This morning I am frustrated but not entirely surprised. Labour has lost more seats than in the disastrous 2010 result, which at the time was dubbed the worst result for many generations. Some have claimed that no-one predicted this, and are now in shock that we lost and are making comparisons to 1992. That is a weak case. The polls were telling us that this would happen, the night before there was a widely spread article that confirmed the Conservatives would be strong, and some polls had underestimated their support amongst “shy Tories”. What’s more, the ICM exit poll used on the BBC was pretty accurate.
So why did we lose? Well sadly there are so many reasons they cannot all be listed here, for it would take a whole book to occupy them. The national campaign lacked any vigour, vision, and a sense of reality. The symbolism of the giant stone carving will be ever present in the future of what not to do. It was a biblical move, but the only thing it had in common with the Bible was its root in the past and is pure fantasy. The managers of the national campaign also need to take responsibility, and need to be moved on. Throughout the last five years, there were worries that the people behind Miliband were not up to the job. The night was typified by Lucy Powell, the vice-chair of the campaign whose media appearances have been a disaster, giving everyone one last gift by saying we did nothing wrong in Scotland.
As Ed Miliband made his final speech we saw the lack of quality that eventually led to the downfall of this campaign. It was vacuous, self-interested, and offered no vision. Instead he left a blank page, as if he was never here. Yes I am glad Miliband has finally left the leadership role, and I hope the party takes time to reflect. I personally believe that we need to return to the ideology that led us to three straight electoral victories. Even in defeat, that ideology still landed us with more seats than this non-brand centrism. It didn’t offer a coherent alternative to the Conservatives vision of what they wanted to do. The much maligned line ‘Long term economic plan’ may have gotten through to the electorate who believed that the country was on the right path.
However, what has disappointed me more than anything is the reaction the result from some people who are left wing. Pouring scorn on those who have voted Conservative, calling them selfish, arguing democracy doesn’t work, and making hyperbolic statements which don’t reflect reality. Some are even talking about ideological ‘purity’. This approach not only saddens me, it actually scares me. There is nothing ‘pure’ about losing, or lambasting those who disagree with you. There is nothing pure about holding one view over another. As a party we currently have two directions which we could take. Either, we change to reflect the changing nature of the electorate, or we produce a leader and manifesto with a genuine vision which can change people’s view. It is vital in the coming months we choose the right direction, another election result like this and the tensions in the party could become unbearable.
What is clear is that the Labour Party is now in crisis. Ed Balls lost his seat, along with Douglas Alexander, and Jim Murphy. The available talent which can stand for a Labour leadership doesn’t look spectacular. We’re now in a position of weakness, being part of a fractured opposition which will not be able to stop the government. To gain less seats than in 2010 implies that changes need to be made, and with luck we can use this time for searching for the soul of the party and where we want to go. This is a wakeup call and we have to heed the message.
By Sam Mace, Senior Writer for Daily Political View.