Monday, 18 May 2015

Bye Bye Ed

As Lady Bracknell may have put it, “To lose one Ed is unfortunate, to lose two is downright careless.” It was disappointing to see a happy smiling Ed Miliband on the front of the Sunday papers looking happy and relived to be out of a job. Few of those threatened by the Tory nightmare are smiling.

After the last election Labour ran a dull leadership election that dragged on for months whilst the Tories spun the lie that the economic crisis was all Labours fault. They say a lie is around the world before the truth gets its shoes and socks on and that was certainly true in this case.

Ed should have stayed until the party Conference when a short leadership election should take placec. Now he should be leading the attack on the Tories and shaping the debate on what went wrong. Not leaving the space for his enemies and those on the Labour right with access to the media to set a false trail.

I always expected the Tories to get a small majority. But I did underestimate the scale of the defeat in Scotland. How Jim Murphy could try and hang on there is beyond me. It was obvious he did not have a clue about Scottish politics when he dragged Blairite-ultra, John McTernan in as his chief-of-staff.

I was cheered by the election campaign. Like most people I was misled by the opinion polls. The result reminds me of a line from the John Cleese film, Clockwise, “It's not the despair. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.”

Since Donald Dewer died Scottish labour has not put a foot right. The first thing they should do now is establish the Scottish Labour Party as a completely separate independent party so that it can then elect its own leader.

They have no need of Douglas Alexander’s neo-liberal foreign policy, or the confrontational style of Jim Murphy, after a defeat like this a bit of humility is in order.

Despite appearances Labour did not do as badly in England, increasing their share of the vote by 3.6%, despite having nothing like a coherent economic policy symbolised, by the decapitation of Ed Balls.

The distribution of the vote however was unhelpful. The collapsing Liberal vote went mostly to the Tories and the UKIP vote split with the working class sticking with Nigel whilst the more affluent ones switched to the Tories creating a double whammy for Labour in suburban constituencies.

Labour has a problem in both personnel and ideology. The SNP has produced two of Britain’s best politicians in Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmon. Labour seems to have lost the ability to produce leaders with the basic political skills - simple things like being able to connect with people or to talk to them in a language they can understand.

The gene pool the party is drawing upon is just too narrow. One of the reasons why they misunderstood the UKIP threat is they simply do not understand the social and economic dislocation of globalisation.

For the well educated middle class the world is your oyster for the rest it brings fear and potential impoverishment. When it comes to migration there is a problem.

That problem is that neither government nor employers have been prepared to pay the real social costs of migration in health, education and most of all housing. This is compounded by the Labour Party no longer understanding that a larger public sector could protect many working class people from the worst aspects of a globalised economy.

John Cruddas, the dilettante who spent the pre-election policy review flirting with “Blue Labour”, now leader of the review into what went wrong things could easily go from bad to worse.

This year Verso published a superb collection by Ralph Miliband entitled Class-War Conservatism and other Essays. It is great pity it has gone unread by his son. In the title essay Ralph points out that the Tories, “are seeking a drastic weakening of the labour movement because their view of the good society requires it; and the good society in which they believe is a class society in which the subordination of the many to the few, on the basis of property and privilege, is the dominant principle. Labour has long lacked the capacity to project a radically different view, and therefore to turn it into a major theme in political life. Until it regains that capacity, it will be fighting on Mrs Thatchers ground rather than its own.”

If people say this cannot be done point them at the Scots Nats if they say labour must return to the middle ground point them to the Lib Dems. And if they want to know what Class War Conservatism is just tell them to watch and wait.