At some point in the last twelve months, the Conservatives realised they were not going to reach beyond their support at the last General Election, some 36% of the vote, and indeed were likely to fall short. With over a quarter of the 2010 Lib Dem vote going to Labour, a 2005 style Labour victory looked on the cards. The Tories, along with their adviser Lynton Crosby, decided that an all out negative attack on the Labour leader was the only way to wear down the Labour vote and deprive the Opposition of a majority.
We’ve seen their friends in the Tory-leaning media take up the attack with some pleasure, particularly amongst the Murdoch press who have been nervous about Miliband and his intention to take on vested interests post-Leveson. The more liberal-leaning press such as the Guardian have jumped on the opportunity to declare, yet again, that the two-party system is dead and to welcome the upward rise of the Greens, who have added a massive 3% to their vote in the past year putting them on a par with the Lib Dems on 6%. The media do not want a dull, never-in-doubt election like 2005.
Labour, in an almost unprecedented display of unity post-defeat, did not tear itself apart after 2010, yet with only 180 days to go before the next election, commentators are keen to foment the old divisions that so occupied their columns in the Blair/Brown years.
Labour is a broad church, a big party with many different traditions and groupings. But what unites us is greater than what divides us, at the core of our beliefs is coming together to act in the collective good. A belief in fairness and social justice.
We’ve seen here in Brighton and Hove how well the Green Party fares under the pressures of office. Not well. The absence of a Party Whip makes reaching and holding to difficult -decisions impossible. What unites them in opposition becomes untenable in power, and their lack of a coherent and binding set of common values is exposed. Their relentless attacks on Labour expose the misconceptions of many that they are allies.
UKIP’s attempts to sell themselves as the working persons champion don’t stand up to scrutiny, with a set of policies that make Tory actions in office look almost centrist, a leadership drawn from public school, banking elites and a fair smattering of former BNP and NF members. We’ve seen nationally how UKIP fall apart once elected, with their MEPs elected in 2009 being decimated by resignation, scandal and defection. We’ve seen that UKIP have the worst record of all of the UK parties for seat retention at a local government level, losing seats they gain at the first defence. UKIP are united only by what they oppose – the EU, immigration and the modern world in general – rather than by what they are for. A negative platform is never one that will hold together in office.
In Scotland the SNP are selling themselves as the left-wing alternative to Labour, yet their actions in office – such as selling their railways to the Dutch – belie that position.
In the final six months we will see all of these tactics used to try and stop Labour from gaining an overall majority. Character attacks on Miliband. The two-party system is dead. An anti-politics narrative. A focus on individuals rather than policy. All aimed at trying to ensure the Tories remain the largest party in the Commons with their advantage in English seats.
This election isn’t a game. Millions of people who have seen their living standards fall, their NHS run-down, their councils starved of cash, the housing prospects of their children vanish, need a Labour government. It’s up to us to accept the division and diversion, or to redouble or efforts to win.