It’s already being said by the Blairite rump that Labour lost because Ed Miliband took the party to the left. The fact is that the New Labour governments were well to the right of the vast majority of Labour supporters, and clearly needed correction, but let that pass. This last-ditch attempt to re-launch the manifestly failed Blairite project ignores the meaning of everything that’s happened in the last 5 years. Ed Miliband was right to see that the banks and finance sector, the corporate elite, and the media had far too much power and had abused it by inflating their own income and wealth at the expense of everyone else and by seeking to suppress all those forces, notably the trade unions, that stood up for the poor and dispossessed.
He was quite right to see that a de-regulated predatory capitalism had run amok and needed reform. His decision to freeze energy prices, cap private rents, replace a minimum wage by a Living Wage, end the bedroom tax, phase out zero hours contracts, double the number of houses being built, and begin to reduce inequality by the mansion tax and abolishing non-dom status were all extremely popular. He had the guts to take on Murdoch (and win) over BSkyB, the Tory tabloids over Leveson, and Cameron over starting another Middle East war in Syria. No other leader in Opposition, including Blair and Thatcher, would have dared to take such risks, and won. We need more Ed Milibands, not less.
So what would the Blairites have done? Their strident argument on the economy was that big cuts needed to be made to pay off the deficit, but that New Labour would ease the pain by cutting ‘less far, less fast’. This is the worst of all worlds. It implies that Labour accepts the Tory framing of the election that Labour caused an almightly economic mess, that the deficit is now the central issue and that deep cuts in pay, benefits and public services were the right way to deal with the deficit. All these claims are fundamentally wrong, but by not challenging (because they agreed with it) the relentless repetition of these Tory lies Labour left millions of undecided voters to believe either that there was no difference between the two parties or that Labour could not be trusted with the economy. It was this fear factor that swung the final vote.