8 May 2015

Labour haven’t just failed to win – it’s worse than that

Let’s start with detail and work up to the big picture.

Detail number one is the manner of Scottish Labour’s wipeout by the SNP. Detail number two is the complex voting shifts that denied Labour most of the midlands and southern English marginals it needed to get within striking distance of a coalition. Detail number three is the collapse of the Lib Dems.

The SNP’s victory was not made by Nicola Sturgeon, although together with Nigel Farage she was one of the few prominent politicians able to confidently exude plausibility and do populism. The SNP’s victory was wholly manufactured by Labour.

Scottish Labour convinced itself that the separatist mood was being driven by economic grievance. But most journalists who covered the Indyref quickly realised it was about a positive identity, total rejection of the austerity politics that Labour had signed up to, and essentially a form of plebeian national leftism.

Labour not only had no answer to this – it refused to recognise the problem. So it responded to the 45 per cent Yes vote by installing Jim Murphy as leader, using the party machine to squash its usual bugbears – the left, the unions and those seen as soft on separatism.

Murphy then duly tried to redraw Scottish Labour as a slightly left-wing unionist party.

On this basis senior Labour figures were predicting even on the eve of the poll that they would stem the SNP’s advances. The strategy was smashed to pieces by the Scottish electorate.

When we look at the way Labour’s forward march was halted in England it becomes clear how heavily the Scottish dynamic had begun to play in the English marginal.

Scottish Labour Party leader Murphy reacts after failing to be re-elected as a member of parliament for East Renfrewshire

In seat after seat that Labour held you get a Lib Dem collapse, a holdup of the Tory vote, and a 4-5,000 surge for Ukip.

My hunch is that the Lib Dem votes went mainly to the Tories – and that a lot of it was tactical in response to pleas by the Conservative press for tactical voting to avoid a de facto Labour/SNP majority.

The Ukip surge clearly came largely from Labour voters – as evidenced by the close shaves Labour had with Ukip in Hartlepool and Heywood and Middleton.

What does this tells us?

Labour in England was fighting a campaign about fairness, less austerity and the NHS. But the SNP surge made the debate exactly about what Cameron said it was: who can form a non-chaotic and legitimate government of the UK.

Having been told the SNP were akin to a Scottish Sinn Fein by the Labour leadership, once this became the salient issue, Labour’s heartland economic agenda had no traction.

And make no mistake, a significant section of working class labour voters are still not convinced on freedom of movement. That – not Euroscepticism – is what is driving the Ukip vote in the north and in Wales.

The third bit of detail worth exploring is the Lib Dem collapse. In the metropolitan middle-class areas – especially London – it reflected a return to Labour.

But the Lib Dems’ woeful performance in government – their dithering ministers who never seemed to affect anything decisive – seems to have sapped their will to live in many constituencies.

If you add up all the details what do you get? Scotland has voted decisively for a party that wants to leave the union, and which rejects austerity. It has gone left, towards a confident internationalist populism.

Nicola Sturgeon leader of the Scottish National Party celebrates results at a counting centre in Glasgow

That leaves Labour in existential trouble. Labour’s Scottish contingent was not just some minor offshoot. It was, together with Wales, the ballast that anchored it to what I’ve called “post-industrial Britain”.

To get a Labour majority government, given the political weight of liberalised conservatism in southern England, you need the English north, the industrial Midlands, most of Wales and most of Scotland.

Labour shadow ministers who sneered at the idea they might offer Proportional Representation to the Libdems, on the eve of the election, will now have to face the fact that only permanent coalition politics or electoral reform can give them a chance to rule in future.

I’ve said, from the very start of this campaign, that there are two confident forces in British politics and one deeply challenged one.

Scottish left social-democratic separatism is confident. In the asset-rich south, Cameron-style Conservatism is also confident. Labour no longer knows what it is for, nor how to win power.

But it does know how to fight old battles. All around me, as I write, the SMS and Twittersphere is abuzz with a nascent battle between Blairites and ex-Brownites. There’ll be calls for a return to Blairism – on the grounds that only politics that can “reach across the class divide” can work for Labour.

But it’s no longer the class divide that’s most important. It is the emergence of Scottish nationalism and the protective reaction it’s produced in England.
And quite how a new Blair would reach out to the Ukip voters, the very people Blairism assumed would always vote Labour, is not clear. In addition, an overt Blairite candidate has no chance of running the party without the biggest union, Unite, leaving.

Labour will wake up to quite a decent swathe of red across the north of England and the south of Wales. But in its current form it has almost no ideological base, or coherence.

Miliband’s innner team had almost no outriders in the press, no co-thinkers in academia; they had support among artists and film directors, but always half-hearted.

Blairism, of course, has massive support among the now wrinkled and pensioned ex-ministers and former giants of 1990s journalism, but that’s not much use.

Labour today is waking up to something much worse than failure to win. It has failed to account for its defeat in 2010, failed to recognise the deep sources of its failure in Scotland, and failed to produce any kind of intellectual diversity and resilience from which answers might arise.

Watch: the extraordinary moment when The Labour Party campaign chief Douglas Alexander realised he’d lost his seat to Scottish National Party (SNP) 20-year-old politics student Mhairi Black by six thousand votes.Watch more: Douglas Alexander’s concession speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7-ZMZeR6a4

Posted by Channel 4 News on Thursday, 7 May 2015

Follow @paulmasonnews on Twitter

95 reader comments

  1. Mboyle1888 says:

    Could it not be seen that Labour’s failure should be viewed in the wider context of the failure of centre left parties in general in the post-2008 political world?

    Observe the varying degrees of the “pasokification” of the centre left parties across Europe. Ireland, France, Greece, Spain to name a few.

    1. jimmbo says:

      Why term the Labour Party centre left? It is of the centre at best, what with Tory Labourites still in its leadership and Progress and the Blairites lurking around, waiting for a chance to pounce on wasted Labour’s body.

      1. John Jones says:

        Proposals for government to banish market forces and impose price-fixing across a range of sectors including private lettings and retail energy cannot meaningfully be called “centrist” in the second decade of the 21st century. Along with Miliband’s constant attacks on markets (is there any market he came out and said he recognised works well?) and on businesses (which he seemed to spend most of his time criticising) and obvious desire to jack up taxes on both businesses and individuals through a range of new impositions which often looked to be based as much on essentially punitive instincts as on solid economic thinking, these positions created the firm impression of a party that was at the very least “centre-left” if not outright “left-wing”.

        Unfortunately Labour people have history for this sort of self-deluding misinterpretation, and it’s of a piece with those hardline right-wingers in the UKIP corner (you can find plenty of them commenting over on the Telegraph website) who in all seriousness call Cameron a “Marxist”.

        Just as Cameron only looks like a “Marxist” if you are yourself very far to the right, so Miliband’s Labour, with its constant anti-market rhetoric and obsession with additional regulation, intervention and taxation, only looks “centrist” if you are pretty far to the left.

        Neither is a good viewing position from which to analyse out why your own party failed to do better last Thursday. After all, both tend, quite wrongly, to reinforce the comforting presupposition that the only thing that was wrong with one’s own party was that it still wasn’t extreme enough.

      2. Roger says:

        Casualised labour; a return to privatised health care; bashing the poor; public school elites; anti-European jingoism; imperialist military campaigns abroad……you call this the second decade of the 21st century?…….more like a return to the reign of Victoria……

      3. W.L.Webb says:

        Absolutely. Ain’t it gruesome to see those gleeful angry eyes flashing out through the wrinkles? A sort of Stalinist Centrist, or is it a Centrist stalinism? Pas des enemis a droite. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh…!

