The Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election now raises the distinct possibility that
Labour could win the next election by default. People on the left have been wondering for some time what could unite the multiple and often contradictory tribes of the Labour Party and it looks
like “Tory cuts” and “Lib-Dem broken promises” could do the trick. Simple, crude, disingenuous – perfect.
Krishnan Guru-Murthy is half-right when he tweets “paradoxically, real danger may be for Labour…if they conclude they are ‘back in the game’ already”. Collectively (and morally) this
is true. But the bizarre situation we find ourselves in is that the electorate remains unconvinced by Ed Miliband and yet his party is trouncing the coalition in the polls. I suspect Labour would
still be ahead if Diane Abbott had been elected leader. It is quite possible that Labour really is back in the game, even though it doesn’t yet deserve to be.
The real test for Ed Miliband is not Oldham East and Saddleworth (which was always likely to be held). John McTernan, whose Telegraph blog has become a must-read, has it right when he says:
“most importantly Miliband needs to be able to pull off the trick of making the result – whatever it is – seem significant, while knowing that it isn’t.”
More than that, the Labour leader now needs to decide whether he makes complacency the principle of his leadership. If he does, he could still win the next election on the platform of “Tory
cuts/Lib Dem broken promises”. But governments elected by default are never a good idea. Ted Heath and John Major should act as warnings to Ed Miliband that sometimes the British electorate
does not get the Prime Minister it deserves.
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