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ELECTION WEEKLY – BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD FOR LABOUR By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

 


ed08 May 15.  Was it that the economic promises made by Labour leader Ed Miliband lacked credibility? Was it because Mr. Miliband made the stupid mistake of failing to accept or apologise for the mess that the last Labour Government caused? Was it the man himself and perhaps that the face just didn’t fit? Maybe it was the dogged opposition by Labour of holding a referendum on EU membership or maybe it was the threat of an unfair and unjust mansion tax that sent the electorate scurrying away from Labour to the Tories? All of these are possibilities for the Labour rout by the electorate yesterday but perhaps I would add that it was also due to the lack of humility, the lack of policy credibility and the failure of the various personalities involved to fit the current fashion as also being factors that demolished Labour Party hopes.

I am reminded this morning of 1959 when Hugh Gaitskell really did believe that Labour could win only to find that Macmillan romped home with a landslide. A brilliant Illingworth cartoon the next day picturing a plane crash said it all with the caption ‘back to the drawing board’.

But if the credibility of Mr. Miliband has been questioned so too has that of his hapless former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and who we now see has also been thrown out of his parliamentary seat. I can’t print here what I am actually thinking so I will leave that to your imagination!

While sensible, Mr. Miliband plan to keep Mr. Balls and other members of his front bench team hidden away as best as possible during the campaign could only work if he himself could look everyone in the face and be seen to have the necessary credibility and personality required. That has proved not to be the case.

I guess that very few tears will be shed on loss of Ed Balls to the House of Commons and it would be great if we might be able to calculate the level of damage that he has done to Labour Party credibility. Sadly that is not really possible and I also fear that when Mr. Miliband sends a few of his colleagues to the House of Lords we will see Mr. Balls pop up again to contest a safe seat ‘by-election’. So the advice here is ‘be is to be careful what you wish for’.

I suspect that it is not just the pollsters that have egg on their face this morning, it is much of media too. Well done to the BBC and to Strathclyde University though for the absolutely brilliant ‘Exit poll’ that a second after 10pm told us pretty well spot on what we now know to be the actual result. Even so, I guess there are a great many in the BBC this morning scratching their heads and in an absolute state of shock that the electorate have put Mr Cameron back into No 10!

For my part, within my Election Weekly (3) I finally chose to stick my neck out back on April 30th and predict a Tory victory with a tiny majority. It may be interesting to observe how I arrived at that view and the answer in part is because of how others played a part in Labour’s downfall. The Guardian for instance, hardly an exponent of Tory virtues, absolutely lambasted the ridiculous 8ft carving in stone full of Labour promises that Mr Miliband had authorised. Voters pick things like this up and whilst they may often be accused of being fickle neither will they suffer fools gladly. Kinnock in 1992 is a reminder of that. I would add also that there were some excellent editorials that appeared in the most surprising of places such as the ‘Independent’ that showed Labour up for what it was – an absolute shambles.

While it is certainly true that politics was turned on its head by the electorate last night the next five years will hardly be a walk in the park for Prime Minister David Cameron. Largest party in the House and with or without an overall majority (there are still over 70 seats to declare as I write this) the Conservatives will still probably need to rely on assistance from the DUP and maybe a few others against an angry group of SNP, Labour plus a small handful of Lib-Dems and the single member of the Greens and Ukip. There could still be trouble ahead and there will undoubtedly be hostages to fortune that will need to be carefully faced.

For now though we should be able to look forward to a period of stable and sensible economic management with very little noticeable change. Defence remains a big concern but I will address that issue separately.

Messrs Cameron and Osborne, assuming the latter remains Chancellor of the Exchequer, will now find themselves somewhat tied by the mass of promises made not to increase tax, to spend on this but not on that and so on made in the manifesto or on the hustings. But the real issue and the one that has the greatest amount of potential for damage to me is the promise made by Mr. Cameron to hold a referendum on EU membership in two years, should he have failed by then to change the ways of Brussels.

Just as the referendum vote on Scotland independence had done I fear that the proposed referendum vote on EU membership has the potential to rip the nation apart. It also has the potential, subject to the referendum result, to wreck the future for all of us.

We should of all be aware that life on the House of Commons will never again be the same. The 57 or 58 SNP MP’s who will sit there will ensure that. We are about to see a very different set of political perspectives emerge but at least it will be the Tories that have the job of facing up to them rather than Labour.

I hope that when Mr. Cameron puts his team together there is a big place for Michael Gove. Having promised not to go for a third term Gove is to me the natural successor. Mr. Cameron will need new people around him and I suggest that several of the old guard will now disappear. I will not name names because it is not my place to do that but anyone over 60 years of age has little chance of being in the Cabinet. And having lost his senior ‘Lieutenant’ in the form of the former Foreign Secretary William Hague it will be very interesting to see who gets that job just as it will who gets the job of Chancellor.

I ought to be analysing why the Lib-Dems have done quite as badly as they have but I think that we all know that having gone into a coalition with the old arch enemy in 2010 voters found it difficult to forgive Nick Clegg. I may not have any LIB-Dem tendencies thank God but I have to say that I have long respected Nick Clegg himself. Having seen his party decimated and amongst 40 former MP’s to have lost their seats including the likes of Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, David Laws, Simon Hughes plus Charles Kennedy one wonders what the future holds. I guess that Nick Clegg will resign the leadership but if so who on earth will succeed?

A final question if you have got this far – what do you think were the first words that Angela Merkel said when she heard the news that David Cameron would be remaining in Number 10? Answers on a post-card please!

I hope that you have enjoyed this short series of election papers and as I wish you a pleasant weekend and we wait and watch what happens next in Whitehall ahead of Mr. Cameron heading for the Palace I will leave you with the old adage of ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’. I think that most times we get what we deserve in life and for my part all that I will say is that I am very satisfied with the election result.

hwheeldon@wheeldonstrategic.com

Tel: 07710 779785

 

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