  2. sally downs says:

    If Scotland had been given devo max things might have been different. The media including C4 allowed tories to get away with blaming the global financial crisis on labour, comparing Britain to poor old Greece, and ducking their lack of opposition to light touch bank regulation. Welcome toan England with more buy to let landlords, power stations built by the French and Chinese, mental and physical health privatised e.g outfits like partnership in care now owned by American Acadia.Using the lib dems as their fags the public school boys have slithered their way to the power they are bred to expect. Compassionate conservatism is an oxymoron. How can so many English people be moronic enough to let this lot in again.

    1. June Aitchison says:

      The fact that the Labour Party got together with the Tories and liberal democrats to lie to the Scottish electorate during indyref and to make promises that wee not kept. They treated the Scottish electorate with nothing but contempt. THATS why they lost (that and the idiot that is Jim Murphy

    2. Heather says:

      Greed, selfishness and fear of losing some of what they have. No one votes Tory for the greater good.

    3. Mike says:

      Because most people read the Daily Mail or the Sun or the Times or the Telegraph.

    4. Nick says:

      I agree with everything in this post.

      As a country the UK has returned to a “sod you, Jack I’m alright” mentality.

      1. Andrew Hayward says:

        For once and for all I am fed up with being called selfish because I voted Tory
        It is not self centred, I want the best for all. It is stupid comments like that which made me leave the labour party. I was still going to vote Labour this time but I realised that they had no idea had to GROW the economy. We dont just exist on good will. And stop slagging off the Times. OK it is owned by Murdoch but I get it precisely because of its range of views, across the political spectrum. The LEFT will never get in if they keep slagging off everyone who doesnt vote for them. It is both self serving and stupid

      2. Phil Perspective says:

        I was still going to vote Labour this time but I realised that they had no idea had to GROW the economy.

        And the Conservatives plan is what?

      3. Martin Vickers says:

        Andrew, with the best will in the world, I don’t care what you are fed up with. I’m gonna call it as I see it. You voted for the bedroom tax, which punishes the disabled. you voted for nom-doms tax breaks and zero hour contracts. For 12bn in benefit cuts which will be targeted at the ‘working’ poor, not “scroungers”. For further privatised health care, more vanity free schools instead of investment for all, ripping up human rights, euro chaos and venomous scots phobia. Common good my arse. And the truth is, you are perfectly representative of what England is and what England wants. Dont be shocked when Scots decide being basically a despised colony of such an England holds no attraction. 45% are already there…

    5. Paul Boizot says:

      I agreed with much of Sally Downs’ post until the last sentence. What are the political implications of calling those who did not vote left “morons”? If I was an ex-Labour voter who now voted UKIP, what would be my reaction? “Oh, yes, I see now, what an absolute idiot I have been!….?” Republicans in the USA have made great play over the last few decades of not being “pointy-headed intellectuals” from the East Coast elite. Alternative folk over here made great fun of stupid George Bush, ha ha – unfortunately, he was elected president of the USA despite the superior wisdom of UK and US leftists. People do not like being preached to by others – especially more privileged others – who claim to know what is best for them but support a party that seems to have lost touch with them. I don’t like UKIP or the Tories – I am a Green voter – but we have to enagage with their voters – yes, and with those voters’ concerns – and not just dismiis them as ignorant, or racists.

    6. John Jones says:

      I don’t think you quite managed to get enough lame stereotypes and unpleasant bits of class prejudice in there. Do you want another go?

    7. shaunthebrummie says:

      anything to drive the wedge between scots and English is good..

  3. JimmyG says:

    “Having been told the SNP were akin to a Scottish Sinn Fein by the Labour leadership, once this became the salient issue…..”

    I think you’re wrong to put the blame on the labour leadership here. That message was pumped out by the Tories for the last period of the campaign.

    1. Davie Park says:

      And Labour not only failed to challenge it, they enthusiastically joined in. Cowardice and stupidity in equal measure.

    2. Charles krossan says:

      And what was Labours response? “We won’t work with them, they’re vile horrible separatists who are trying to destroy our Country” even when everyone and their granny knew Labour had no choice but to work with the SNP. It’s was petulant and stupid and the Tories used it to hammer the nails of their coffin lid shut. The truth is Labour has spent so much time vilifying the SNP for the last couple of years they lost sight of their objective to beat the Conservatives and get into Government. Trying to pretend it was a party of the left in Scotland and anything but in England was an act of monumental folly.

  4. pepbut says:

    The left needs to drop the pseudo-intellectual identity politics or they will lose again and again. I used to vote Lib Dem but switched to UKIP, purely to spite the smug leftist journos who have been spitting in my face my whole life for the crime of being white & male.

    1. hungryheart says:

      Wow being white and male, life must be so hard for you!

    2. Don MacKeen says:

      I’d be grateful for an example of when anyone has been “spitting in the face of white males” – I hear this stuff a lot, mostly via the media which has been relentlessly promoting UKIP, but I don’t recognise it as reality. People are powerless today because a tiny, super wealthy elite have amassed a ridiculous proportion of socially created wealth. None of the usual straw men – political correctness, identity politics etc – created that problem.

    3. MB says:

      This comment is more illuminating than Paul’s entire article about the reason for Labour’s defeat.

      A lot of voters don’t really want a left of centre party devoted to equality and fairness. They want a party which makes them feel like the top priority, and often vote upon largely fallacious grievances.

      Only 3.8% of the English electorate voted for a genuinely socialist manifesto (Green). 4.7% voted for SNP with its mix of socialism and nationalism, and the third largest party was a nationalist party with a huge appeal to racists (UKIP)

      How does Labour reach out to an electorate which is far more nationalist and xenophobic than in is socialist?

      1. marjie says:

        Non of the English electorate voted SNP

    4. Jane says:

      THIS is what provokes accusations of moronic voting – voting UKIP ‘purely to spite the smug leftist journos who have been spitting in my face my whole life for the crime of being white & male.’ For goodness’ sake, grow up.

  5. Colin Kerr says:

    Like a glass of cold water – a clear cogent thought – thank you Paul Mason.
    I would be interested in a reflection on the conservative’s campaign- lack of hand to hand combat – the replaying of the press agenda on television – and perhaps a reflection on the issues that the party now set to govern has completely avoided -where do the cuts fall.

  6. Brian TH says:

    Labour become the party of benefits and entitlement. They turned their backs on the traditional working class improvers that used to be their supporters and focussed on the interests of minorities, putting political correctness above fairness and decency. I won’t forget Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq, the introduction of tuition fees, the destruction of the economy and the patronising efforts of Milliband to connect with the public.

    1. David Richardson says:

      Labour became the party of benefits and entitlement? That you can say that demonstrates the utter futility of Labour’s acceptance of the coalition’s cuts, and refusal to protect benefits (not the unearned benefits of the rich, of course – no-one ever talks in such terms. And who represents entitlement more than DC and his cabinet?). I’m with you on Iraq. But to lay the destruction of the economy at Labour’s door is a travesty. It was caused by deregulation of the banking sector: that was Thatcher’s work; Labour just failed to undo it. And Milliband was doing well at connecting: at least he had the guts to try it, and did not just surround himself with picked audiences of the faithful as DC did. Your talk of political correctness being given priority over fairness and decency, and the general tenor of your message, just reveals you as one of those who swallowed whole the bile generated by the Tories and their media.

  7. Mystic says:

    I’m sorry Paul.
    You are a good and honest man, but you will have to live-out the rest of your life watching things get worse.
    The people cannot (will not) fight against the rise of individual selfishness.

