When Ed Miliband defeated his older brother David for the Labour leadership I said to a Whitehall colleague “they’ve just picked the wrong Miliband” and shook my head. When the Liberal Democrats took the Chief Secretary to the Treasury post in the 2010 coalition with the Conservative I thought “The Tories are planning to wipe the Lib Dems from the House of Commons.” Disaster struck twice.
You have to congratulate both David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) and their parties on their seismic success at the general election. As for Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Ed Miliband their reward was next to nothing followed by swift resignations.
In achieving an overall majority Cameron pulled off one of the great wins in British political history. [Based on those dreadful opinion polls] But Cameron’s win was easier than expected given what the Labour Party and Lib Dems did 5 years ago after he first became Prime Minister. Lib Dems in bed with the Tories was always political suicide in the long term for many centre left voters.
Cameron modern political hero is one Tony Blair who knew how to win election or 3.
When Labour selected Ed Miliband as their leader some Labour MPs and former civil servants who worked with him were stunned. He just does not have the interpersonal skills to beat Cameron or connect with the average voter.
Many Labour MPs did not want Ed as leader but the powerful union block vote got him the victory over his brother David Miliband who was far more PM material. Brotherly wounds which have yet to heal in the Miliband household.
Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats days were numbered from the moment he formed a coalition government with the Conservative party. Clegg was quickly snookered when his party accepted the Chief Secretary to the Treasury portfolio as part of the coalition deal in 2010.
Whenever Tory Chancellor George Osborne announced major unpopular spending cuts it was the Chief Secretary who had to justify such actions to the media. The two Chief Secretary in the last parliament were Lib Dems MPs David Laws and Danny Alexander. They were the unacceptable faces of austerity. Both lost their seats.
George Galloway’s maverick style of politics had expired following a condescending campaign against his Labour opponent Naseem Shah. It was good to see his wings clipped so emphatically by Shah. Admired his stances on a number of issues over the years but Galloway’s time has come.
SNP in wiping out the Labour and Lib Dems MP in Scotland has given SNP one of the most succesful party swings in modern politics. In 2010 SNP had just 6 seats in Parliament now they have 56. All this under superb direction of first time leader Nicola Sturgeon.
Labour’s performance -with Miliband as leader- during previous regional and local govt elections was below average. So Labour had a chance to ditch him long before 2015 but bottled it. Miliband’s stubbornness at not offering an EU referendum cost him Labour votes in central and southern England. His answers to the coalition question during the debate did not aid his case.
Since becoming leader Miliband often admitted that Labour got it seriously wrong on certain economic policies. Yet Ed Balls was his shadow chancellor – a man at the heart of Gordon Brown’s wreckage of the UK economy. Balls’ defeat was for me the Michael Portillio (major shocker) moment of the night.
UKIP’s surge peaked at the leaders debate and Farages HIV comments on immigrants may not have helped his cause. As well as the fear of some voters who had planned to vote for UKIP but changed their minds at the last minute and opted for the Conservatives.
Labour now cannot just consider the best person to lead the party. They have consider who is the best person to beat the next Tory leader i.e. George Osborne, Theresa May or Boris Johnson.
Labour must see from Sturgeon’s remarkable achievement that choosing a winning female candidate is plausible. Yvette Cooper (Mrs Ed Balls) will be popular amongst party members. But she has an annoying habit of not speaking in simple terms. In the time Cooper has been Shadow Home Secretary she has been mostly ineffective against Home Secretary Theresa May. One to consider still.
Then there is Stella Creasy who deserved a far bigger role under Miliband but for some reason was kept literally in the shadows. Despite being a London MP she is from the Midlands and thus can appeal across region.
Caroline Flint is also one who has the temperament and communication skills to handle Boris and Osborne in particular. She was brave enough to speak out on then PM Gordon Brown’s poor use of women in his Cabinet.
Chuku Ummuna has long been lined up as a leading contender for the leadership. I would prefer him to run for the Mayor of London. As he would prove a worthwhile candidate to succeed Boris Johnson. Andy Durham is bound to have say as well.
Once Boris finishes next year as Mayor of London then Cameron will be free to reshuffle the major Cabinet positions. Long before then Labour must have their new leader in place to win back voters in England, Wales and especially Scotland with some local elections due next year.
If you are fan of proportional representation then it was a terrible night on the numbers. UKIP got 12.6% of the vote and won 1 seat. SNP won 4.7% of the vote and got 56 seats. Politics sometimes just doesn’t add up.