If things were that bad for as many people as Ed Miliband made out, he'd surely have won by a landslide
The rhetoric from the Labour Party in the lead up to the General Election in May made Britain sound like a post-apocalyptic nightmare; half the country enjoying daily champagne baths while the other half scratched a living in a frozen wasteland.
Miliband did a lot of talking about all the struggling people out there who deserved a better Britain. He talked of despairing people on zero-hours contracts who didn’t earn enough to feed their families.
He gave plentiful examples of disabled people struggling to get by because the bedroom tax left them unable to fend for themselves. He talked of nurses, doctors, teachers, police officers and firefighters desperately underpaid and overworked to breaking point due to Tory cuts to the public sector.
That’s a hell of a lot of people you’d think must have been desperate to turf out the Tories at the first opportunity, in favour of a left-leaning government-in-waiting poised and ready to save the day.
A Unite survey in the midst of the election battle estimated that 5.5 million people were working on zero-hours contracts. The Department for Work and Pensions puts the number of disabled people in the UK at 12 million and those with a disabled person in their family numbering four times that figure.
There are almost half a million nurses and 150,000 doctors employed by the NHS, along with 1.3 million staff working in our schools and 130,000 police officers and 40,000 fire fighters keeping us safe.
Without even beginning to count the 2 million unemployed people, 2 million students and millions of others that must have been affected by the Tories and their war on the have-nots, that’s the votes for a healthy majority government right there for the taking. In fact, if they all came out to vote, Labour might have won every single seat on offer, let alone the election.
Then when the time came for Britain’s voting public to choose who it wanted to run the country, Labour garnered a paltry nine million votes and lost the election. The question is, if things were really as terrible as Ed Miliband et al had spent the last five years telling us, why did so few of these persecuted millions feel compelled to vote Labour?
The fact is, while there is clearly an unacceptable number of people living through terrible experiences because of what the Tories were then doing, and now will continue to do for the next five years, that number simply isn’t as big as the Labour campaign would have us believe. If it was, Labour would surely have won by a landslide.
Labour now has to face up to the fact that for most people, including many of the teachers, doctors, nurses, students disabled people and zero-hours contract workers, things really can’t be that bad. They might not be all that good for a lot of people, but it certainly could be worse.
There are a lot of people who are just about comfortable, and that’s enough. Enough to vote Tory for some, enough to not bother voting at all for many others. And most importantly of all, enough not to risk voting Labour for all but a few.
With the leadership contest now in full swing, there are worrying signs that the Labour Party hasn’t learned a thing from its embarrassing defeat at the General Election. In fact, in its panic to be different, there is a danger it could lurch further left, decreasing the size of the available voting pool still further.
Of course, calls for change are to be expected, and are necessary, but there are few clear signs that any of the candidates really understand what that change should entail – Jeremy Corbyn aside.
It’s a grim situation when the candidate making the most impact is the one who all the evidence suggests will take Labour’s 30 per cent vote share of 2015 and halve it in 2020. What it does show is the power of a clear vision, however suicidal that vision might be.
Much of the rhetoric from Burnham, Kendall and Cooper still features a muddle of references to the plight of the embattled few rather than setting out a clear vision on what matters to the many.
It may seem heartless to suggest, but the Labour Party should consider that perhaps the best way to help those experiencing really desperate times in this country is to communicate with the many more who aren’t.
It’s the only way to win power. Without which, Labour aren’t in a position to begin helping anyone.
Louis Clark writes on business and politics at medium.com/@louisclarkPR and is a member of the Chingford & Woodford Green Labour Party.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.