In the last week, Ed Miliband has managed to mess up the following activities: giving money to a beggar, and wearing a t-shirt. It turns out that when he said he wasn’t cut out for photo opps, he wasn’t lying. His tragedy is that for some reason he is still trying to do them.
Throw in the other elements of chaos in the Labour Party – from an attempt to purge NHS whistleblower Ann Clwyd, to the backstabbing frenzy currently engulfing Scottish Labour – and his leadership has reached a new low. Small wonder his approval ratings are now worse than those, ah, ‘enjoyed’ by Nick Clegg.
There are three great sources of hope for the Conservatives in the 2015 General Election, and their names are Ed Miliband, the Scottish National Party and the Greens. The first is a liability to his party, and so hamstrung that he continues to prevent Labour developing any strategy at all. The second threatens to deprive the Opposition of dozens of seats in Scotland. The third offers the hope that disaffected Lib Dems may have an alternative to voting Labour, reducing the swing generated by left-wing unhappiness with the Coalition.
Between them, a growing number of MPs hope, they may be enough to prevent the country falling victim to Labour’s plan for an economic disaster that would rival that which Hollande is subjecting France to.
But that’s only half the story. Labour, too, hold tight to a factor which may hand them the keys to Downing Street: UKIP. Having held them off in their own back yard in South Yorkshire, they hope Farage’s ‘people’s army’ will undercut the Conservative vote enough to allow them to win key marginals. As such, the insurgents are now the biggest threat to the chance of Britain actually leaving the EU.
As I tweeted earlier in the week:
Peculiar state of politics when Labour are banking on UKIP to save their bacon, and Tories are banking on SNP and Greens to save theirs.
— Mark Wallace (@wallaceme) October 28, 2014
It’s a depressing and uninspiring form of politics in which both main parties’ best chance of success is the failure of their opponent at the hands of their respective ideological outliers. The cliche that ‘parties don’t win elections, they only lose them’ is not only not true, it’s a recipe for Government by default – resulting in paralysis due to lack of a mandate and even more disillusionment among the electorate.
New, small parties are a healthy thing for democracy – as a Conservative I believe that choice and competition are positive in all aspects of life. But the impact is harmful to all involved if their only role is to deny one side or the other victory. The way to get the most out of the situation is for the Tories – and Labour – to respond to the new pressures on their vote as a successful company would respond to a new, nimble competitor: by innovating, improving their service and making a stronger pitch to stay with them. Anything less is a capitulation.