Eggs, Ed, and the Decline of the Political Party

By Oliver Ford

Ed Miliband’s rare entrance into the headlines last week may have been viewed as an achievement by the Labour leader (in what otherwise has seemed to have been a self-imposed media blackout over the summer) were it not for the fact that this feat was achieved as a result of being pelted with an egg by a disgruntled member of the public. The pictures of the incident, which inspired intermingling feelings of amusement, pity, and scorn, were only minutes after the event to be found on Twitter, posted and viewed by the politically detached and cynical British Generation Y. As well as providing amusement, however, Ed’s ‘egging’ also seems to be the perfect example of the huge and increasing divide between the major political parties and the public that has characterised British politics of the 21st century so far, a divide which threatens a terminal decline of the traditional party model in the UK.

On one level, the assault demonstrates the sheer contempt that much of the public now holds for the perceived ‘elitist’ and remote political class that dominates the leadership of both major political parties. This is particularly true of Ed Miliband, (being pelted whilst on a visit to a ‘typical’ London market, seemingly on a desperate mission to exhibit his affinity with the ‘average’ person) who, being born into an academic and political family, was sped through Oxbridge and into a job as a ‘researcher’ before rising to the top of the party that perversely claims to have the interests of the average working man at its heart. Of course, the same is also true of both David Cameron and Nick Clegg (as well as a multitude of other Cabinet members), both of whom have followed an unsurprisingly similar career path to that of Ed Miliband. This wholesale detachment of political parties and their leaders from the very public they claim to represent has resulted in a de-humanization of Britain’s political life – from Miliband’s elitist and careerist view, voters become ‘target demographics’ and people’s worries and fears become ‘issue trends’, Miliband himself never having experienced a life comparable to that of most of the electorate. This dehumanization then serves to alienate the political class more, with politicians retreating into their own worlds of spin doctors and polls – fuelling the public’s hostility to mainstream politics even further. The effects of this elitism and resultant disillusionment are easy to see, particularly with the electoral decline of the two major parties – the Labour and the Conservatives Party’s combined vote falling from 86% in 1945 to 65% in 2011. UKIP’s recent rise in this context can also be explained – with leader Nigel Farage’s personable and grounded persona, as well as more ordinary background (never having attended university) being a key factor in the party’s rise. The divide between an increasingly irate and detached public (demonstrated by Ed Miliband’s egging) and an increasingly isolated political class is therefore both a symptom and a cause of the decline of political parties in Britain; with the ‘distance’ between politicians and the public turning so many away from mainstream politics, a ‘distance’ which only increases as fewer and fewer ‘normal’ people have an input in the running of the major parties.

The perpetrator of the egging himself offers reasons for the decline of the political party. In stating that Labour ‘does nothing’ for the poor, Dean Porter is expressing an opinion that many in the country of different political views now hold – that the major parties have become too ideologically similar, and in many aspects are the same. In Dean Porter’s case, this probably means Miliband has not done enough reverse Labour’s right-ward lurch towards the political centre under Blair (Miliband’s early characterisation as a dangerous radical – ‘Red Ed’ – now seems cruelly ironic); similarly, the Conservative’s base of support has been left feeling alienated by many of Cameron’s liberal centrist policies such as the legalisation of gay marriage and maintenance of the international aid budget amidst widespread cuts. This convergence of policy and ideology at the centre of the political spectrum is a consequence of the elitism and detachment described before, with the secession of the country’s political leadership from the rest of society meaning that parties have drifted from their traditional bases of support, attempting to find a near mythical vote winning ‘centre ground’. This search for a neutral centre ground, seems, however to be self defeating, because in looking for this centre ground, parties become more and more alike, antagonising the public even more, losing votes, and so contributing to their own decline.

