There’s no shortage of people dissecting the election result but here are my initial thoughts.
- Labour did not lose because it wasn’t left wing enough for Scotland – even if Labour had taken every SNP seat in Scotland, it wouldn’t have won this election. In any case the policies Labour offered at this election were not the cause of the shift to the SNP – which started before Miliband developed his policy offer and developed a life of their own thereafter.
- Nor did Labour lose because it wasn’t left wing enough to appeal to voters in London – if the swing in London wasn’t huge, it was certainly big enough (if repeated across the rest of the country) to have delivered a non-Tory government.
- Labour’s failure to win was primarily because it didn’t breakthrough in the Midlands and South of England. It seems to me that the majority of votes Labour needed in these areas went (perhaps indirectly) to UKIP and, to a lesser extent, the Greens.
- In these areas there is no scope for squeezing traditional opponents like the Lib Dems (who’ve practically ceased to exist) or the Tories whose vote remained more or less unchanged since 2010 at a little above its core base vote.
- There is no progressive majority at the moment in the UK. UKIP and Tories combined took 50% of the vote. Add to that the rump Lib Dem vote (most of whom must have been content with their party’s behaviour in coalition) and almost 60% of the electorate voted for the continuation or deepening of regressive politics. Remove Scotland and this regressive majority accounts for about two thirds of the electorate.
- Labour task, therefore, over the next five years is to try and persuade those (mostly white, mostly working class) voters who voted UKIP to back a progressive party that actually has their interests highest on its priorities but that won’t pander to their prejudices.
Now you’re expecting me to offer you my solutions.
But honestly I have no idea and, the more I think about it, the less confident I am that there’s a strategy by which The Labour Party can reach those voters while still presenting a recognisably progressive agenda – as opposed to rehashed (or even watered down – without Brown’s moral purpose) Blairism.
I believe the populist nationalisms that are driving divisions in England, Scotland and (weirdly through UKIP) Wales are only likely to become increasingly forceful in the next few years. Deeper austerity, slowing (and perhaps catastrophically unstable) global economies, rows over Europe and devolution are likely to feed the distrusts and deepen the divides in Britain rather than make them easier to bridge.
Today I am pessimistic.