It might be thought odd that the Labour party could win the general election taking place on May the 7th and that Ed Miliband, the party’s much derided leader, could soon be Prime Minister. Only five years since the end of the financial crisis, the side effects of which put £1 trillion on Britain’s national debt, Labour is back demanding another go at running the economy. What could possibly go wrong?
The Conservatives hope that the polling figures of the two main parties will diverge in the final weeks and days, although for now the parties remain stuck roughly level. If that situation persists until election day, Labour wins thanks to the vagaries of the election system and the shape of the constituency boundaries.
Despite there being little between the parties at this stage, it is regarded as almost unthinkable at Westminster that Labour could win.
Miliband’s team doesn’t see it like that and has no option other than to go flat out with a largely negative message, aimed at countering the Tory lead on the economy and the charge that Miliband is about as much use as chocolate teapot.
Here, then, is a quick election guide to how Labour plans to win. The party’s message has three components and it is as follows:
1) On the doorstep the main message delivered by canvassers, reinforced by media appearances by the Labour leadership is that the economic recovery has not filtered through. The Tories keep boasting about “their” recovery, says Labour to British voters. Do you personally feel better off? The answer from a lot of voters is “no.”
2) The Tories, Labour will say, enjoy making cuts because it gives them an ideological kick. The issue of the NHS in particular will be framed in that way. Public spending restraint is necessary, they will say, but the Tories will cut deeper than is really needed, in order to give money to their rich friends.
3) Never mind Miliband. Labour can’t hide its leader but there is an acceptance among some of his advisors that his public image is what it is. Labour candidates are leaving him off leaflets. The message is vote for the Labour brand and Miliband might turn out to be not as bad as you think.
I am not endorsing any of this. I think what Labour would do on tax and micro-management of the economy would be disastrous. If you think markets are under assault now, just wait until Ed Miliband gets going given half a chance. As I said, I am not endorsing him. I am merely explaining how he aims to win.
There are serious complicating factors, of course. Labour may be dying in Scotland and facing something close to wipeout. Sometimes parties die. I suspect it is happening to Scottish Labour, which knocks Miliband’s starting line back quite a long way. The Tory machine is also ruthlessly focussed on turning this into a choice between Cameron and Miliband. However, if that doesn’t work, and Labour wins, it will be because its message (call it desperate, call it evidence of Miliband having a brass neck) is potentially more powerful than is imagined right now.