Why Labour lost
The Edstone was the defining moment of Labour’s electoral catastrophe. But not because of its jaw-dropping banality. Nor its exquisite timing.
No, the Edstone represented everything that has become wrong with Labour: it was grey. A grey, monochrome representation that is uncannily symbolic in summing up Labour’s offer.
Leadership candidates, actual and former, seem rather united in determining where on their linear spectrum of politics Labour should lie - an edge to left, a nudge to centre or a catapult to the right. They are all wrong. Politics is no longer linear. And herein lies our problem.
Labour sees everything from the old perspective- how things once were, norms that were once taken for granted.
So most of our leadership candidates were former special advisors. Do you not find that rather odd? Yet so were Cameron, Osborne and dozens of new Tories. A club even more exclusive than Eton.
It is part of why we lost and keep losing, ever since the new dawn of 1997. Yes, we won two more elections, or rather the Tories in their hopelessness lost them. Better the devil you know.
Then Nick Clegg exploded out of the televised hustings and in one performance catapulted the Liberals into temporary power. Just a slight twist of the generic offer and people queued to support him. It should have been a warning. Clegg of course was a con man, no different in attitude to the rest and descended the greasy pole even more rapidly than his ascension. But a warning was there.
Now we have UKIP and the SNP taking some of our support and the soul-searching has begun. Which policy do we tweak. What error do we apologise for. The same old same old. I don’t mean that there are not lessons to learn from mistakes or policies to be fine-tuned, but this is not a vision of a brilliant Britain.
UKIP has a quirkiness which stands them apart. It is not a winning formula, but it was bound to attract some support. People could associate with some of what they were saying and in contrast with our cleverness, occasionally it struck a chord. The SNP though had colour. Somewhat by chaotic ascendency and accident, they had a mish-mash of candidates who stood out as being, well, normal.
Not normal on an individual basis. But quirky overall and therefore with some colour. Combine this with the paraphernalia of Scotland, it flags and emblems and the SNP were able to present a image in glorious technicolor. Was the film any good? Well, hardly anyone has seen it yet, but the advertising billboards were spectacular in their vividness, added to by a single feisty performance by their leader. The only feisty performance on that all powerful television medium of any leader. By contrast the rest were spectacularly monochrome and none more so than Dave and Ed.
Somebody had to win, so the known devil returned, because our offering was so monochrome that it appealed to nobody, not even ourselves.
“I want to be your leader. I will work hard. I will redouble our efforts.” Everything is incredibly important. At his tour of Britain launch, which I hosted in a Worksop factory, Ed found things incredibly important on 18 occasions. Twice he redoubled his efforts (why were we only half trying before, some might ask). Meanwhile Cameron redoubled his redoubling. “I am trying. I am trying harder”. We are all very trying. Then at the end they were ready. I am ready said Ed. Now Andy has told us he is ready. Chuka was ready, but he’s changed his mind. I am sure the others are ready too and everyone will redouble their efforts.
Colour is what we need.
In most of Britain, life is incredibly monochrome at the moment. Cuts, depressed wages, uncertainty over old age, closed shops, dominant banks and supermarkets. Everything is a chain, most things require a journey. Much of Britain lives in a very monochrome world at present and we are failing to offer anything to transform this. My manifesto for victory, to be launched tomorrow, will colour in the blank spaces in our picture.