    You can continue to to try and teach-the-pigs-to-whistle … but I wouldn’t bother if I were you.
    You can’t beat ’em …
    … get yourself a nice garden to play in.

    Again … I am sorry.

  8. wendy says:

    ukip’s sole purpose was to be the trojan horse, to draw votes from labour. it has served its role and tories will give them their referendum prize without ever leaving the EU.

    new labour/blue labour has always been the limiting factor that has denied labour the ability to address concerns in similar terms as the snp. change required labour to excise the party within a party. blairism is killing it.

    and we learn that islamophobia, welfare, immigration works as a vote winner in the coalition of white fatcat tory and ukip’s far right, white van man’s england.

    the hardcore neoconservative war machine is rolling once again. the nasty party is back in business.

    1. Smartini says:

      The ‘white van man’ sneers are the spitting in the face of white men that was mentioned earlier and then dismissed by others. It’s a patronising attack on the working class of both genders really.

  9. Clint Redwood says:

    Sadly, this seems all too true. When you look at the political map of England following Blair’s landslide, it was still largely blue.

    The problem seems to be that whenever a party loses an election, their first inclination seems to be to move in the opposite direction to the swing of the population, so when the Tories lost to Blair, they retrenched further right for two elections, and Labour assumed that New Labour was to blame for their loss in 2010, so publicly ditched that and moved left – when actually New Labour was the only time in history Labour have completed a second term, let alone a third.

    Labour have no hope of government until they recognise that the majority of the population do not like an ideological left wing government, but if they can have a government that supports business, and success, but also cares for people by maintaining the NHS and necessary public services, and taxes fairly.

    1. iglwy says:

      The Tories bought off middle England with house price inflation. As long as house prices are on the rise the Tories will win. Britain will continue with its debt driven consumer economy and massive trade deficits until the $US loses its reserve currency status. Then people will be very sorry they supported the Chicago school neo liberal agenda. How can a political party gain 50% of the seats with only 35% of the vote? Only in Britain could there be such a corrupt system. The old adage that you can’t win an election without the support of Murdoch is true. Why waste time with election? Just ask Rupert!

    2. alex mclaren says:

      When you say that people don’t like an ideological left-wing government, you do what so many in the south of england always do – that is conflate england with the UK as a whole, indeed conflate the southern part of england with the rest of the UK. The SNP in Scotland got a shedload of votes on a clear anti-austerity and anti-trident programme. Therein lies the problem.

    3. Jimbo3griff says:

      Labour have no hope of government until they recognise that the majority of the population do not like an ideological left wing government, but if they can have a government that supports business, and success, but also cares for people by maintaining the NHS and necessary public services, and taxes fairly. –

      How about new SDP?

  10. HYUFD says:

    These things go in cycles, Chuka Umunna won a 10,000 majority in Streatham, is telegenic and moderate while still being a social democrat and of course would be the UK’s first black PM. Scotland means Labour would likely need the SNP for power, but they have won in England and Wales before as Attlee, Wilson twice and Blair did

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      LOL LOL LOL – ‘Chuka Umunna…moderate’. As for the ‘telegenic’ – what’s that got to do with politics…?

  11. chris hankinson says:

    I totally agree, Labour have for far too long abandoned any Socialist principles and drifted further to the middle ground,they have offered nothing to the alienated working class electorate who have, in my opinion, voted UKIP in droves. Labour needs to re establish itself as a viable alternative to the Tories, not slavishly follow style above content.

  12. Tony Hazzard says:

    And where does the power of the media come in? Pretty well everyone knew what Nicola Sturgeon looked and sounded like: we had a clear sense of her and, yes, she does come across well. But Jim Murphy? Never saw him until the day before the election. And R. Murdoch’s part? South of the border, The Sun, acting on instructions, laid into Milband and the SNP, whereas the Scottish edition supported the SNP to the hilt. Result is: the sheep go in whatever direction they’re driven by Murdoch, the border collie.

    1. Iain Ross says:

      Do you even live in Scotland?? As if you think that the power of the media was used to help Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP you are in dream land. The only real support the SNP has in the media is from the National. As for Jim Murphy he was never off BBC Scotland, and tells you all you need to know about the Beeb in Scotland.

      It is all bittersweet anyway and everything was as it always is the UK gets the government the English want. I just hope all the NO voters are paying attention…………..

      1. Di says:

        totally agree, Scotland has had to be politically aware and tend not to bother much with MSM as we have discovered the bias. We were lied to in the 2 year run up to the referendum and bbc,stv and ch 4 were anti yes and SNP. No sheep here, the last saw the light, hence the SNP land slide.

    2. alex mclaren says:

      The writing was on the wall for labour in Scotland long before the Sun came out with their capricious support for the SNP. It was just how many labour seats that would be lost which was the topic of discussion.

    3. B says:

      Murdoch had nothing to do with the SNP shift. he simply jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute. The Scots have had all the media intimidation possible during the independence referendum. Which had a large influence over the outcome. However we are becoming immune to the scaremongering and propaganda. Keeping the Unionist Tory media campaigning in full swing only diminished its effect.

      Cameron may be home and free at this moment in time but he has his work cut out now to keep the Union together. SNP will cause them all sorts of problems. Scotland will get independence step by step with each new power. Once again Scotland votes against a Tory government but ends up suffering its policies. Politics have changed in Scotland forever and the Union is now at more threat than it ever was. In some ways the Tory result was good for Scotland it will only push us further away faster.

    4. JaneB says:

      nail hit on head

    5. john macgregor says:

      I have no idea where this idea that the media has played a role in the rise of the popularity of the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon. MSM is very anti SNP and social media is buzzing with examples of how headlines differ north and south of the border. The Scottish electorate are not so easily led. The simple fact is Labour missed the point in Scotland. It was not some strategy to vote SNP and get Labour…It was a rejection of both of the big two parties who are seen as untrustworthy, and a rejection of the Lib Dems who are seen as Tory collaborators. Five weeks of doorstep campaigning has made this crystal clear in my mind.

    6. Grazer says:

      “Jim Murphy – never seen him until the day before the election”. Seriously? You’re accusing the media of pushing Nicola Sturgeon and not giving airtime to Murphy?
      The guy was never off the telly or radio – and not only that I’d say he given much more support from said telly and radio presenters.
      In fact, i’d day that it was through his blanket press coverage that so many people were able to learn how obnoxious a man he really is and take the appropriate action at the ballot box.

    7. Marcos says:

      I think you’re putting the cart before the horse there. Murdoch doesn’t want to be seen to back a losing horse, or he’s lose his credibility (harr harr) and risk becoming irrelevant. Murdoch may have convinced some people in the South, but SNP were always going to win it in Scotland, no matter what the Sun said.

  13. Steve north says:

    Excellent column Paul and agree with all of it. I notice you haven’t mentioned London where Labour appeared to buck the trend and did very well. Does this play into the narrative that London is effectively a different country from the rest of England?

  14. Alan says:

    Great article but: “A significant section of working class labour voters are still not convinced on freedom of movement. That – not Euroscepticism – is what is driving the Ukip vote in the north and in Wales” – Say what you REALLY mean Paul…

  15. Andrew Dundas says:

    What’s needed now is a Royal Commission to discover and describe the terms of a viable full devolution to Scotland, and the alternative terms of forming both a new EU State and a new NATO member. And there’s the matter of the five eyes that would have to change.
    After all, our trade and family relationships and military relationships would survive quite a lot of constitutional manoevering. But not angry bickering.
    We do need to define how our new relationships could work amicably in the future. Best to found that upon impartial review not quarrels.

