date? Is Socialism itself yesterday’s answer?


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