A job still to be done….
It is not that often I open a blog post with the words Ed Miliband is right. However, he deserves much credit and praise for his response to Labour’s undoubted local election success last night. Rather then get carried away he graciously accepted victory but insisted Labour still has a job to do to convince voters they should trust it. I agree. Although many of aspects of last night were impressive, there are grounds for caution too, notably the low turnout. The most impressive aspect was the way Labour won seats across the board, from north to south, and it looks like the major heartland worry about serious losses in Scotland and Glasgow especially are going to be unfounded. However, DO NOT, assume this means all we have to do is to turn up and we will waltz back into government, assuming always makes an ass out of you and me. The turnout tells us that people, rather than loving Labour, are fed-up but especially fed-up with the government and on-top of that, remember, as mid-term swings against governments go, last nights was not that dramatic. Indeed, it more than possible for the government to recover from last night and go onto win.
Last night (and later tonight) may, however, be terminal for two people’s political career. David Cameron’s position is looking increasingly dicey while meanwhile, the career of Ken Livingstone in frontline politics is effectively over if, as expected he loses badly. Cameron’s cavalier ‘sorry but tough luck’ message to his defeated councillors will not go down well. He will now face increasing pressure to change course and if he doesn’t then I would expect a serious challenge, as and when there is an appropriate catalyst, to follow presently. Livingstone, meanwhile, has been sent a clear message by Labour voters who put an X in the box for Labour in the London Assembly elections but obviously didn’t support him for Mayor. It is now the time to step out of frontline politics for the good of the Party. As an aside, it looks like the baleful policy of directly electing Mayors has been decisively kicked into touch by the electorate. Good.
So, a triumphant night for Labour, but a world of work ahead. Elections feel like the end of something and indeed they are, of months, and in many cases years of hard graft. Every end is a new beginning and so it was with last night. It ended decisively the easy ride chapter for this government and specifically this Prime Minister. It opened up a period of constant crisis and flux which has been gathering pace over the last few months. Whether Labour can fully capitalise on this however depends on the work it does and in that sense it is a new beginning for us too. The real opening of the next general election campaign and the battle to be back in government.