Reflection on the 2015 General ElectionPosted: May 9, 2015
Below is a little musing on why the polling predictions were so wrong, why Miliband lost, and where Labour should go next. Not intended for publication.
The polling predictions were so out of sync that it confirms what I have always thought: politics will not, and cannot, ever be a considered a science. No matter how much scientific methodology is applied, human outlook and behaviour can never be reduced to quantitative data.
Regardless, why did Labour fall so short of forecasted predictions? In truth, I think there were several factors at play. Together theses variables meant Miliband was unelectable on the day. I could write you a whole essay on this, but I’ll try and keep it brief (the commentariat are in over-drive and I’d hate to bore you too much on your weekend):
First, it is worth remember the Tory brand is still toxic – despite Cameron’s best efforts. And because of this, I suspect more people than we realise felt uneasy admitting they would be voting Tory when asked by pollsters. (This, again, suggests politics should never be treated as a science. In science variables do not purposefully lie; humans do.)
Second, Miliband never stepped his campaign up. There was no moment when he did anything that could be considered anything other than ‘okay’. In fact, at times, he probably did pretty good compared to previous outings he had over the last five years. But, essentially, it was never anything more than accepted mediocrity. Certainly, nothing he did in the campaign was better than Cameron (or indeed the star of the show, Nicola Sturgeon). There was, I think, a sense of relativism in the Labour ranks and media coverage. His approval ratings were bad in the run-up – but they had been much worse, analysts said. It was thus assumed he must be a real threat to Cameron. But, to your average Joe in the street, he never stopped looking clunky – and he certainly never looked better than Cameron (this comparison was highlighted in approval rating polls – but seemingly discarded for serious analysis). In short, the media, pollsters, and the Labour party, thought he had significantly improved – and they were sort of right. But he hadn’t improved enough to be taken seriously by the electorate. In short, analysts failed to realise the electorate actually exists outside of Westminster.
Third, he couldn’t reverse the trend of Labour’s traditional support base collapsing – and he probably accelerated it further. His speeches were always professorial, which did little to endear him to the working classes – or indeed the middle classes. A perfect example of his disconnect with reality – and with people – was his stunt last week when he held a press conference to show his pledges carved on stone. This appeared bizarre to every seasoned political watcher – so just think how such a stunt appeared to working class Northerners. Labour has not been forgiven for the opening of borders to unskilled workers. Whilst open borders for cheap labour is good for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and middle-class household who can have cheaper plumbers and builders, for the working classes, it has been an unprecedented disaster. For these people, Ukip has been the answer. It is worth remembering just how many traditional Labour seats in the north saw Ukip come second – sometimes with the most outrageous swings. Labour never addressed this impending disaster, despite warnings from the Fabian Society that they would be harmed by Ukip.
Last, the economic argument was never coherently made. Lynton Crosby’s campaign focusing on a horror scenario of a Labour government propped up by the SNP ruining the economy worked. Ed Balls and Miliband never countered this well enough. Many middle-class families just felt they could not trust Labour with the recovery.
To be truthful, I think this is a bad outcome for the under-30s. For the older generation, it’s a godsend election result. Property is going to continue growing completely out-of-kilter with real wages (Foxton’s shares yesterday were up 14 per cent following the result); no mansion tax; inheritance tax threshold will be raised; and lucrative pensions etc., but for the younger generation it isn’t so clever. I respected Miliband’s property pledges of a Keynesian house-building programme, private rent control, and refusal to sell-off council property in central London for private development. I worry London will soon look like Paris with banlieues. And just look how much joy that has brought Parisians…
Because of my loathing of today’s Left with it’s cultural relativism, Islamophilia, obsession with Tony Blair bashing, hatred of America and Israel, and concern for identity politics over class politics, I sometime forget how left-wing I feel on issues of social justice and equality. My sense of disappointment yesterday caught me by surprise.
I am pleased this result does at least confirm how much of a genius Blair was – a man I have long-admired, having spent a year writing my undergraduate dissertation on his foreign interventions in Iraq, Sierra Leon and Kosovo. Labour has now not won an election without him since 1974, which says everything you need to know about which direction the party needs to head in now. I am hoping Chuka Umanna becomes the next Labour leader. As a Blairite he will drift the party back towards the centre. Although, if I was a gambling man, I would suggest Dan Jarvis could be a very serious outside contender.