  16. Brentfordian says:

    Not sure about the worth SNP’s landslide – when it looked as if they’d be the prop for Miliband then they had a hook and the prospect of real power.

    This government doesn’t need them, and they will be essentially powerless (in Westminster – while back home the Scottish parliament will continue with its own problems). Cameron will determine if there’s another referendum (there won’t be one), he’ll adjust the English devolution deficit, throw cash up north.

    The SNP in Westminster will be as the LIbDems prior to the coalition: an interesting aside.

    Cameron’s home free.

    1. angelswithdirtyfaces says:

      The SNP group will be no more powerless than the 240 odd Labour MPs. They will have representation on various committees and Cameron needs to avoid fighting the UK Unionism battle again with this sidetracking from his anti EU campaign. He will only need to make one mistake to re-open the indy agenda and his anti Scots fear and hate election campaign annoyed a lot of Scots voters and even alienated some Scots Tories. Cameron has to watch his right wing swivel eyed loons first – but you need to appreciate that this kind of a swing in party politics is almost without precedence. It would be very foolish to dismiss the rise of an anti-austerity agenda and economic policies.

    2. Radio Jammor (@RadioJammor) says:

      Whilst I somewhat agree with you, or at least see your point of view, there is this potential European referendum that could raise havoc.

      I’m not convinced that it is a foregone conclusion that Scots would vote to stay in the EU, but they may well do, and if England’s vote over-rides that and the UK opts to leave the EU, then that could generate the conditions whereby Scotland demands a second independence referendum.

      So, unless there is an unprecedented level of suck-up from the UK Parliament to Scotland between now and then (which I think you’ll agree is unlikely), I don’t doubt that a second referendum, following Cameron’s EVEL pitch on September 19th last year, the woeful level of devolution proposed via the Smith Commission and the bigotry and exclusivity displayed towards Scotland’s voting choices in the run-up to GE2015, will mean Scotland demanding to leave the UK.

      I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be swotting-up on what constitutes grounds for political asylum, as I can see that such knowledge may come in useful when swathes of English residents start piling up at the Scottish Border after independence.

    3. shelley says:

      This is the problem with views like yours.You have no understanding of the chaos that we will bring should you choose to ignore us..
      The time for ignorance has past its now time for you to pay attention or get out the way.
      Your attitude is exactly why politics in Scotland has been turned on its head ,don’t make the mistake of thinking we won’t do this down south

    4. Whitey McMan says:

      Aye it’s a sair fecht alright.

    5. Ruairidh says:

      The SNP are the only hope just now to ensure more liberal ideas are heard. Labour is going to be on lockdown/arguing between themselves for direction and leadership for the next few months, when opposition is needed most and the LibDems are almost completely gone. With 56 strong MP’s with ideas already laid out, the British left should, even if you dislike them, embrace the SNP at Westminster. Labour may have over 4 times the seats but the SNP are currently only strong opposition remaining.

  17. Brendan says:

    There are 59 seats in Scotland. There are 550 odd seats in England. Labour lost because they abandoned centrist politics, abandoned moderate middle-England. Labour distanced itself from the SNP throughout the campaign, so I disagree with Paul that losing Scotland was the main cause. Miliband refused to accept any overspending by the last Labour govt, denied the obvious fact that a prosperous, growing economy should not be accumulating debt. It should be building a war chest for the inevitable downturn. Miliband went his entire pre-election conference speech without mentioning the deficit once. Compassion comes from providing a strong economy, jobs and dignity, not welfare. A new leader needs to continue the domestic policies and work that Blair started.

    1. Andrew says:

      “Compassion comes from the economy, jobs and dignity, not welfare.”

      This is the kind of programmed doublespeak that the neo-liberal elites want you to say. Allow me to “decode” this for you:

      ‘Compassion’ comes from ‘welfare’ – using your word – but more succinctly, from ‘the concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that suffering’.

      As for the economy, we don’t have one, not a real one anyway. An economy is the efficient household management of resources. There is nothing efficient about this “economy”, even the growth & profit maximisation motive of the elites would be considerably higher if the lower classes were better paid and could spend more money back into the economy in exchange for goods and services. Globalisation is a tremendously inefficient economic model which exploits the poor and the environment to poverty and environmental collapse respectively. What we have is not an economy, what we have is a monetary/debt-based system of control of the social status of the masses by a central banking elite.

      Being perennially indebted and forced into wage slave bullsh!t jobs (copyright, Prof. David Graeber) just to prop up this phony, wasteful, inefficient system doesn’t seem very dignified to me – or you! Here’s why:

      Is the wage slavery of renting your body to a private owner of the factors of production just to get some money to gain access to the resources required for our survival really that dissimilar to the sexual slavery of prostitution? We rent out our bodies to others for money to survive, hence slavery, hence prostitution. Only a monetary/debt-based system of control would force us into such bondage, which is why we have it! And it’s no coincidence that it isn’t just prostitutes who suffer mental health issues due to the mental and physical stresses of their work. Everyone from the unemployed to lowest paid to the average worker and even the wealthy suffer from stress, anxiety and depression from living such an unnatural life.

      But the system can’t blame itself, that would be to render itself (rightly) redundant and so it blames the individuals…but surely we all can’t be defective, surely we can’t all be wrong when we complain that something isn’t right! And so to numb us from the truth spitting from our suffocated humanity they ply us with prescription drugs and offer a million different way to emolliate our fragrant dissatisfaction with the status quo.

      And so when the time comes to vote, like Stockholm Syndrome suffering victims we vote for more of the same, plunging ourselves back into bondage when true freedom is rejecting this madness. Indeed, Einstein himself proclaimed that repeatedly acting in the same way whilst expecting a different outcome was the very definition of madness. But worse still we have allowed ourselves to be convinced by those it benefits the most that the status quo is what we want. With our minds manipulated and emolliated to think in such maddened doublespeak, we take to mass media and share our madness with others only to find that the maddest of all is he who is aware that he is enslaved.

      If ignorance is bliss, awareness is agony. I feel ‘true’ compassion for our plight and how utterly powerless we are to prevent the indignity we face. But we can choose collecvely to say enough is enough. The Scots have woken up. When will we?

    2. Catesby says:

      At the party conference, Ed Miliband gave us a litany of people he had encountered on Hampstead!

      Unless I missed it, I don’t recall a litany of people he had met in his Doncaster constituency surgeries or around that town.

      Hapmstead, I ask you! Luvvies for Labour!

  18. Bob says:

    According to Paul Mason: “The Ukip surge clearly came largely from Labour voters – as evidenced by the close shaves Labour had with Ukip in Hartlepool and Heywood and Middleton.”


    In Heywood and Middleton, UKIP got 32.2% compared with 2.6% in 2010. But there is no evidence to support the claim that this huge increase “clearly came largely from Labour voters”.

    Labour’s share of the vote actually went up – to 43.1% from 40.1% in 2010. The Tory vote went down from 27.2% to 19.1%. The Lib Dem vote collapsed – from 22.7% to 3.3%.

    Mason also says that in such seats his “hunch is that the Lib Dem votes went mainly to the Tories”.

    If the Tories got most of the former Lib Dem vote in Heywood and Middleton, and their share of the vote still went down by 8%, then the overwhelming majority of the UKIP vote must have come from former Tory supporters.

    I’m not saying it did, because I don’t necessarily buy the argument that the Lib Dem vote mainly went to the Tories. What I’m pointing out is that Paul Mason’s analysis doesn’t make sense.

