Analysis

Don't blame Ed Miliband for Labour's election disaster. Blame Tony Blair.

Tony Blair put Labour on this disastrous course. Miliband was just the patsy at the helm.

Ed Miliband is easy to pick on.

As the leader of the Labour Party, which suffered a massive rout in last week's election, Miliband seems like the perfect scapegoat — so perfect, in fact, that he fell on his own sword and resigned on Friday. Losing millions of working class English voters to UKIP will certainly discredit the stuttering, awkward toff at the top, the one who poses as a socialist, but gives the impression of being born with a silver spoon stuck up his nose. So will being driven out of your traditional stronghold in Scotland by the Scottish National Party, which achieved a nation-shaking victory not seen since Ireland's Sinn Fein party wiped out the Home Rulers in 1918.

But for all Miliband's faults, it's not his fault. Nor can Labour's disaster be entirely credited to the deft leadership of SNP head Nicola Sturgeon. No, if you want to blame someone for the dissolution of Labour, and possibly the Union itself, blame former Prime Minister Tony Blair. He set Labour on a course that ensured sunshine and kind weather for himself, but destined the party for a crash.

Tony Blair was popularly viewed as the Bill Clinton of Labour. When his New Labour party shed its post-war socialism, it found a new hip identity that appealed to the media and upwardly mobile urban voters in London. And in the beginning, it certainly seemed like a success: New Labour kept the Tories out of power over three elections, a feat not managed in British politics since the days of Lloyd George.

But something didn't fit. Even as the 1990s saw a tremendous amount of economic growth for London, the working class areas of England and Scotland still continued to suffer and decline, seeing little interruption in their fortunes from the days of Thatcherism. Culturally, the party and its leaders had less and less in common with working class Englishmen and Scots living outside of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

And that is why Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband have both been such awkward fits as Labour leaders. Brown was a convinced and convicted progressive of the old school, a man who could still appeal to Scotland's sense of pride in the Union. But he was a kind of joke and a danger to London's more posh Labour supporters, who worried and wretched at his plans for Keynesian stimulus to fix an economy that he had no real hand in wrecking.

Brown was also stuck with the legacy of the Iraq War, which was initially trumpeted with great moralistic enthusiasm by Blair, but enormously unpopular with the left-wing of the party, and largely irrelevant to the concerns of workers.

And so in the eyes of Scotland and working class England, the Labour party became the party of London, reflecting the capital's interests and parochialisms. It's no wonder that Labour began to take on the same stink in Scotland as Thatcherites had. Blair created New Labour, and over the course of an unpopular war, Scotland began to see he and it as “red Tories.” At first the winners were the Liberal Democrats who took an anti-war position, but their subsequent coalition with the Tories has turned into a disaster.

And although they only manage to gain one seat because of the U.K's first-past-the-post system, Nigel Farage's UKIP did significant damage to Labour as well, gathering to its cause more votes than the combined totals of the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Liberal Democrats, the nation's more traditional third party.

This trend may only get worse for Labour. Tim Wigmore writes:

It is proof of how much UKIP is benefitting from Labour's alienation of its core vote. It isn't just an Ed Miliband problem, either: between 1997 and 2001, Labour lost three million votes; its majority remained unharmed only because these disaffected voters had nowhere else to go and stayed at home. In 2010, the average turnout in the 100 safest Labour seats was 58 percent, compared with 68 percent in the 100 safest Tory ones.

Suddenly talk of UKIP emerging as the opposition to Labour in the north doesn't just look like bluster. The party is on course to gain close to 100 second places in the north, an ideal platform from which to launch further assaults on a faction-ridden Labour in five years time: the 2020 strategy. [New Statesman]

Labour has lost its ability to please London, Scotland, and England's working class at the same time. The old patterns of voting are entirely breaking down, with younger voters in Scotland, and alienated voters in England decisively turning toward nationalism as the solution to their economic problems.

There were all manner of ways that the Labour Party could have navigated the profound economic changes after the Cold War, but Blair chose to pivot his party toward the center and toward London. Ed Miliband is just one of the casualties. And there will be more.

Recommended

Plane carrying aid can't land in Tonga after COVID case reported on board
Aid from Australia that will help people in Tonga.
change of plans

Plane carrying aid can't land in Tonga after COVID case reported on board

Giuliani reportedly orchestrated fake Trump electors scheme in 7 states
Rudy Giuliani
The great pretenders

Giuliani reportedly orchestrated fake Trump electors scheme in 7 states

Mitch McConnell condemned after saying Black people vote as much as 'Americans'
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
#MitchPlease

Mitch McConnell condemned after saying Black people vote as much as 'Americans'

The credulous response to Havana syndrome
The US Embassy in Havana.
Picture of Ryan CooperRyan Cooper

The credulous response to Havana syndrome

Most Popular

Florida advances ban on making white people feel 'discomfort' over past racism
Ron DeSantis
Fragility

Florida advances ban on making white people feel 'discomfort' over past racism

California deputy DA opposed to vaccine mandates dies of COVID-19
Kelly Ernby.
covid-19

California deputy DA opposed to vaccine mandates dies of COVID-19

Joe Biden meets the press
President Biden.
Picture of Joel MathisJoel Mathis

Joe Biden meets the press