Labour’s failure to offer a credible economic alternative to the Tories is going hurt them in next year’s election, according to Charles Clarke. The former Labour Education and Home Secretary proved to be a ray of sunshine on the Daily Politics today, arguing that Ed Miliband has failed to explain to voters why the Labour’s alternative plan for the economy is the right one.
When asked whether the Conservatives’ strategy is cogent, Clarke said:
‘It’s very cogent. I don’t think it’s true, myself, as a matter of fact. I think Labour has a much better story to tell about the last government and the economy than is widely believed. But I think, as you put it, you’re completely correct. The Conservatives have put this story across. It is widely believed in the country and Labour has not yet been able to contest it effectively.”
Clarke also said that Labour has placed too much faith in the coalition’s economic plan failing, instead of producing an alternative:
‘I think we needed a much stronger narrative about what we did right and what we did wrong in government. We did many things right economically, and some things wrong. And we didn’t really do that. We haven’t been prepared to admit the mistakes that we made.
‘And then we have rested a great deal on assuming that the Conservative strategy wouldn’t succeed, that ‘plan A’, so-called, would not work and that has proved to be an unwise judgment because in fact, the Conservatives have succeeded in getting the economy onto a more positive path which leaves us very little place to be now in these current circumstances.’
Although Clarke believes the cost-of-living crisis is very apparent to voters, he doesn’t think people have any proof that Labour will solve it. On the topic of Ed Miliband, Clarke voiced the concerns of many in Labour — that voters simply can’t imagine him as Prime Minister. Does he think people will be voting for Ed as the next PM?
‘The polls tell you no. I think a lot of this stuff about being a geek and weird and so on is complete nonsense…politicians pick up lavels like that. But at the moment he still has to convince people that he has the capacity to lead the country. And that’s not my view actually, I think he does have the capacity to lead the country but people don’t believe that.’
And in a final bout of pessimism, Clarke doesn’t believe in Labour’s so-called 35 per cent strategy – ‘I never thought it was the right approach, you’ve got to appeal to the whole country’ — and doesn’t have much faith in Labour winning an outright majority next year:
“It could if from now on it really managed to get its position right. I have to say… I’m pessimistic. I think it will be very difficult for us to do that. But it could happen, it could still be done.’
Not surprisingly for the arch-Blairite, Clarke harked wistfully back to the days of New Labour and said the former PM is in ‘quite a tragic position’. He still thinks Blair could ‘contribute a great deal in the public sphere’ but can’t see a route back for him.