So, 3 days after the election results became clear, I finally feel able to put my thoughts into words. Although I made it clear in previous posts that I don’t take much notice of opinion polls, mainly because percentage vote share doesn’t neatly relate to our first past the post system, I didn’t expect them to be so completely wrong. As a result I was somewhat shocked, to say the least!
As for my thoughts, well it was clear that Cameron played a clever trick, using the politics of fear to paint Labour as being totally dependent on the SNP, and in spite of Labour’s protests, much of the electorate were taken in by him.
In Scotland, Labour probably paid the price for going in with the Conservatives and LibDems in the No campaign, although it is hard to see what else they could have done. I was very impressed by the words of Tom Harris, defeated Labour candidate and former Labour MP for Glasgow South, who said: ‘Let me just say one thing by way of an attempt at political analysis: it’s (probably correctly) assumed that Scottish Labour has paid the price for its support for the No campaign in last year’s referendum. If that is indeed the case, then I have to conclude that it was a price that had to be paid. I and many Scottish Labour colleagues lost our jobs last night, and that’s to be regretted. But if we had lost the referendum, we would have lost our country, and that would have been far, far worse.’ I totally echo these sentiments. We still have the union, and Scottish Labour can rebuild.
As for Labour in England, I don’t subscribe to the view that there is some great crisis that will take years to get over. Ed Miliband did a decent job in the campaign, but throughout the last parliament, and in the campaign itself, not enough was made of the fact that the financial crisis was actually a result of the banking crisis, and that things would have been far worse had Gordon Brown not acted as he did to shore the banks up. Some of these points are made by John Prescott in his Mirror article which appeared over the weekend. Instead, Labour need a new leader (soon, let’s not wait until September like last time), and a period of strong opposition needs to start. There are many unpopular policies (the bedroom tax to name but one), and the Tory majority is not large.
The European Union referendum is also cause for concern, and a concerted effort needs to be made to emphasise the benefits of our membership. The debate will not be balanced, with so much anti-EU sentiment in the right-wing press, but I am encouraged by the work of groups like British Influence who are already campaigning strongly.
Now it’s time to move on. I will be doing what I can to support Labour’s cause, and the UK’s continuing membership of the EU. And as if that wasn’t enough, the SNP will probably push for another Independence Referendum in a few years. Difficult times lie ahead indeed.