  19. Athena says:

    The ‘emergence of Scottish nationalism ‘ is itself an issue of class and is used by ruling elites to divide the working class to meet its own interests. You allude to the apparent paradox of class/nationalism when you say ‘To get a Labour majority government, given the political weight of liberalised conservatism in southern England, you need the English north, the industrial Midlands, most of Wales and most of Scotland’.

    Labour is in a political impasse because the height of its ambition is to outsmart the real representative of capitalism. Labour has disenfranchised the working class. The Tories do the same thing by their very political, historical and economic nature. When David Cameron says he will ‘work hard for working families’ the policies that will viciously attack working and unemployed families have already been drawn up. Perhaps this time it will be ‘living room tax’ or the introduction of fees for state education (what’s left of it). It will certainly mean the selling off of the NHS and given the global crisis who can say what is to come. The majority of people who voted Tory come from the working class whether they know it or not; the sooner they realize this the quicker we will unload ourselves of these parasites who play games with our lives and our capacity to think clearly in order to make decisions that are truly in our interests.

    The victors of yesterdays UK election are the ruling elites and not the people. There was no ‘lions roar’ in Scotland; instead there was once again the stifling of the majority in the myths of the ruling minority.

  20. Catesby says:

    An interesting article. The result in Scotland shows the disparity between Labour’s traditional working class base and the Metropolitan Middle Classes that now dominate its leadership and leading MPs. They have little or nothing in common with the people they are claiming to represent. Many are privately educated, represent seats in The North of England and other now post-industrial regions but are not natives of The North of those regions.

    Blair, Mandelson, both Milibands, Luciana Berger, Chris Mullins, Tristram Hunt, Ed Balls – who lost his seat, Yvette Cooper in Castleford and Pontefract – which was Lord Lofthouse’s seat and he’d played for Featherstone Rugby League club – Rachel Stevens and the list goes on.

    Luciana Berger’s selection for Liverpool Wavertree – from a all women shortlist – was mired in controversy with both Peter Kilfoyle and Ricky Tomlinson – both natives of Liverpool – slammed her selection.

    I, for one, I’m fed up of this procession of Metropolitan Middle Class Mediocrities being selected for safe seats in The North of England.

    When Kitty Ussher was caught up in the expenses scandal, she resigned before contesting her seat in Burnley in 2010. The seat then went to the Lib Dems on a swing of 26%.

    The novelist and writer, Jeanette Winterson – author of the novel, Oranges are not the only Fruit and native of Padiham nr. to Burnley – visited Burnley in the aftermath and wrote and article in The Times. Burnley is a former cotton mill town and its not a wealthy place. Winterson interviewed local people about The Labour party and met with the observation, “That’s the posh people’s party!”

    That remark was the damning statement about where the Labour Party is and the disconnect between those who claim to represent it and those who are expected to vote for it. Ussher is the niece of Virginia and Peter Bottomley and speaks with a cut glass accent which is makes her stand out like a sore thumb in a town like Burnley.

    James Bloodworth, in Left Foot Forward, wrote after the aftermath of the by-election in Heywood and Middleton and he concluded that Labour has a working class problem and I have to agree with him.

    I haven’t voted Labour in a General Election since 1992 and I see no reason why. Some have observed that I’m Blue Labour in my views.

    Bloodworth writes:

    “Here it is worth noting the work of David Goodhart, much disparaged by the left but probably onto something. The liberal left, he says, is today dominated by people whose worldview is “universalistic, suspicious of most kinds of group or national attachment, and individualistic…they don’t “get” what most other people also get – loyalty, authority and the sacred’.

    This is in contrast to working class voters, who value family, patriotism and social and economic stability.

    In other words, there is a schism between the liberal left and many working class voters; a schism that’s also apparent on issues surrounding welfare – Labour’s core voters are the most enthusiastic proponents of welfare reform, quite at odds with most middle class left-wingers.”


  21. Aidan Turner says:

    Your analysis is completely in line with my overnight thinking. I believe that the Tories will now be unassailable for the next 20 to 30 years, particularly after the Boundary changes which they will now impliment and will cost Labour at least another 30 seats

  22. Mike Shone says:

    Paul says “Labour no longer knows what it is for nor how to win power” and it has ” almost no ideological base , or coherence”.

    Of course, at one time it was rooted in improving the social conditions of “the people”: it had some valid claim to be a “people’s party” but New Labour despite continuing this as a minority agenda with “surestart” & significant investment in public services had a majority agenda of managerialism on behalf of neo-liberal capitalism and its corporations.

    Labour never had an ideological basis. It never had strong fundamental beliefs such as in “equality” or “democracy” as witnessed in supporting for decades “free collective bargaining” and being against proportional representation.

    Labour is thus detached from the people (and social awareness) and detached from principles and so feels uninspiring , irrelevant and feeble.

    It has degenerated not just into managerialism aided by one of the big accountancy giants (Price Waterhouse Coopers) but “celebrity” leadership divisions “Blairism”/”Brownism” and gets charged up primarily with the reactionary energy of wanting to beat the Tories not primarily to serve people. (So as one TU leader put it “Labour is irredeemable” )

    (Mike Shone , Labour Party 1972-2007 ; Green Part 2008 onwards )

  23. Paul Lynch says:

    Hindsight is the philosophy of fools. The evidence for yesterday’s failure was there to see all along and, coincidently, was revealed in an exclusive article from the Independent written exactly a year ago yesterday:


    Will Labour now finally learn from yesterday failure (and past mistakes!), or are they destined to repeat them?

  24. Cushy Glen says:

    Scotland has effectively left the UK. All there is is the paperwork to complete.

    As a result Labour has lost 30-40 seats it used to depend on. For them to survive on English votes alone they must return to their socialist roots to offer a viable alternative to the Tories advocacy of aggressive capitalism. Labour’s support of austerity lite was pathetic & showed that there was little difference in ideology.

    For Labour to continue as a major political force in a much reduced UK they must put clear blue (?) water between themselves & the Tories. They must become once again the champions of the downtrodden.

  25. Bev Morton says:

    Been watching for over 24 hours and not once heard a single mention of the unions votes. Why is that and what’s gone on there Paul?

  26. Sue Wise says:

    Do the Scots realise they’ve just created a one-party state?

  27. KeithR says:

    I have trawled the web for an article that identifies the terrifying truth for Labour, and this is the first accurate assessment I have found. Dramatic shifts in the electoral landscape, stretching back as far as the days of Mrs Thatcher, clearly indicate that traditional Labour is a party of another age – and voters know that, Labour is simply not fit for purpose. Blair knew this, and dragged the party to the right, kicking and screaming, but then undermined his success with those insane wars. Another clear factor which Labour refuses to internalise is that immigration is a substantial and pressing electoral issue – thus the substantial vote for UKIP in working class constituencies. Finally, the combination of social and identity concerns arising from the immigration issue, and politically parochial focus of Labour on minority issues compelled the result we see today – the electorate really felt they had no other choice. Labour must become something else – or perish preaching to an ever declining and marginal constituency of voters – the age of Labour governments is over.

