Three party leaders resign within 90 minutes
Three party leaders have now resigned in the space of 90 minutes. Ed Miliband’s must be the biggest emotional shock to the individual concerned. Unlike Nigel Farage, he hasn’t just announced a potential leave of absence; unlike Nick Clegg who thought his time in government was quite possibly over and therefore his time as leader too.
Ed Miliband before the polls shut last night thought No. 10 was within his grasp, he might confound the doubters and get into No. 10.
His team was busily briefing that David Cameron trying to force his way back in the door of Downing Street without a majority was unconstitutional. Back-channel conversations with the Lib Dems about a possible deal that could involve asking the SNP MPs to abstain in any confidence vote to spare Labour the embarrassment of supporting him.
All that went out the door when the exit poll emerged at 10pm and was quickly confirmed by early results that suggested, if anything, that the exit poll had underestimated the Labour rout.
The grand plan to locate and shape a different centre ground in British politics had been flattened in front of Tory steamroller campaign shaped by austere times, fear and voter unease about Labour.
It would be all the tougher for Ed Miliband to process this sudden descent from hope to failure because he actually shattered family relations in order to trial his political experiment.
Ed Miliband struggled with his emotions as he a told a room of cheering supporters how much he’d enjoyed the campaign and how he took absolute and total responsibility for the result. He said his party needed to “rebuild” and “now it’s time for someone else” to take it forward the moment he’s finished at the Cenotaph commemoration for VE Day this afternoon. Harriet Harman would be acting leader, just as Margaret Beckett was acting leader after John Smith’s death.
He thanked the British people for their stories told to him, for the selfies and for the most unlikely cult of the 20th first century, Milifandom.
He gave no clear direction for his successor. Instead he expressed his affection and warned the party not to mourn its defeat.
But Labour may now fall into the factions that were largely covered up by his approach to the leadership. He worked with the grain of the Labour movement, chose not to define himself against the party as Tony Blair did. He seemed to acknowledge that with a warning to the party to keep things “agreeable” as it chooses a new leader.
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