Ed Miliband lost because Labour doesn’t understand Britain
Labour's worst result in decades wasn’t due to Murdoch or the bacon sandwich or Lynton Crosby or even Ed Miliband. It was the party’s total detachment from the values that make Britain such a prosperous and wonderful country. And the Russell Brand fiasco was the icing on a rotten cake
When Ed Miliband won the Labour leadership in 2010, defeating his brother David, the party had a huge opportunity to seize the initiative and create serious problems for David Cameron and the Conservatives.
He had a clean slate and a fresh start; the chance to reunite the grassroots whilst developing the kind of compelling narrative that won over the middle classes and delivered Tony Blair three thumping election victories.
Immediately, the right-wing media seized the initiative and cast Ed Miliband as the ‘wrong brother’ backed by the unions with a left-leaning agenda for the country. This line of attack could have been easily neutralised by a more astute leader, but instead of hitting back, Miliband inexplicably chose to revel in this image.
This is because with the phone hacking, expenses scandals and the financial crisis Ed Miliband genuinely believed he could build a left-wing consensus, introducing a new kind of politics. Given the high levels of voter apathy and distrust engulfing the country, there was evidence that there was at least an emerging market for such a new kind of politics.
But Labour got it wrong, badly wrong. Slowly but surely, the party ramped up its anti-business rhetoric, picking out zero-hours contracts and food banks as scars on the morality of Britain.
If Ed Miliband’s strategists had framed the debate around zero-hours contracts correctly, it may have achieved some traction with the electorate.
But instead of highlighting the perceived unfairness with such employment contracts, Labour used it as a stick with which to beat some of the UK’s biggest employers. M&S, Next, Sports Direct were relentlessly attacked by the Labour machine as ‘terrible places to work’ with the party oblivious to the fact that these organisations were regarded as prime examples of British success stories, and valued employers.
The inaccurate forecasts in the opinion polls were a gift to the Conservatives, giving Ed Miliband and his team false indications that their attacks on British companies were chiming with the electorate.
Again, they failed to understand that whilst most UK workers may have criticisms of their employers, they rarely ‘hate’ the companies they work for, and recognise that their job pays the bills and puts food on the table.
This false sense of security allowed Labour’s media team to make the unforgivable mistake of advising Ed Miliband to participate in a video with champagne-socialist Russell Brand. His team thought this was a route to winning over millions of young voters, but instead it reminded millions of shy Conservative and UKIP supporters just how dangerous Miliband was to the future of the country.
He fudged his answers around a possible partnership with the Scottish National Party (SNP), he glamourised life on benefits whilst failing to recognise that many traditional Labour voters despise the workshy.
His strategy seemed to enjoy going against the values of the British people, thinking it was a sign that he was a champion of the oppressed majority instead of the leader of an out of touch minority.
He posed for ‘selfies’ and created his own online fan club on Twitter; once again a strategy that motivated Conservative supporters to get out and vote, instead of winning him support.
Whilst all this was happening, Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby and Obama aide Jim Messina were executing a disciplined and heavily-poll tested campaign. This contrasted starkly with the efforts of Tom Baldwin and David Axelrod who appeared to be running Labour’s election on ‘feeling’ rather than hard science and polling data.
Tony Blair changed Labour for a reason -- because he knew that the British people are fundamentally hardworking and aspirational, and know what’s best for the country. Ed Miliband and Labour’s top team didn’t understand this, instead assuming that Britons were oppressed and angry with businesses, politics and society.
So, over the next few days, expect to hear the usual Labour-supporter excuses. They will blame the newspapers, the bacon sandwich, and accuse the electorate being ‘thick’. But in reality they should be blaming themselves.
The next Labour leader needs to recognise that a left-wing sixth form seminar will never sell to the resilient British public. British people are fighters, they work hard and care about the future of our country and are not afraid to go through the rough times if it means building a more prosperous society.
If Labour refuses to face up to this truth, then expect a Conservative landslide in 2020.
Clare George-Hilley is Director of Communities and Social Justice, Parliament Street Research Council. She is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. Follow Clare George-Hilley on Twitter: @ClareHilley
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