Just 24 hours after the Guardian revealed the findings of a focus group done by David Muir in Milton Keynes, Ed Miliband wins the Labour leadership election.
The main thing I thought I’d flag:
Muir, writing for the Guardian’s Comment is free website, admits to being taken aback by the scale of support for the coalition’s programme of spending cuts, as well as enthusiasm for inter-party co-operation. He writes: “Voters talk of the need to ‘make do and mend’ public services, of living within their means. There is little to no recognition that growth, jobs and homes could be placed in jeopardy. The coalition looks competent, and, importantly, mainstream. This may sound bad for the new Labour leader, but it is in fact much worse.”
End of the day, the public knows that we need to cut spending – the Labour Party’s message on this has been extremely mixed, which causes yet more problems for Ed Miliband. What the public wants from Labour is leadership – anything other than an acknowledgment by Miliband that the public sector has to be scaled back will be regarded as nothing more than sheer opportunism by the public.
Sure, the pain has still to kick in from these cuts, but if Miliband is pushed by his union masters to hark on about ‘Tory cuts’ then he’ll quickly alienate the electorate. It’s hard to see, given that the unions pushed him over the finishing line, whether he’ll have the guts to do this. Scrub that – the leadership to do that.
It’s safe to say that this really is a great result for the Conservatives. Miliband may well get a small bounce from all the attention he’s getting, but it won’t last. Like the 80s, the Labour Party has either failed – or deliberately ignored – the middle class. They don’t mind spending and can just about stomach tax increases, but only when real wages are increasing. During a recession it’s very different, and therefore the only alternative is to cut spending and the public will likely love the idea of cutting New Labour’s quangocracy to pay for it.
I imagine large swaths of the media will have a great time playing around with ‘Red Ed’ before Cameron has a go defining the leader of the opposition. The public have yet to experience the impact of the Tories’ spending plans, but the electorate appears to have made its mind up that the last thing we can afford is yet more spending. Will Cameron set this as a trap? If Miliband takes it, he’ll just look like the unions pawn. What’s more, if the unions become more and more aggressive, Miliband may well be forced to defend them. This again is a major dilemma.
For some reading, I’d strongly recommend both sides read Philip Gould’s excellent memoir ‘The Unfinished Revolution’. The book closely examines how Labour kept on losing the center ground, the aspirational classes, and then finally won the 1997 election by a landslide. However, perhaps more importantly, it focuses a great deal on how through failing to control the unions, the Tories easily picked off Labour at each general election from 79 to 92. I imagine the messages will be the same.
Interestingly Cameron remarked today that in the medium term, he will cut taxes for the middle class. He’ll likely say that finally, after years of Labour spending their money, they deserve the opportunity to spend their own money how they choose. Will Miliband do the same and sacrifice some much needed revenues for what I imagine will be spending plans?