As Labour lurches toward its leadership election, a mere seven weeks away, here we name the 12 guilty men — well actually, 11 men and one woman — who between them should take responsibility for Labour’s disastrous election rout and subsequent nervous breakdown.
Brother of the failed leader, Ed, he could have been Labour’s savior if he hadn’t bottled the chance — twice — to stand against Gordon Brown in 2009 and 2010. Fellow cabinet ministers James Purnell and Patricia Hewitt, among others, had tried to foment enough discontent for him to challenge Brown. Purnell even resigned his cabinet post on Miliband’s behalf. And still he didn’t have the nerve to take on Brown’s famous clunking fist. As a result, when he finally decided to run after the 2010 election defeat, his brother stood against him. And the rest is ugly history.
The ultimate “if only” man. If only he’d resigned from the cabinet with James Purnell in 2009, as Purnell expected, the coup against Gordon Brown would have been inevitable. If only he’d agreed to take over from Ed Miliband halfway through the last parliament, Labour would have had a decent chance of winning. If only he’d agree now to be a caretaker leader, the party would have a better choice of leadership candidates in 2018. But Johnson is a rare politician in not aspiring to be promoted beyond what he sees as his abilities. And he’s even rarer in understanding that political success isn’t the most important thing in life.
Brown is the exact antithesis to Johnson. He never understood how ill-equipped he was to be prime minister. He lacked the emotional intelligence, the charisma, the patience and even — as it turned out — the vision of what he wanted to do once he got the job he’d spent a lifetime plotting for. His legacy? A party that may spend decades shaking off a reputation for spending too much and regulating (the banks) too little. And a party still riven by bitter faultlines between Brownites and Blairites, even though neither man is in parliament any more.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, the bookies’ favourite for the Labour leadership still insists that the 2015 manifesto was the best he had ever fought on. So which part of the message the voters gave Labour in May does he not understand? Burnham is doubly culpable as he encouraged some of his parliamentary supporters to lend their nominations to Jeremy Corbyn so Burnham wouldn’t be the most left-wing candidate in the race. The result? A full-blooded socialist 1970s throwback is now seriously in the running to lead the party.
The Socialist French president’s victory in 2012 gave Labour false hope that European democracies were moving to the left, and that an anti-austerity message could win them an election. The fact that, within two years of winning power, his approval ratings hit record lows of just 13 percent might have given Ed Miliband the tiniest hint that his example was not to be emulated.
The only woman on this list spotted — along with her predecessor Alex Salmond — that the Scots were fed up with Labour taking them for granted. The Scottish Labour machine had become idle and complacent. When Labour joined up with the hated Tories and Liberal Democrats to fight the No to independence campaign, the SNP were gifted a fabulous electoral opportunity. All they had to do was hold on to the 45 percent of the vote they won last September, and they would wipe out the other three parties in the general election. That’s just what Sturgeon did.
The most successful politician in Labour’s history should have done more to entrench his legacy. He was dismal at succession planning: had he promoted David Miliband to a big job after the 2005 election, the young pretender would have been better placed to run against Brown for the leadership in 2007.