In the days immediately after the General Election, my Facebook feed was filled with people despairing about the Conservatives getting into power, and wondering how such a thing was possible. The general opinion was that the evil Tories hate poor people, want to sell off the NHS and create a country serving only the elite.
Yet, if this were true, how did they get 10 million votes and a majority in Parliament?
Here are a few reasons, in reverse order of importance (to build the tension for you, dear reader).
10. Nicola Sturgeon
Labour weren’t just outflanked on the right by the born-to-rule boys; they were outflanked on the left by the brilliant, utterly authentic Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP leader is the most convincing politician in the UK, and with the SNP’s momentum off the back of the referendum, Labour never had a hope in Scotland.
9. The TV debates
Like most people, I didn’t watch the TV debates. I was busy drinking red wine. But I did see that moment when Ed Miliband looked down the camera and made his appeal to the country…and shuddered. It was like being propositioned by a giant eel.
Thank goodness more voters weren’t paying attention, or Labour’s electoral defeat would have been much, much more convincing.
8. The media
We all know that the media is mostly run by right-wing oligarchs. There were a couple of ways Labour could have addressed this. Either, like Tony Blair, you cosy up to the media to win their support. Or, you use a combination of traditional campaign methods of leafletting and door-knocking, together with modern techniques of social media to get your message across. Rather than do either effectively, Labour had a weird pink van which they drove around the country to demonstrate their pointlessness.
7. Labour’s demonisation of rich people
In their twin policies of getting rid of the bedroom tax and introducing a mansion tax, Labour thought they had a winning formula. Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite.
What Labour were engaging in was the classic left-wing mistake of asking people to be better than they are. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of humans. I think we are terrific. But if I was in charge of a political party, I wouldn’t think of asking people to vote for policies that do not materially benefit themselves, or people they know.
The bedroom tax is a hideous piece of policy and getting rid of it would make the world a bit better. Great: do it. Having a mansion tax makes sense as well, because rich people’s tax burden could be greater.
Both of these policies are fine, but they have very little to do with the concerns of the majority. And without significant policies which would help the, let’s say, 95% of people who are unaffected by either tax, it is Labour saying, “help poor people, attack rich people, don’t worry about yourself.”
Moreover, as Tony Blair annoyingly but accurately pointed out about three seconds after Miliband conceded defeat, you don’t win elections without supporting aspiration.
6. Pensioner bonds
Pensioner bonds, launched earlier this year by the Tories, were seen as an overt attempt to buy the grey vote. The old codgers duly said thank you very much.
5. David Cameron
People on the left tend not to notice, but David Cameron is quite good at his job. He is a very effective communicator. He keeps things simple, and manages to convince a lot of people that his interests, and those of his rich mates, are the same as the national interest.
Also, he managed to keep the Coalition together with very little infighting. Of course, the Lib Dems did a splendid imitation of a lapdog, but Cameron must have had some personal charm to keep things smooth.
In addition, and in a big change from Labour, he didn’t reshuffle his Cabinet every five minutes. You get the feeling that he put people in charge of a department and trusted them to do the job. This steady approach meant the Tories, whatever you think of their policies, have been remarkably unified.
4. The advantage of incumbency
It is easier to look like you should be in charge when you are in charge. And in the five years the Tories have been in power, the economy has grown (a bit) and nothing has gone seriously wrong. (For example, they haven’t got into bed with a twattish US president when he suggested killing a few hundred thousand muslims.)
3. Ed Balls
Ed Balls looks like a Nazi, and, in his strident, boorish, self-regarding approach to politics, acts like one. He is a charmless thug who makes you reflect that perhaps George Osborne isn’t that bad, after all. A massive well done must go to the people of Morley and Outwood for kicking him out.
2. The first-past-the-post system
Under almost any other democratic electoral system, the Tories would not be in sole charge of the country. As has been widely noted, UKIP got four million votes, and one MP. That could be the most unfair result in the history of our democracy. It is an embarrassment and hopefully all the other parties will campaign for this system to change. But because the system also benefits Labour, it probably won’t happen any time soon.
1. Ed Miliband
With this socially-awkward, political geek as leader – from a confusingly monied yet Marxist background – there was no way Labour was going to get back into power. As Ken Clarke said on the telly this morning, “politics, in the end, comes down to personalities,” and Ed Miliband’s personal ratings were always unwaveringly disastrous.
Ed Miliband was elected to the Labour party leadership because he is essentially a good natured, kindly, if rather otherworldly, person who wants to help people.
Yet the British public took one look at Ed Miliband and saw, instinctively, that they couldn’t trust him to go to a European summit and not embarrass them. Moreover, they saw that here was a man who didn’t know a thing about cricket or football or theatre or music or failure or boozing or sex. And when he did talk about politics, he talked in his indefinably strange, tongue-too-big-for-his-mouth way that would make Gandhi want to give him a clout.
Ed Miliband was the greatest gift the Labour party could give to the Tories. Cameron and co simply stopped referring to Labour – knowing that the party which created the NHS still has a big emotional pull for many people – and referred only to Ed Miliband.
The Tories, seeing this fatal flaw, quietly but relentlessly asked, and I’m paraphrasing here: “Do you want a commie weirdo in charge of the country, or do you want a team of public schoolboys who won’t interfere with your life too much?”
Ten million people – people who are primarily looking out for their own interests, just like everybody else – decided they preferred David Cameron over Ed Miliband.
And if Labour are to get back into power, they should stop trying to attack these people, but seek to understand them. If they do that, Labour might one day regain power.