Labour are in real trouble. I know coming from a Lb Dem that might sound a bit rich, but hear me out. The result on Thursday was Labour’s worst performance since 1987, and even ’87 was better as at least the party were on the up and came into that election with very little real hope of winning. Right up until that exit poll came out Thursday evening, most of us thought Miliband had a realistic shot at Number 10, of at least being able to put together an alliance that would get him there.
Now the Labour Party is facing an existential crisis. The trade unions could be about to get shirty (McCluskey did say some time ago that if Labour didn’t win the election, they’d think about disaffiliating. The Labour Party most definitely did not win the election). The next choice of leader could be crucial. Do they go all Blue Labour, vacating the centre ground totally, or do they try and go Blair without the neocon baggage?
Talk around who will be the next Labour leader has focused already on an Andy Burnham v Chuka Umunna scrap. The choice there is pretty clear, and most pundits think it will be Burnham in the end (although, as a needed caveat, most pundits thought we were inevitably headed for another hung parliament). But what if there was someone else who could move into the fray, I’m thinking here about the prodigal son of progressive British politics?
JK Rowling sent a tweet yesterday that has people speculating that David Miliband might about to re-enter British politics. Now, a social media message from a fantasy novelist shouldn’t be enough to invite speculation about who the next leader of the opposition might be, but these are very strange times. David would have to win a by-election and fast, but that’s not the world’s hardest thing to engineer. Is this a real possibility?
I’d say yes, and here’s why. Because progressive politics, the left of centre, whatever you wish to call it is, to put it politely, totally fucked. We are facing the very real possibility of decades of successive Tory governments. If that is to be avoided, the Labour Party really needs to think outside the box.
Obviously, David Miliband would have to want to throw his hat in the ring and go through all of the rigmarole involved. I can’t read his mind and have no idea if that’s on his radar, obviously. But if he was keen, he’d have a decent shot. The top ranks of Labour are so uninspiring at present (can you imagine when Blair was busy getting majorities that there would come a time when Andy Burnham would be the clear favourite for party leadership?) that he’d be a frontrunner by default.
One way or another, Labour needs a massive rethink, realistically on the scale of the post-1983 fallout. Every option should be explored. And just to be clear, this isn’t some wish fulfilment on my part; it would take a lot more than David Miliband becoming leader to make me join the Labour Party, I’ll tell you that right now. All I know is, they need to do something. And Andy Burnham, bless him, is not going to be prime minister, is he? If Labour veer off to the left following this debacle, the Tories can relax. 2020, or whenever the next election is after the Fixed Term Parliament Act gets repealed, is in the bag for them.