The Deep End has featured articles by Dan Hodges before (here and here) – which are typical of his fearlessly honest style. There are few political writers, especially on the left, so willing to take a subject close to their hearts and then poke around its underbelly with such ferocious abandon.
His favourite topic is the Labour Party, of which he is a longstanding member and activist – but also an unrestrained critic. In particular, it is his brilliant running commentary on the many failings of Ed Miliband that have endeared Hodges to the right, while attracting the fury of the left.
However, one might wonder whether it’s not all an elaborate ruse. Could it be that the self-declared “Blairite cuckoo in Ed Miliband’s nest” is in fact a Brownite sleeper agent out to lull Conservatives into a false sense of security?
The answer to that, of course, is ‘no, you'd better get out of the sun’. But, nevertheless, Hodges is one of the most convincing purveyors of a dangerously reassuring narrative. Consider the following piece from the Telegraph earlier this week:
- "There’s lots of excitement this morning at today’s ICM poll which shows Labour’s lead over the Tories has vanished. In the marathon that is the run-in to the 2015 general election David Cameron is now comfortably poised on Ed Miliband’s shoulder with a good few miles left to run."
- “Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether Labour’s lead is nine points, zero points, or somewhere in between (for what it’s worth, I think somewhere in between is probably the most accurate reflection of the respective party’s current standings). Labour’s lead simply isn’t anywhere near big enough.
- “At this stage in 1985 Labour enjoyed a three-point ICM lead. At the general election two years later, that became a Tory lead of 11 points. At the same period two years out from the 1992 election Labour’s lead was 16 points…”
All true as far as it goes, but there’s no reason why past patterns should continue to apply. During the Thatcher era we saw regular cycles of mid-term blues and election-winning highs, but then, following the ERM debacle of 1992, the Conservative Party flatlined at about thirty per cent for more than a decade. Contrast that to Labour’s post-2010 recovery, where, from a lower share of the vote than that gained by John Major in 1997, it took less than two years for the party to move into a sustained lead.
Furthermore, let’s not forget what Labour’s current support is composed of, which is their core 2010 vote plus a fair chunk of left-leaning former Lib Dem voters (which is all Ed Miliband needs to win). We shouldn’t expect these to swing back to the Conservatives as a matter of course because they didn’t swing away from us in the first place.
- "Different pollsters have different methodologies for measuring support for Nigel Farage and his merry men, but all the pollsters agree on one thing: that support is declining. And as it does, Tory support it rising.
- “Some people argued that in the wake of the local elections Ukip had made a political breakthrough of such significance and scale they were set to break the mould of British politics. That is now being shown to be rubbish.”
Except that what most polls show is UKIP still polling strongly – and usually outpolling the Lib Dems. To have become the third party of British politics is surely a breakthrough of sorts. Certainly, it provides a base from which opportunities (such as those presented by next year’s European elections) can be seized.
- “There is one other thing all the polls agree on: Ed Miliband is crap. Or rather, the British people do not think he has what it takes to be Prime Minister, which in politics amounts to the same thing. Perceptions about Miliband are now set in stone. He could deport Len McCluskey, introduce hanging for shoplifters and personally lead an audacious commando raid to overthrow Kim Jong-un. And people would still see him as weak and indecisive.”