However, the merging of Britain’s political parties into an indistinguishable centrist mass (demonstrated well by Miliband’s directionless leadership of the Labour Party) is more than another symptom of elitism – it is in itself an example of and reason for the decline of the political party, for if the major parties are no longer to take clear and consistent positions on a range of economic and social issues, what is the point in them at all? The recent successes of groups that take a more definite position on the political spectrum display the dangers that major parties face in failing to define and clarify their ideological standpoints – with George Galloway’s left wing Respect Party winning the 2012 Bradford West by election and the decidedly right wing UKIP now regularly polling over 10%. In fighting over the same narrow stretch of centre ground, and in doing so acknowledging that winning elections is now more important that maintaining ideological integrity, the UK’s main political parties seem to be committing collective suicide.

Of course, the death knell of the traditional political party has not been sounded just yet – traditional ‘bread and butter’ economic issues that have arisen with the financial crisis and ensuing squeeze on living standards may yet invigorate Labour and the Conservatives. The party structure has also not yet fully been discredited; with parties such as UKIP thriving with burgeoning memberships, the current malaise may only be affecting the tired and lethargic Conservative and Labour parties. There will also be those who will rejoice at the decline of traditional parties, viewing them as cumbersome anachronisms unable to serve Britain’s fluid modern society. On many occasions, traditional party politics on both sides of the political spectrum have failed the country – one only need only look to the dysfunctional 1970s to see the dangers of dogmatic machine politics.

However, despite this, ever since the work of political philosopher Edmund Burke in the 18th century, it has been accepted that in order to hold the executive to account and form functional governments, well organised and disciplined political parties are required; if this need can be combined with a more open, receptive and flexible but simultaneously principled and meaningful party system, perhaps Ed Miliband and the rest won’t remain such inviting targets for egg throwers.

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What does the Conservative Party have to do to win the next election?

By Matt Beebee

The 2010 General Election should have been a clear Conservative victory. It wasn’t. 64% of those that voted backed other parties. This was a perplexing outcome given the Tories were facing a tired and battered Labour Party, trudging through a global financial crisis with rising public debt. Under the leadership of the young David Cameron, who had shifted the party towards the centre ground, victory looked all but certain. Yet failure to win outright forced the Conservatives’ hand into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats; a relationship that has been tetchy to say the least.

The relatively poor show was always going to give the Conservatives, who were polling 20 points ahead of Labour before the 2010 election, an uphill struggle in the 2015 general election given the tough decisions they would have to make in government – on the economy in particular. Former Cabinet minister Michael Portillo has blunted declared “the Conservatives appear to be doomed” at the next general election. He could be right; no party has ever increased its share of votes at a subsequent general election since 1955.

With such pessimistic inevitability, should the Tories concede themselves to losing the election? No. Much could change during the remaining two years of government, but the Tories have three big obstacles they must – and more importantly can – overcome to win the next election.

First, there is the matter of the Labour Party. Despite Labour consistently polling around 10 points better than the Tories, they come out worse in two important polls: preferred leader and economic competence. Although it iz grossly unfair to dismiss Ed Miliband as a leader based on his physical appearance, the electorate do seem to lean favourably towards David Cameron’s style and aptitude as an orator. Labour’s continual dithering over turning ideas into policy, if left too late, could play into the Tories hands. To their credit, they have a plan and are sticking to it. Likewise, Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, is considered a prime target to personify Labour’s ineptitude with his rowdy, firebrand style of politics. The Conservatives will seek to push this idea; Labour has no strategy for taking tough decisions in government and opposes with little in the way of alternative policy.

Then there is Europe; the Conservative Party’s ‘elephant in the room’. Cameron has already committed himself to an in/out referendum in 2017 if he is Prime Minister. The paradox is that Cameron does not wish to leave the EU; he wishes to reform it politically while retaining the economically vital single market. He has felt the urge to accommodate the Eurosceptic crowd given the surge of UKIP and the perceived natural Euroscepticism because of Britain’s island culture. This pandering should be avoided. A YouGov poll from January stated 34% would vote to leave the EU while 40% would vote to remain. Cameron should instead be pushing for a reformed EU treaty – something he is confident of doing – that reclaims parliamentary sovereignty and supports economic liberalism, demonstrating that he does worry about European encroachment while emphasising that leaving the EU single market is to the detriment of the UK’s private sector. This should win back the Eurosceptic defectors and render a dangerous referendum unnecessary. Despite its many troubles, voters must remember the EU is still the world’s largest market and the UK’s major trading partner.

