Why Labour lost, the Tories got a majority and why the polls weren’t necessarily wrong

The below was originally posted in response to Derek Bateman’s blog, “Class War”, which can be found here.

Utterly gobsmacked that the Tories gained a majority – and has been said all along by the likes of thee and me, it was always going to be down to what happened in England.

But what is so shocking about it is that only the Tories and the Exit polls saw it coming. Their seemingly laughable, nonsense claims that they only needed 20 or so seats turned out to be spot on the money. It seems the Tories can do something really well – poll.

Was there a conspiracy? I suddenly recollect that van robbery in London of ballot papers – but then I think of Occam’s Razor and also the possibility that actually most of those polls in the run-up to the election were probably about right – at the time. The exit polls may have been shockingly different – and pretty accurate – but that doesn’t mean they were mutually exclusive from those that went before. Rather than think that the pollsters got it so badly wrong so often, maybe they got it right at the time, but something changed late on that made all the difference.

What I am concluding here then? Well, I’m concluding that this election really was lost late on by Labour. It was an utter defeat, snatched from an uninspiring score draw by late own-goals.

We know Labour lost Scotland slowly over the last decade or two with the watershed moment being Indyref. The trouble for Labour it seems is that they were the frog in the pan of slowly boiling water, being the last to know that they were dying.

Douglas Alexander, the now former Scottish MP, was heavily involved in both the Indyref and in Labour’s election campaign, and with his party’s defeat (including his own personal one) he must surely be the biggest culprit for what has occurred, with the possible exception of Ed Miliband.

As part of the “No” campaign that became a millstone (before that gimmick unveiled before the vote) around Labour’s neck going into the General Election, and then a campaign that seemed to make all the worst moves at the worst times, Labour’s election campaign was a listing ship, badly holed before it set sail, that finally rolled before it could reach the shore.

Having already been seen as toadying to the Tories, Labour was at least as much responsible as the Tories or Lib Dems for the failure of the Smith Commission to produce a credible or remotely acceptable level of devolution to Scotland. From that point on, it was always going to be a case of how bad was it going to be for them come May. But they still didn’t seem to see it.

A smart leader would have looked at that battlefield and retreated, cutting the losses & saving his troops for the decisive battle that was always going to be fought in England in its marginals. But Labour didn’t. They tried to save face and fought the hopeless, losing battle in Scotland. They tried in vain to turn around voters in Scotland whose minds were already set, whilst the Tories chipped away at the marginals in England.

And Labour got caught up in it. The Tories meantime played the bogeyman card to the bigots, zealots and pig ignorants in England that the SNP were going to wreck the place if they struck a deal with Labour.

And this is where Labour and Miliband made their final error.

Instead of ruling nothing in or out and keeping his options open, Mlliband ruled out any deal whatsoever.

Clearly Miliband believed, as the Tories evidently did, that the SNP being perceived as a threat to jolly old England was hitting a chord with some voters. But then that was because the Tories and the right-wing media was telling them that, and some people still believe what they read in the right-wing press.

Instead of saying that well, some people are stupid, and that we should stand-up against a party that would demonise the political choice of Scotland’s electorate (and not be so bloody offensive to Scotland in the process, especially so soon after wooing [conning] Scotland to stay in the UK fold), Miliband instead tried to play to the same people that this resonated with, instead of asking himself, do we really want to be associated with this; shouldn’t we actually do the opposite?

There are plenty of people in the UK who would have been happy with an SNP/Labour agreement as opposed to The Tories and any right-wing party deal. However, I very much doubt that Douglas Alexander, so soon after Indyref, was one of them.

And so Labour committed electoral suicide. It not only failed to counter the bigotry of the Tory argument about the SNP but sided with it. If there was any hope for saving a double-figure number of seats in Scotland, it surely disappeared then, when Labour went after the sort of Tory voters in England that it was probably better steering clear of.

This confirmed beyond doubt for most of the Scots left that might still vote Labour that they were not interested in Scotland and, in England, it left anyone thinking of voting Labour wondering how the hell was Labour going to govern if it was ruling out a deal with the only other party – according to those polls – that was capable of forming a Government with them?

So perhaps those polls weren’t wrong. Perhaps the change of mind occurred late. The undecided floating voters in England would have seen Labour and the Tories having a go at the SNP, a party that they know little about.Those voters probably heeded both, but as Labour were being negatively associated with the SNP, the floating voters went elsewhere.

Others that would have voted Labour, but having seen Labour vilified in Scotland, would have been concerned and perhaps were wondering why. They then see Labour ruling out a coalition with their (then) potentially most viable ally, the SNP, whilst Nicola Sturgeon virtually pleads for them to join forces against the Tories in order to keep them out. Miliband however seems to prefer no deal over any deal, thereby appearing to rule out any possible way of governing after a hung parliament, unless he’s expecting a Lib Dem surge – from nowhere. This of course, makes little if any sense and leaves at least some supporters scratching their heads.

Having perhaps not been entirely happy with Labour’s policies going into GE2015, at this point they may have wondered what was the point of voting for Labour at all.

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