So now the post mortem begins and the next few weeks will see the Labour Party tear itself apart in a frantic attempt to undo the damage of the general election defeat. What, I suspect, nobody will face up to is the fact that the election was lost before it even started because the Labour Party no longer has an identity to place before the electorate.
One of the biggest issues of recent times must surely be the NHS and yet Ed barely mentioned it until the campaign was almost over when he blurted out a half-arsed promise to sort things out but failed to mention where the money would come from. Yes, the Tories made similar unfunded commitments but had the luxury of already being in government so the electorate were less inclined to question their promises. That the said electorate might regret their lack of action when the government starts selling the NHS off to their hedge fund chums is another matter.
The other huge issue facing the country is the plight of some of the most vulnerable members of our society, those that need and should receive the full support of the state. To listen to the Labour Party adding their voice to the dismal “Strivers v Skivers” rhetoric was one of the most dispiriting moments in the campaign and firmly cemented my determination to never renew the membership I resigned when Tony Blair badgered the party into the centre ground. Simplistic judgements against vulnerable people are almost certain to be ill-judged and fundamentally wrong and yet no politician, that I have heard, is prepared to stand up and defend these people whose voices are being drowned by the roar of self-interest that is the legacy of the Thatcher and Blair years.
Tuition fees were rightly a plank of Ed’s campaign but that’s all they should have been, not an entire lovingly restored wooden floor. The Liberal Democrats were properly punished for their perfidy in waving through the increase in fees but the fact is that those who are now students and of voting age are pretty much stuck with their fees, that cannot be undone. The people who will most fear the looming increase are currently in sixth form or college and don’t have the vote (that I believe the voting age should be 16 is an argument for another article). Incidentally, anybody who sees the Tory promise of a million apprenticeships as a great step forward might want to read Louis Althusser’s brilliant discourse on the method and purpose of state mandated education and training.
It has been instructive to read that small section of the main stream media that supported, or at least didn’t oppose, the Labour campaign. The strident accusation that “it was the lefties that ruined it” is tiresome, unhelpful and downright wrong. By most peoples’ lights I class as a lefty and I’m damned proud of being one. As it happens I voted for the Labour candidate in my local constituency not because of his party but because he personally has been an excellent constituency MP.
What is most damaging to Labour’s electoral prospects is the tribalism that is already evident in the leadership battle. What should be an exercise to find the best leader, one who can rehabilitate the party in the eyes of the electorate, will descend into a misguided ideological battle between the left and the centre with the result that a messy compromise will probably emerge that convinces nobody. Also, and I’m looking at certain well known Labour supporting newspapers here, snide ad hominem attacks on Ed Miliband will do nothing to undermine the Tory Party but will further damage the Labour Party that you all profess to support. There is, however, an important question that is not an attack on Ed, he was only the messenger and I don’t kill messengers. Who was responsible for that sophomoric PR stunt with the monolith? We all remember the famous Sheffield Moment of 1992, #EdStone could replace that as the byword for the exact point at which a campaign sinks below the waves.
As things stand it is hard to see how the Labour Party can hope to recover from this particular rout perhaps its time, like that of the old Liberal Party, has passed. It is customary to sneer at single issue parties such as the NHA Party but at least they stand for something, all the present Labour Party seems to stand for is a watered down version of the status quo.