2015 will almost certainly be judged by historians as the year the Labour party missed its opportunity, not only to replace one of the most noxious governments of modern times, but to restore its reputation as the party of the working people. Chance after chance went begging, with the general election giving the Tories the overall majority they certainly did not expect, and the newly elected Labour leader being vilified by dozens of his own MPs.
Yet the year began optimistically, with many of the proposals of Ed Miliband going down well, and seeing an uplift in the polls for Labour. His ideas on more regulation of business, and of responsible capitalism, suggested that with a sensible election campaign, Labour would at least end up sharing power in May. Of course, Miliband and the parliamentary party should have shown more solidarity with those taking industrial action, and not have been so reluctant to insist on a living wage for all workers. The trouble was that the right-wing Blairite elements in the party were themselves reluctant supporters of their leader, who then appeared to lack the prime-ministerial qualities some voters require, especially, it seems, the ability to eat a bacon sandwich genteely.
Instead of a united party, preparing for the May election by making the most of the opportunity to expose and attack the cruelty of the Tories` ideologically and politically-driven austerity agenda, Labour made obvious gaffes; Cameron and Osborne consequently escaped ever having to explain the dire consequences of their pledge to shrink the state back to levels last seen in the 1930s, not least the threat such cuts would make both to the nation`s security against terror attacks, and its infrastructure.
Somehow, the female vote was going to be won prior to the election, not by blaming the Tories for ignoring the ever widening gender pay gap, or promises to ensure glass ceilings would be removed, but by some female Labour MPs in a pink mini-bus! How could any politician, or anyone calling him or herself a political adviser in the 21st century, actually think for longer than a mini-second that this gimmick was anything other than downright patronisation of women? They even compounded what was already a massive problem by saying it would enable them to discuss politics with women "around the kitchen table"!!Then, with only days left before polling, Miliband gifted the Tory press with yet another gem for their propaganda machine: the so-called “Ed-stone”. The fact, later disclosed, that the decision for Labour`s six main election pledges to be carved into an 8ft 6in slab of limestone only got through 10 planning meetings because the advisers "were all distracted" by the Tories` tactics, beggars belief.
The opportunity to form, or even be part of, a government was lost in May, much to the glee of many Blairites, who could not hide their pleasure, as they put their knives into Ed`s back, blaming him for being too tough on business- that same business which refuses to pay workers the living wage, preferring zero-hours contracts for them, and pays 150 times the average for themselves, which avoids tax and which bank-rolls the Tories!!
Not content with missing that “open goal”, Labour then refused to cash in on the massive surge of public support it received with its election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Too many MPs swallowed the nonsense from the Tory press and the Blairites about Corbyn making the party unelectable and taking it backwards, when they should have realised the obvious popularity of a principled man, capable of winning over the young and non-voters, returning lost supporters to the fold, and leading Labour to victory in the next election. Missing this opportunity to dent Tory confidence, and wipe the smirk off Osborne`s face, was typical of Labour throughout the year, culminating in the depressing Syrian bombing vote. We can only hope that their success in the tax credit affair, and the excellent
Oldham by-election result, will
be the spurs needed to drive the Labour party to forge a more united and
effective opposition in 2016. The alternative is too dire to contemplate;
History can be a cruel judge!