To the Losers Go the Recriminations

Nobody loves you when you’re down and out; not in politics, anyway. In the wake of Labour’s disastrous electoral defeat last week, the party’s leaders are being attacked from all directions. The Telegraph sums up the lessons of defeat, as drawn by the party’s various factions. As in the U.S., the conflict is between those who think the party strayed too far from the center, and those who think its leftism isn’t pure enough:

[I]n a display of public recriminations, some of the party’s most prominent MPs clashed openly over whether Labour’s “old-school, socialist” anti-business agenda had put voters off – or whether the party had not been Left-wing enough to win.

The majority view seems to be that Ed Miliband pulled Labour too far to the left:

On Sunday Tony Blair, John Prescott and Lord Mandelson entered the debate with withering assessments of the current state of the party.

The former Prime Minister called for Labour to reclaim the political centre ground. He said the party had to show it stood for for “ambition and aspiration” as well as compassion and care”, making clear a change of direction was needed if the party was to regain power.

Mr Blair defended Mr Miliband’s “courage under savage attack”, but Lord Mandelson gave a brutal assessment of his leadership, describing his attack on “predatory” capitalists as “completely useless” as he said the decision to abandon New Labour was a “terrible mistake”.

We would have heard identical critiques from Democrats if Barack Obama had lost in 2012. Lord Mandelson continued:

The Labour peer said the party is facing its worst challenge since the 1980s, when it spent 18 years out of power: “We were sent out and told to say we’re for the poor and hate the rich, ignoring the vast swathe of the population who exist in between.”

That is also the most fundamental criticism of our Democratic Party: it has essentially nothing to offer the majority of voters broadly described as middle class, which is why its politicians constantly talk about them.

On Saturday Ben Bradshaw, Labour’s Blairite former culture secretary, pleaded with his party not to lurch even further to the Left when choosing a new leader and a fresh strategy.

“Please, colleagues in the Labour movement and outside commentators, don’t try to claim we lost because Labour wasn’t radical, Left-wing or distinctive enough,” he said after retaining his seat in Exeter.

“Ed and his team bet on the British people moving to the Left in response to the global financial crisis. The whole of our strategy was based on this. But it was not true.”

Bradshaw’s last point is particularly interesting, in that he could equally well be describing our Democratic Party. And yet Barack Obama won twice, even as Republicans have scored gains practically everywhere else.

Just like our Democrats, the Labour Party has plenty of unrepentant socialists who think the path to victory is a harder left-wing line:

Diane Abbott, one of Labour’s most prominent London MPs, disagreed and urged her party to adopt an even more radical, pro-immigration agenda. She wrote on Twitter: “Alarming that myth is taking hold that Ed Mili lost because he was too ‘Left wing’. This was the campaign of the ‘immigration controls’ mug.”

The wise men of the Labour party are saying the party will be in the wilderness for the next decade. Perhaps so. And when Labour returns to power, in all likelihood it will not be because the electorate has swerved to the left, but rather because voters have gotten tired of the Tories. In this respect, too, British politics resembles our own.