However, it is the economy that wins elections. Although ComRes, a polling consultancy, found the electorate are more likely to trust ‘Team Cameron & Osborne’ over ‘Team Miliband & Balls’ on the economy, this should not cause complacency. The deficit may have fallen year-on-year since 2010, but only minimally; public spending is continually higher than it should be, largely due to automatic stabiliser payments and continual ringfencing of certain government departments – international aid is a particular bitter pill for a domestic electorate facing squeezes. Removing ringfencing will allow for efficiency within departments, further reduce departmental spending on waste, while also freeing up money for capital spending projects, generating multiplier effects on job creation and consumer demand.

Unemployment continues to creep above 2.5million, too. More should be done to cut unnecessary red tape that hampers job creation. Pressing ahead with radical reform to the welfare system, although painful, seems to strike a chord with the electorate. If people can be pushed back into work through welfare and regulatory reform, job creation and growth will soon pick up. If growth, rising employment and greater deficit reduction can be achieved the Tories can at last claim to have moved the economy out of the doldrums, significantly boosting their electoral hopes.

Securing an outright majority in 2015 will be a tough ask for the Conservatives given the precarious position they defend and the fragility of the economy is by no means bound to change, despite recent upturns. With a clear focus on the right policy choices over the next two year,, so to outmanoeuvre their main rivals, the Conservatives stand a better chance of re-entering government in 2015.

Ed Miliband’s Clause IV moment

By Phil Lewis

Nineteen years ago Tony Blair shook the Labour Party by scrapping Clause IV of its constitution, signalling the start of a new era of progressive politics.  The old left that had seen the Party lose four elections in a row was fading fast.  And in terms of electoral results, it was an incredibly effective strategy.  The demands for nationalisation that Clause IV carried belonged to a by-gone era.  If Tony Blair hadn’t done it, someone else would have.

And now, after two years of skirting around the subject, Ed Miliband finally has to confront his Clause IV – the Labour Party’s relationship with the trade unions.  After they overstepped the mark in Falkirk last week, the Labour leader was forced into addressing the most significant remaining remnants of the old, now wholly unelectable face of Labour. 

By announcing that union members will have to actively choose to pay their dues to the Labour Party rather than (as it is currently) having to actively opt out, Miliband has continued the process of modernisation that Blair kick starting nearly twenty years ago.      

But it’s a difficult balancing act for Miliband.  After all, he built his reputation as a Brownite, and only pipped his brother for the leadership via the union vote.  His father was a famous Marxist academic, and he even interned for Tony Benn.  Blair on the other hand had little trace of real left-wing politics in his make-up (ex public school boy with a Tory father).  It was far easier for Blair to set himself apart from the old left of the unions.  He was a moderniser, a Third Way progressive, and a social democrat who believed in the market economy, take it or leave it.  Luckily for Blair, the public took it.  For Miliband it is far more difficult.

Yet, as his bold statements this week show, Miliband hasn’t shied away from doing what is necessary.  He branded the events in Falkirk as “the death-throes of the old politics“, saying that it was “rightly hated”.  He toed a fine line between the old and the new, stressing the importance of keeping working people at the heart of the Party as well as the need to reform union law.  In moving the focus from the collective to the individual he has made a self-consciously progressive move.                          

It seems Miliband wants to create a sort of sieve like relationship with the unions.  The more politically proactive union members will join up and become fully fledged members of the Party, while those who were paying their dues out of duty to the union will be filtered out.  Labour will increase membership and potentially gain many a useful activist, but lose a significant portion of its income. 

Union officials are predictably scathing about the plans, with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey dismissing the financial cost as too great a burden for the plans to be workable. 

But this goes beyond financial sacrifice.  This is an important step in a series of reforms that has made the Labour Party a credible electoral force.  Before Kinnock’s initial efforts and Blair’s subsequent and more substantial ones, the Labour Party simply was not electable.  They had become the party of perennial opposition, and a party who is forever in opposition slowly loses its credibility as a real alternative.  And so with the left hopelessly split, Thatcher never really faced a credible electoral challenge. (The fact that her own party had to throw her out in the end shows just how useless the left were).     

