The forthcoming UK General Election is too close to call, and only a fool would make any definitive claims about the likely outcome. However, my instinct is that Labour will lose. This is partially because it chose the wrong Leader, but even that is not the real reason. The real reason was summed up in one tweet last Saturday:
“On this day in two months’ time we’ll be voting out the Tories — join us now” from UK Labour (let us leave aside for now the laughable claim to be UK Labour when they only stand in Great Britain).
The assumption, as with almost everything the Labour Party does when you look at it, is that “not-Tory” is equal to “Labour”. This is incredibly out-of-date and out-of-touch!
We can be certain of very little on 7 May, but we can be pretty certain of one thing: the majority of voters who do not vote Tory will NOT vote Labour either.
Where Labour has completely lost its way is the assumption firstly, that people are fed up with “the Tories”, and secondly, that those people will automatically vote Labour.
On the first of these, it is evidently decreasingly the case that people are fed up. Increasing numbers across the UK see the country’s and their own economic fortunes on the turn (this may well be wrong, in fact, but the point here is that it is an increasingly widespread belief). But let us even assume that it is so.
On the second, there is no reason for someone fed up with “the Tories” automatically to switch to Labour. In fact, Labour has given them very little reason to.
In Scotland, we find the most obvious example – the SNP has successfully pinned Labour together with the Tories, painting them as effectively the same thing. If you are fed up, they say, you may blame the Tories for five wasted years – and Labour for 13! It doesn’t matter which one you have, they say, ultimately it is all the same.
In England, however, it is not much different. But for the most incredible incompetence, the Greens would now be eating well into the Labour vote on much the same basis as the SNP is – if you are fed up, you may as well be fed up with both of them. Of course, however, the issue most quoted by people who are fed up is in fact immigration (or a broader cynicism about the direction in which things are going) – in which the case the “not Tory” option is not Labour, but UKIP.
In fact, if I lived in Watford (as I once did), I could think of some very good reasons to vote Conservative (most obviously broad economic competence), UKIP (to promote old-fashioned values – if I were that way inclined, which I am not remotely), Green (to promote a real radical alternative – if I were that way inclined, which again I am not remotely) or Liberal Democrat (which, amusingly, is probably what I would do, given I think the Conservatives have lost the run of themselves on immigration and Europe, and given the LibDems should be rewarded for making some tough choices and – unlike the Greens and UKIP – have no doubt learned their lesson on making daft promises they cannot keep).
Yet I cannot think of a single stand-out reason I or anyone else would vote Labour. Evidently, from that tweet, nor can the Labour Party. Yet politics in the UK has moved on – where once 97% voted Conservative or Labour, this will probably now be below two thirds for the second election running. It is simply not good enough to be “not something”. You have to be “something” – and no one believes Ed Miliband is.