  28. Elaine S says:

    I couldn’t stand Scottish Labour’s hatred for SNP any longer, it became obsessional in Scotland and I was Labour for 40 years and never known it so bad as it was in the last 10 years. Really bitter hatred yet I couldn’t see why they hated SNP in same way or if not more, than the Tories. It was about possession, every since it was Labour that managed to finally give us Scottish Parliament it seemed they thought it was their entitlement then it became Scotland was their entitlement. Years of our blinded loyalty and new careerists coming into party had the MPs/MSPs take the people for granted. Gone were the grassroots working class Labour MPs who knew what it was like to struggle. It got to point in my local Labour were I was activist that Labour never really concentrated on one thing and that was SNP, I wasn’t brought up to be pulled into this viscousness, bitching especially when I felt it was uncalled for. The more SNP became successful especially when they won majority in 2011, the more bitter the who Labour movement in Scotland became. Ironically it was meeting Miliband in 2010 after he was chosen as leader, even I voted him…the difference in I instantly didn’t think much of him when I listened to him nor did I feel he had any connection to working class folk. His One Nation Labour and without a doubt, stealthily taking back the voice of Scottish Labour where everything was ran past him, then he told them what to say and do (Johann Lamont said when she stepped down that Scottish Labour were treated like a branch office) that was the disintegration of Labour in Scotland which was already being noticed in areas any way. I joined SNP, it took me about a year where I took my head out of sand and looked at them from outside in, same as I did with SNP and they were nothing like the “satan” that my local Labour preached. I was very impressed with them and eventually joined them. Labout both north and south stopped relating to working class, most of them had never had to struggle so did not have that deep rooted socialism born in them. At 60 I won’t go back to Labour, they need to re-discover Labour roots and cleanse the party of some of the worst I’m Alright Jack MPs who forgot they work for us.

    1. Catesby says:

      I’m not Scottish, I’m English living in post industrial NW England which faces the same challenges and issues as urban post-industrial Scotland.

      I agree with you about Labour and the SNP. It was a turf war which Labour have now lost and they thoroughly deserve to. In parts of old industrial Lancashire and Yorkshire, Ukip are beginning to pick the votes of disaffected working class voters, especially the low paid and low skilled workers who feel left behind by Labour.

      If Labour doesn’t get its act together its hold on the industrial North may well slip out of its grasp. In the Heywood and Middleton By-Election, Ukip came within 600 votes of toppling Labour, down from over 6000. In the General Election, Labour pulled back some of that vote but it still got less than 6000 which it was it achieved in 2010 on a bad result.

  29. John Burns says:

    “austerity politics that Labour had signed up to”

    I am unaware of these.

  30. CSmith says:

    Agree with Brentfordian; the SNP are just opposition MPs in a parliament whose validity to run their country they claim to deny, which seems a ludicrous position. I also think normal people pay little attention to the print press any more, but they do watch television in their millions: the pro- Conservative bias of the English BBC has been an outrage.

    1. Jim Forbes says:

      The pro-Labour bias from Scottish BBC is equally outrageous.

  31. John Burns says:

    The biggest culprit is LibDem leader Nick Clegg. 5 years ago he could have formed an alliance with Brown and Labour. Brown promised him without a referendum Proportional Representation. It was in the Labour 2010 manifesto. He declined and went with Tories so he could get the deputy PMs job. The Tories sweet talked him. The Libs have been crying to get PR for many decades. Clegg turned it down after PR being offered to him on a plate. He betrayed his party.

    We now have a government who only have one third of those who voted for them with unrestrained power. That is about 1 in 5 of the total electorate. Most people did not want them in power. That could have been very different if we had PR as Labour promised the LibDems.

    The next biggest culprit is Cameron who what appears stupidly gave the Scots a referendum on independence, which nearly came off, splitting the union. Why? Because Scotland is Tory wasteland. Getting the Scots seats out of the way means the Tories will have an excellent chance of being in power in most elections because if southern England, their bedrock, votes for the Tories they will always get into power. Thatcher knew this and looked after them more than those north. Cameron was prepared to sacrifice the union for personal gain.

    Again this self-serving culprit is offering the Scots an independence vote to get rid of them. Cameron is dangerous. Few can see it through the media waffle.

  32. ExLabour says:

    Paul, I think you missed the point.

    Labour lost because big hitters in the party like Mandleson wanted it to lose. Sabotage is always so much easier from within.

    Blair’s legacy is a Westminster party riddled with ambitious young Blairites who see Labour as a vehicle for their own ambitions – and Blairite non-exec grandees. It is a ‘small c’ conservative party bleeding members and bereft of any political creed. It’s not policies they’re short of, its principle (and people).

    The SNP did well because Labour forfeited the votes of those suffering under ‘austerity’ (a convenient logo for the politics of 19th century class war), whilst Labour was too timid to do the same in England, having mutely accepted blame for the whole GFC. Ed Miliband was too easy to paint as dithering – because he was. He ducked doing a ‘clause 4 in reverse’, and got the SNP instead.

    The next 5 years will see the undoing of the remaining legacy of the 1945-1979 political settlement: a state run NHS, the welfare state, social housing, and local services. Can a post 2020 vision emerge to challenge the 1979-2020 Thatcher/Blair/Cameron consensus? Not, I’ll warrant, from the current Westminster Labour party.

    Are the SNP just hankering back to a nationalistic past; an old-socialist ‘fight the bosses’ party? Or can they inspire a new political vision? I hope they can: because we the English, we the Europeans, and we humanity surely need one. And soon, or the politics of fear will be the death of us all.

  33. Gonzo says:

    “The Tories bought off middle England with house price inflation. As long as house prices are on the rise the Tories will win”

    I think you are right. The UK housing bubble has long passed the point of sustainability and when the £1.4 trillion debt comes home to roost there will be a major “adjustment” of the UK economy. Assuming that martial law is not declared to contain the unrest the Tories will be finished for at least a generation.

  34. Juno Baker says:

    Labour made a terrible mistake from the outset by not debunking the myth that the financial crisis was caused by ‘maxing out on the credit card’. It wasn’t, it was caused by bankers investing in subprime mortgages. They should never have left that myth gain traction.

    From the moment the Coalition came in, they should have challenged every part of austerity, and instead championed investment in what we need – better public transport, homes, clean energy – while interest rates were low. By clearly showing they weren’t to blame for the crisis, and that they had a better, less painful way out of it, they would have won back credibility.

    They also have the permanent problem of a rightwing press that will seek to demonise any leader of the Labour party (Blair excepted) and need to find creative ways of challenging negative portrayals and countering them, through social media for example.

    And they need to work out where they stand on immigration and the EU, and campaign positively for both. They needed to challenge UKIP’s rhetoric years back, while setting out plans to deal with those who recruit only in Eastern Europe so they can offer pay below the minimum wage. (They only did this in the run-up to the election.) And they needed to point out that 40% of NHS staff are immigrants, and that young immigrants to Britain pay the pensions of our retired population – many of whom are UKIP voters.

    They need to extol the positive side of what the EU has done for us, talk about human rights etc and how if we stay in Europe we could make it more democratic. They need to explain clearly that leaving the EU will lead to economic disaster.

    And while your analysis is illuminating, I do wish you’d treat London voters as a separate ‘tribe’ to those in the ‘asset rich southlands’. Many Londoners will never be asset rich, are threatened with economic expulsion to other parts of the country because of cuts to housing benefit, and are struggling on zero-hours contracts.

    And in an ethnically diverse, multi-faith city like London, UKIP is a dirty word.

  35. ken usman-smith says:

    The society of the spectacle gave us the pre-election entertainment and a Labour Party only ever secure looking back on it’s rich and increasingly irrelevant history will acompany months of hand wringing. X factor politics will surface a new leader. But it will be old labour choosing him or her. Conservative greed and misreading of the electorate is Labours only chance. Happily power corrupts and a second term corrupts completely.

  36. Chris says:

    True to an extent, but Labour were always in trouble in a world where the belief in media/politics world is that government finances are more important than the Economy, that Labour were to blame for both the worldwide financial woes of 2008 and for the (ideological) cuts made by the coalition, and that cutting safety nets and making people pay for the same services privately at higher prices rather than through taxation will make things better. Government finances running at a surplus means everyone else running in debt (at higher rates than government pay).