I’m not suggesting that a failure to follow through with these proposals would see the Labour Party return to 1980s levels of ineffectiveness.  I am suggesting however that modernisation of Labour’s relationship with the unions has been on the cards for some time, and, like Blair’s scrapping of Clause IV, was bound to happen eventually.  Falkirk was merely the tipping point.  The straw that broke the camel’s back.  

And if Miliband successfully follows through he will have proved once and for all that he is not merely a union puppet, and that he may just have the necessary backbone to be PM.    

Something old, new, borrowed and blue: Labour’s wedding punch-up

By John Newton

It has become de rigueur for political leaders to brook dissatisfaction and dissent from within their parties by describing their membership as being drawn from a ‘broad church’. However for Labour, ancient tensions and nascent feuds have meant that the party now more closely resembles the motley congregation at the tail-end of a bitter and boozy wedding reception.

Entrenched loyalties, noxious rivalries and ideological shifts mean that any honey-moon period Ed Miliband might have enjoyed will probably be cut short as spurned bridesmaids and thuggish uncles size each other up across an almost entirely vacant dance floor – wondering if their moment in the middle has come and gone.

In the long shadows of the darkest corner, we have something Old. The Old Labour faction – formerly known as Labour. They don’t understand why the DJ hasn’t got the Red Flag in his record bag, or why their leader makes jokes about being unjustifiably called ‘Red Ed’. The ticket that they first stood on has shifted beneath their very feet and the ‘true- Labour’ policies they espouse such as nationalisation of utilities, workers’ right as well as nuclear non-proliferation and solidarity with Palestine, are seen by the leadership as politically toxic.

Amongst this group are the family elders, warmly greeted by the leadership before being wheeled to the back of the hall in the hope they won’t cause a scene.  Their grumblings rarely change policy and are increasingly at odds with the leading lights, keen to retake the reins of power.  A good example of this was the recent rebellion over benefits sanctions in the Jobseekers Bill, which included long-standing Old Labour rebels such as Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn but also influential ministerial staff such as Ian Mearns who resigned as a PPS to Ivan Lewis in the wake of the rebellion. These are members from the bowels of the movement and they’re not short of guts when it comes to defying the whip.

However, these are not just Labour’s venerable patriarchs to be acknowledged but not adhered to like the tenets of some faded religion. Hanging around the exits menacingly are the stout, massed ranks of the unions – the ‘salt-of the-earth uncles’ and’ cousins-once-removed’ that the more aspirational leadership was reluctantly obliged to invite and continually agonise over the potential for a faux-pas that the presence of these poor relations could lead to.

They were right to worry, the head of the PCS union Mark Serwotka, has recently been hinting at calls for coordinated “generalised strike action” and this week Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey has warned Ed Miliband against being “seduced” by the upwardly mobile Blairite grouping.

This is something new. The New Labour group, which had held almost absolute autonomy over the Labour Party for the last 20 years, has been left feeling decidedly jilted after Ed Miliband beat new Labour protégé David to the Labour leadership. They, like the suave ex-boyfriend, are most likely to be holding court in exquisite dejection at the bar, disconsolately discounting the sub-par choices available on the frankly provincial wine list. These are politicians – it must be remembered – who knew Clinton, oversaw exponential growth and strode the world stage.

This grouping, while not completely in the political wilderness fervently believe that it is only through their brand of centre-ground aspirational politics that Labour could ever win a functional parliamentary majority.

The most notable dig at the current Leader’s new found happiness came from Tony Blair in the New Statesmen.

The message was clear, not only is the Leaderships current choice of political partner not right for him, they should have never have broken up in the first place, he said “In 2007/08 the cyclically adjusted current Budget balance was less than 1% of GDP. Public debt was significantly below 1997”.

