Labour lost because it wasn't Left enough. Right? Wrong!
Red Ken Livingstone represents an unending thread of Leftist (brain-dead) thinking -- not alien to the BBC and the Guardian -- which says the real reason Labour got slaughtered was because they weren't Left-wing enough. Oh dear, oh dear...
Dear Ken Livingstone, (No, I am not being in any way sincere. But keep the faith; and read on.) This open letter is addressed to you in your role as the most prominent leftist who thinks Labour lost because it was “not left-wing enough”.
It could equally be addressed to Owen Jones, or half a dozen other red pundits who misperceive British electoral politics.
Let us help you find your way out of the dark.
When establishing a political position in the long run up to an election campaign, the key determinant of success is not your precise positioning on the left-right spectrum. You first have to understand your environment. No commercial or sporting concern would enter a competitive fray without first assessing what they were up against.
Elections fall in to two broad categories: “change” elections and “security” elections.
Change elections occurred in 1945, 1979, and 1997. The country was in the mood for a transformative offer, because of traumatic events, or recognition of entrenched failure, or a sense that the stables needed to be hosed out.
Security elections are more common; the electorate think that Britain is doing okay, or is on the right track, and there is a small-c conservative desire not to upset the apple cart.
May 7th 2015 was a security election. Many of us are burdened by debt of one sort or another but are paying it down. People have lost jobs but have re-established themselves.
The young have drained their parents’ wallets to get on the housing ladder and feel a deep obligation to keep up their mortgage payments and to work hard and to get on in life.
This is not a time for ideological flights of fancy, irrespective of whether such flights originate in a Senior Common Room or a trendy bachelor pad in Shoreditch.
David Cameron is built for reassurance. His easy, middle-England manner and his instinctive moderation ooze calmness. I suspect he hasn’t read enough books to be a radical. With Baldwin, he is the archetype of a politician suited to security elections.
I prefer my politics a bit spicier than Cameron would ever offer, but he is the man for this hour.
Miliband, in contrast, was capricious. Raised on radicalism, you would never know who he was going to lay into next. This moment he hates bankers and landlords; the next moment he could be lashing out at drug companies or supermarkets. Who knows?
All you can be certain of is that his world view is Manichean, and that his enemies would not be given a fair hearing. There is an empathy deficit: When you know everything and you are morally superior, why listen to tradesmen and hoi polloi?
Ken, people of good will can disagree. That is why socialist jeremiads about the “threat” to the NHS, for example, don’t play well: the public, not blinded by partisan warfare, just do not believe that a few score politicians have a secret plan to destroy UK health services. “Why would they?” ask the public, and the public are right.
In truth, Ken, your goose was cooked in 2011. George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement of that year that the deficit would not be eliminated in one Parliament; the task would instead take some seven or eight years.
The die was cast: From then onwards, the question for the 2015 election was always going to be, “Who do you think is best suited to finishing the job?”
Socialists and public expenditure restraint? I don’t think so.
At the heart of your mis-reading of British politics, Ken, is a paradox. You (and Owen and Harriet and all the gang) preen yourselves on your radicalism. In your eyes, it is radicalism that makes you special, that sets you apart and above. You emit an aura of “more leftist than thou”; the degree of your radicalism is the measure of your compassion and goodness.
But if you are so distinct from the British people, and have (in your terms) superior and different concerns, why on earth do you think you will be popular and in the majority at election time?
Your posturing gets you on to the stage and in the limelight where you crave to be, yet at once it sets you apart from the audience.
Your priority might be, say, to bash to the bankers. The priority of literally millions of your compatriots is to borrow from banks, and building societies, and credit card companies, and then to succeed in paying them back.
Go upset someone else’s apple cart. At this moment, the British people want the security of good management and prudence.
Andrew Gibson is a regular contributor to The Commentator
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