    Incredibly at this election only fringe parties put rebuilding the economy ahead of screwing it by their policies. (Although they did promise that somehow their twisted, illogical, economics would work in the real world in the future, even if it doesn’t work in any theoretical world or in the past or present).

  37. Ailybee says:

    Post industrial heartlands need a voice as much as Scotland. To me the response from Labour and the left has to be to look at the idea of federalism / regionalisation and building a grass roots support again like Podemos. If Labour don’t do it, someone else will and it will take 50 years to build the support base. One party, with the spread in needs of what used to be its core support cannot be so centralised in power, if they modernised like this, they would be building allies, not demonising who they perceive are their opponents. Labour’s problem summed up just now “the electorate aren’t listening to what we have to say” when they should be Listening to what the electorate want. Dump all the strategists too, they haven’t been worth their salt.

  38. Andrew McNaughton says:

    Sorry I don’t buy this tactical voting bullsht. You are saying English people swung to the polar opposite politics in a vain effort to block the SNP? That seems so insulting and ignorant. Yes there might be a few twats that did that and spoke loudly about it, but I cannot believe the masses of England didn’t base their personal decisions on manifestos and leadership confidence. There was a wave of warmth and friendship from England towards Sturgeon because she’s clearly an honest-to-goodness leader who wants to “improve all of her friends’ lives”. Only a fool would feel threatened by that and completely change their allegiance over it. Labour was a mess and have been so for a long time. This whole thing has been a long time coming. Who was more credible than the Tories to win this election? Sadly no one. Nicola does deserve huge amounts of credit because she earned the Scottish trust. Combined with the ridiculously bad leadership of Labour, that’s what turn the country yellow. It would have been an entirely different picture had she not been there. If Salmond had held on, the picture would be much closer to 2010. Give the populous the credit they deserve for making the choice that was right for them.

  39. BobRocket says:

    Labour failed because they don’t represent anybody anymore.

    A leadership comprised of people who send their children to private schools, who are in bed with the financial geniuses who decimated the economy and yet who say they are opposed to the hand that feeds them were always going nowhere.

    The Conservative party are at least loyal to their sponsors.

    Given a choice the northern half of England would vote to go with the Scots into independence from the tory south, the two halves of England have nothing in common with each other, not even language. (I’ve lived in both)

    The Labour party will not regain any semblance of power whilst the Islington set remain, the Blair phenomenon was a one off – a reaction against Major/Thatcher, nor do they deserve it.

    David Milliband was always a dead duck walking which was plain for everyone to see, that the party chose to ignore that simple fact demonstrated that they are not fit to lead.

    Unless they root out these (tory lite) interlopers who took control of the party (much like the despised Militant Tendency) they will remain unelectable and are destined for obscurity.

  40. John Burns says:

    The future is scary indeed. Most people did not want the Tories in, yet they have unrestrained power to do what they like. Whoever gets in power in 2020 had better propose PR. Brown did in 2010, after they did most of what they wanted. A pity Clegg cheated on his own and went in bed with the Tories.

    London moved towards Labour. Pretty well a Labour stronghold. All the cities are labour. The Tories get heir votes from small rural towns and rural areas. The only pats of rural areas that went red are in North Wales, the North East and a few parts of Yorkshire. None in the south of England. We have a highly polarised country. The bumpkins are getting their way and agriculture accounts to no more than 3% of the economy. PR is needed ASAP.

    Another good thing for London is that the buffoon Johnson, is not mayor any longer.

    In Brixton a crowd recently besieged a police station regarding high home prices and rents because of foreign ownership of homes/land. I can see violence on the streets in the coming years as the Tories allow unrestrained money to rule.

  41. Kevin Narey says:

    It’s all pointing towards one thing: Let’s get rid of political parties altogether. Let’s use technology and collective and collaborative guile to overhaul the system. Where UK representatives are required to face into the world, we vote for them in national interviews against a pre-defined role. The divisive and insidious polity of the existing parties can no longer bring our world-respected and influential nation what we desire and deserve. Watch this space. Change. Is. Coming.

  42. Paul Boizot says:

    Little if any mention of the electoral system here below the line. I do not want any party to be imposing its policies with a majority in parliament but only 30-something percent of the vote. That goes for Labour as much as Tory. Whilst the Tories are clearly against PR, some in Labour have supported it – but until Labour as a whole supports it with a clear up-front manifesto promise, I will continue to regard them as fundamentally undemocratic. The only problem is that they would have to get elected in order to fulfil that promise…..doesn’t look likely from here, and if they think they could get a majority they would probably not support PR!…and the hopes for a Labour coalition with other liberal and other parties are totally dented right now by the wipe-out of the LibDems. Boundary changes will also favour the Tories. A bold Labour move would be to look – from now, not in four years time – at electoral arrangements with the Greens and LibDems (yes, the Libdems – and I do know what they have been doing for the last five years – but can Labour seriously think they can win on seats that the Tories have just won from Liobdems?). Divvy up some constituencies and agree not to stand against each other. And sort out enough common ground with the SNP to be able to work together in parliament after the election – and be proud of it!

  43. Catesby says:

    In the early 1990’s , the late Keynsian economist, J.K. Galbraith, published a book entitled, The Culture of Contentment. In his book, Galbraith was viewing the political and economic landscape in post Reagan USA and Thatcher Britain. His observation was that the economically fortunate, and those aspiring to be, now have a strong electoral position, since the economically more unfortunate are less likely to vote or their votes are more concentrated in certain geographical locations.

    The more economically successful and prosperous, tend to oppose higher public spending, and the increased taxation that is needed to fund it, on welfare provision and other areas where they themselves accrue no personal benefit for themselves or their families. They will support public spending on areas such as education for their children, law and order and maybe even defence where they personally stand to gain.

    Meanwhile, Galbraith observed, the economically more fortunate oppose attempts to regulate corporate raiders, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, property speculators, media moguls and junk bond enthusiasts. Yet, when disasters strikes, they demand and expect state support to bail them out.

    All the while, Conservative ideologues press forward with cuts to welfare and public infrastructure and services upon which the economically less fortunate depend.

    This was written in 1992 well before the credit crunch. Sounds chillingly familiar, doesn’t it?

    The dilemma now for Labour, is building the now essential broad electoral coalition amongst the voters that it needs to ensure electoral success.

    There is a disparity between its traditional working class vote and the people who claim to represent them which is why Labour have lost Scotland and may well lose parts of the industrial North of England.

    Since Thatcher and fall of the Soviet Union, the left accepted that it had lost a lot, if not most of the economic argument. Nationalisation and old command economy management were out.

    This lead to a change of direction into identity politics for the liberal-left. Now the emphasis was on equality and fairness for homosexuals, women, racial and ethnic minorities and other groups, even transgender. It is this change that had drawn vituperative criticism and opposition from outside the liberal-left, but also from within. Rod Liddle, the former editor of The Today programme and speech writer for the Labour party, has been, and still is, particularly scathing about this change of emphasis.

    Not unreasonably, Liddle argues, these issues have been the fixation of the Metropolitan Middle Class bien-pensant liberal-left. They are not issues that are high on the agenda for most of Labour’s traditional working class voters who tend to be more concerned with economic issues, health, welfare and education.

    There is a growing chasm and disparity between the traditional working class voters Labour claims and aspires to represent, and the people clamouring to represent them – The Metropolitan Middle Class centre-left. Tristram Hunt as MP in Stoke? Peter Mandelson in Hartlepool? Ed Miliband in Doncaster?

