John Harris

Journalist & Author

The crisis in the Labour party goes much deeper than Ed Miliband | John Harris

The party’s senior figures have done little in the past four years to indicate an understanding of the problems besetting its politics

Depending who you listen to, Labour has an Ed Miliband problem, an issue with its "anti-business" attitude, a shortage of what the venerable former Labour attack dog Damian McBride calls "fighters", or some combination of all these difficulties and more. But if action is taken, up to and including the post-election exit of the leader, the party will sooner or later be back in a world of surging confidence and thumping election victories, with its people striding around Whitehall like kings and queens. All will be well in the world, with Labour restored to glory: cue Things Can Only Get Better, and a shower of ticker tape.

And so to cold reality, and issues that run much deeper than any of those suggested by the political noise. With the age of either main party grabbing in excess of 40% of the vote clearly over, if the party’s poll rating is currently in the early- to mid-30s that may be as good as it gets. We should also wave goodbye to the notion of politicians as lever-pulling strongmen, and some magic formula whereby leaders might affect à la Blair or Thatcher to speak for a majority of the country. It would take a book or two to satisfactorily explain why, but the basics are simple enough: the demise of organised capitalism, the fragmented, atomised economy that took its place, the way that technology feeds a culture of scepticism, and the resulting disappearance of the kind of voter who goes to the polling station feeling a compelling sense of party loyalty.

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