He seems to imply the reason that Labour and the country fell so sharply out of love with the Blair model was all a misunderstanding  and that it would be a mistake for the Leader to go back to the safe old policies of mutualisation and regulation which would make the State bloated and dowdy. Don’t tie yourself down, don’t settle so easily. The Blair doctrine is fluid and pragmatic rather than ideological and doctrinal.

Miliband, it would appear, is right to be forewarned against such seductive invitations.

These are not just invocations from the desert, the Blairite reach extends well within the walls of Miliband’s administration. The past few weeks have seen a litany of old Blairite bridesmaids appearing in the media to proffer opinions and prognoses on all the Nation’s ills. Former ministerial chameleon John Reid’s vociferousness has been matched only by his ubiquity on news programmes in recent weeks as well as Peter Mandelson’s intervention sneering that Miliband “patently” does not have a robust platform to stand on for the next election.

Within Miliband’s Cabinet too, the surviving remnants of the old New Labour cling on. Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy and Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne are notable examples. Just because they are on the altar it doesn’t mean they haven’t hidden the rings. While there has been no great sedition from within the Shadow Cabinet as yet, it presents an unspoken challenge to Miliband’s nascent policy realignment.

This new policy direction hinges on something borrowed. More specifically something borrowed from nineteenth century Tory politician Benjamin Disraeli – the concept of One Nationism. This it would seem has so far acted as a by-word for an all-encompassing and radical policy that has yet to happen. Wisely Miliband has allied himself to a conceptual attitude of inclusion rather than a concrete set of policies.

Broadly (as there is no other way to take it currently) Miliband’s formulation of the One Nation idea seems to rest most keenly on the idea of Mutualisation. After the centralisation of the Blair-years, things will now be devolved down to a more local level. It is difficult not to see this in context as being a minor shift left, although it should be noted that much of Miliband’s One Nation rhetoric is widely indistinguishable from Steve Hilton’s conception of Big Society.

Despite this the idea retains the potential to harken back to old old Labour, due to this mooted focus on the mutual. This would seem to be Miliband’s wedding gift from the right. It allows him to speak to Labour voters’ aspirations and concerns in terms that Conservatives would be loath to tarnish.

Its genus rests in something blue. Blue Labour, the notion proposed by Maurice (now Lord) Glasman,  that forms the policy machinations – such as they are- that function beneath the One Nation banner. Many of these have been assimilated with the continuing policy work undertaken by Jon Cruddas.

Miliband and Glasman, must be seen then as the couple taking an awkward turn around the darkened dance-floor. Despite all other old enmities and oblique barbs, all eyes rest on them. The Party that has become a reception expects them to produce results.

Surrounded by intervention, interference and sedition, they are the ones currently in the middle of this maelstrom. However, as Glasman is keen to stress being in the middle is not synonymous with being in the Centre. In the Guardian, he has called for leadership over consensus to form a “new political position”. This may be just as well, as the Labour Party seems to be suffering a pronounced dearth of consensus with the factions increasingly willing to engage each other on open ground.

They haven’t quite reached the car park yet, but the chin jutting, barracking and chest beating would seem to suggest that it can’t be long until a rambunctious uncle bundles a nefarious bridesmaid through the fire exit for a party political pasting.

Writing on the LabourList website state-side star transfer and new Labour campaign organiser Arnie Graf misquoted WB Yeats saying: “when the centre will not hold, things fall apart”. He may have unwittingly encapsulated the strife inherent in the scuffle between the most powerful factions to wrench the Labour Party, from its New Labour home on the centre-ground, left to the promised new One Nation pastures.

Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’: What should it mean?

By James Aisthorpe

Ed Miliband’s speech at the Labour Party conference in Manchester last week is perhaps best described as triumphant. It was met by rapturous applause by the Labour faithful and Ed was affable, clear and confident while speaking ‘without notes’. Labour MP Tom Watson called it ‘the best leader’s speech’ he had ever heard.

Certainly it was not a speech that is going to be skipped over by the history books, particularly if Labour should win the next general election. Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech could well emerge as a pivotal point in the development of UK politics. It was that good.