    As someone from working class and practising Catholic upbringing, I have found all of this completely unacceptable. So much so, the last time I voted Labour was in 1992!

    I find Labour’s obsession with issues such as same-sex marriage etc. a completer irrelevance and turn off. I’m not a social liberal and I don’t vote for them. If Labour had more candidates such as Ruth Kelly, now sadly no longer an MP, who was not only a devout practising Catholic, but a very orthodox one. Catholics like The Blairs don’t cut it with me!

    I have quite a number of Scottish Catholic friends who have now switched from voting Labour to SNP! Traditionally, Catholics in mainland Britain have voted Labour, but there is no longer a Catholic vote.

    Labour may well have lost my support for good, and it may well have now lost the support of many others. I know Catholics who have voted Ukip and the Deputy Leader, Paul Nuttall is a practising pro-life Catholic from Liverpool.

    Heywood and Middleton has given Labour a warning about what might happen to the Labour vote in The North if Labour doesn’t get a grip. Ukip finished in second place on Thursday with only 4500 votes behind Labour. That’s from 600, but it’s less than the 6000 majority Labour got in 2010, which was a bad result.

  44. James Daniels says:

    “Labour no longer knows what it’s for”.
    That’s because it won the class war. The rigid divisions in society that placed glass ceilings which stopped people from prospering have gone. That’s why they tried to reinvent themselves as “New Labour” and build a client based state, in which most people would be dependent on the government either as an employer, as a benefit recipient, or with the government as the principal customer of their business (or employer’s business). This project hit the rocks when they ran out of other people’s money.

  45. John Read says:

    Reasons for the Labour defeat are many and varied.
    Here are a few.

    * The barefaced lies of the Tory party and the Tory press.
    * The gullibility of millions of people in believing those lies.
    * The masterstroke of Cameron refusing to debate face to face with Miliband.
    * He knew that he would be exposed as a shallow fraud and failure.
    * The stupidity of Labour holding hands with the Tory’s over Scottish independance and losing a century of ‘red scotland.’
    * The insipid leadership of Miliband – a good man with a good heart but a useless leader. He was invisible for three years. He missed so many open goals it was infuriating. Not once did he rebutt the Tory lies that Labour caused the depressioin and left the country in chaos.
    * Middle class career politicians with a PPE degree have no place in the Labour party.
    * Labour bedrock supporters want a Labour party wearing overalls and carrying a spanner. Not one wearing a Saville Row suit and carrying a Think Tank Policy Document.

  46. The Moaning Man says:

    PM: ‘Only permanent coalition politics or electoral reform can give [Labour] a chance to rule in future […] in its current form it has almost no ideological base, or coherence.’

    I agree. But why aspire to ‘rule’? Grasp another nettle.

    Instead of agonising pointlessly over a new corporate identity in the hope of acquiring total power, Labour could claim the role of coordinating agent for a progressive coalition, and get on with something vital and effective much more quickly.

    Unless Labour is both too weak to gain power in its own name, and too stuck to be responsive to the new reality…

    If you allow links, I expand here:

  47. Graham says:

    I think it’s a mistake to characterise what’s going on in Scotland as identity politics or simply nationalism. The conduct of the mainstream media, the labour party and the establishments blatant bias up to the referendum fermented disillusion. If it’s identity then it’s political identity and values more than any cliched historical definition. As Catesby indicated many who wouldn’t have been in the nationalist camp before (like Catholics of Irish extraction), have lost any faith in labour to be a left of centre party or to speak for it’s traditional supporters. None of this has happened over night. New labour is something many of us never fully bought into and It was with some depression to hear Mandy’s analysis of their defeat, given full voice on the BBC , that Ed’s super light socialism wasn’t far enough to the right to win. If that view holds sway then Scotland will be lost to labour and Mandy as much as Cameron will be exposed as happy to surrender Scotland at the alter of political expedience. I was a yes voter last September, but these turn of events don’t make my heart sing.

  48. Graham says:

    Also James, I’d say Millibands failure was a failure to defend labours last economic record not because it was indefensible, that’s just the line spun endlessly by the tories and lapped up by the media. What he needed to put what’s in this article below and make it succinct and convincing. Sturgeon could have done it but he was incapable and now the new leading candidate to replace him is buying into the tories line. It’s blair saying ‘maggie was magic’ all over again. And frankly it’s keech fae a bull http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/whos-deceiving-who-on-the-deficit/5465

  49. Glenn says:

    Some truth teeny tiny grain of truth in what you say. But your hunch that the Lib Dem Vote went mostly to the Tories is not born out by the evidence. It in fact its vote dissipated all over the shop. Some to the Greens, some to labour and some to UKIP. In most of these seats the Labour vote went up, but by nowhere near enough to replace the Lib Dems. However because the Conservatives were already a very healthy second place in most cases the LD collapse handed them a default victory.
    Also UKIP did not take that many votes from Labour either. .Labour strengthened its vote in the North and UKIP effectively replaced The Conservatives and Lib Dems as the second party in many seats. In other words the anti Labour vote found a rallying point. What you guys forget is that there is as much of an anti Labour vote as there is an Anti Conservative vote. I think this is because you all view politics through a prism that sees seats and social classes as belonging to a party so the rise in UKIP in the North looks like the “fault” of Labour when its as plain as the nose on your face that they simply replaced the Conservatives, who were down to third place in some cases and the Lib Dems who were down to 4th and sometimes fifth. Explain exactly how UKIP took labour votes when Labour votes increased? but the fact that Conservative votes decreased in these seats is some how less linked? Let me suggest that this because the media uses a simple insulting formula that goes something like, Labour are a Working class party-The North is Working Class-UKIP are a Bit Racist-Racism is only a working class thing-therefor UKIP must have taken most of its support from Labour!.

  50. Veda G says:

    I wish that the non-Scottish-based British press would stop peddling the message that the SNP are somehow a party of the left, and suggesting that they are socialist. It just isn’t true if you look at any of their key messages, or at their spending in office at Holyrood. During the election campaign, Sturgeon was asked to name one redestributive thing she had done while in office and couldn’t name even one (this is why we keep hearing about SNP opposition to the bedroom tax – it’s all they’ve got). That Paul Mason – and many others – are believing this message is testament to the SNP PR machine; but it is also very dangerous.

    The SNP are using leftish-sounding rhetoric as a means of achieving power and independence, and in the process are destroying socialist solidarity in Scotland (a task made easier by the process of fragmentation, started by Thatcher, of existing structures/communities, etc. over the last 30 years). A post-SNP independent Scotland will be a country ruled by the big businesses that Salmond and Sturgeon have spent their time in office cosying up to – but with no “left” left to oppose them. Some of us remember Scotland being used as an experiment by Thatcher over the poll tax; the championing of the SNP by supposed leftists in the rest of the UK feels like a libertarian/green equivalent. You’re happy to repeat the rhetoric of the SNP as if it fits into a narrative you are creating about the “rise of the left” across Europe, and as a way of trying to create a new political engagement in the rest of the UK: but in fact you are playing into the greasy right-wing hands of those who would like nothing better than to see the labour movement destroyed for generations to come.

    1. Robert says:

      Labour is using or tried to use right wing rhetoric with Progress, Alexander trying to take Scotland for the Progressive democrats. Progress and the Blair-rites tried to take Scotland and failed so yes of course the SNP have taken on labour’s left wing tendencies and beat them why the hell not.

      Today labour has moved back to the left and the right wingers are not happy the talk of setting up new right wing parties to out do the left.

      Labour is in a mess and Scotland may have a pretend left leaning SNP but it’s better then having Progress or the Blair-rites playing games.

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