It was of course, as many commentators have already noted, quite audacious to co-opt the term ‘One Nation’, two words which together are traditionally associated with the Tories, but we’re certainly going to be hearing a lot more about it. Undoubtedly ‘One Nation’ is primed to become the flagship policy of the Labour Party for at least the next two years.

So what is ‘One Nation’? Well, that’s the thing, we’re not really that sure. Ed’s speech was a little devoid of policy and so, right now, ‘One Nation’ seems a little…vacuous. Exactly what ‘One Nation’ is and how it translates in to real policy is something that the Labour Party need to articulate and disseminate quickly.

Failing to add substance to the ‘One Nation’ theme would be to repeat the mistakes of the Conservative Party and their ‘Big Society’ initiative. Relaunched on four separate occasions, ‘Big Society’ sounded all fluffy and wonderful but in truth, like a cloud, it was vaporous. As Conservative MP Jo Johnson (that’s right, Boris’s brother) put it, ‘Big Society’ was ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘intangible’.

‘One Nation’ needn’t be that way. ‘One Nation’ can’t be that way. It has to mean something.

As Ed Miliband noted in his speech, economic inequality is on the increase in the UK. The gap between the richest and the poorest is growing and the working class can do little but watch as the already privileged work to enlarge their piece of a stagnated economic pie.

Exorbitant bonuses for bankers who have failed to facilitate economic growth and a Prime Minister and Chancellor who have awarded themselves a 5% tax cut while forcing student tuition fees through the roof are just two examples of the ways the system and the current government have promoted inequality.

A top heavy economy, one in which money is most concentrated among a few wealthy individuals, cannot grow. As money moves from the bottom to the top overall spending naturally decreases since the rich don’t need to spend as high a percentage of their income to live comfortably as those less well off do.

So simply from an economic standpoint ‘One Nation’ must redress the economic balance if we want to see sustainable growth.

But it is not only the economic polarization that needs fixing; economic asymmetry has bred social polarization in British society. Both the upper and working class see the other as free-loaders and cheats.

Both have a case. There are those in the upper class who have used their already privileged position to make further gains. Consider the expenses scandal, tax evasion worth over £14 billion in 2010/11 and the intricate web of crooked elite relationships that have been revealed by the Leveson and Hillsborough inquiries. The working class are, quite rightly, angry.

Unfortunately when that anger boils over, when the working class and those disenfranchised by the current system protest, occupy or even riot then those who want to maintain their privilege don’t describe these actions as what they really are: a reaction against simple unfairness. Instead they label the rioters as opportunists, the occupiers as lazy, the protesters as hooligans. And many in the upper class are quite happy to accept this ill-fitting stereotype, it maintains the illusion that what they have they earned on their own rather than through the accident of birth that gave them a double-barrelled surname.

‘One Nation’ has to tackle this class divide as well as the economic divide. In many ways these ailments will require a similar medicine. Reducing inequality will reduce the friction between classes. Furthermore reducing inequality is going to help the economy as a whole.

‘One Nation’ must start by taking on those who cheat the system for personal gain. Tax evasion and benefit fraud must be treated as equal wrongs. Under ‘One Nation’ it would make sense for HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to come together and share their expertise in cracking down on people who abuse the system. We need to treat tax evasion and benefit fraud as the same crime so that participating in one cannot be rationalised by the fact that people are participating in the other. ‘One Nation’ should tell people that if you are a tax evader you are just as bad as a benefit cheat and vice versa.

Second, ‘One Nation’ must encourage economic growth through progressive taxation. Giving a tax cut to millionaires won’t grow the economy because they aren’t going to spend that money, they don’t need to, it’s going to be put away in a bank, maybe a Swiss one, and never be seen or heard from again. ‘One Nation’ should put more money in the pockets of normal working people so that they can spend it on birthday parties and trips to the seaside that they couldn’t otherwise afford. This way the seaside fish and chip shop can stay in business, grow, hire more employees, buy more fish and potatoes and help grow the economy as a whole.

Third, ‘One Nation’ must stop the war on benefits. Yes, we should make sure that people aren’t cheating the benefit system but almost everybody who claims benefits are doing so fairly. A social safety net is vital to an economy, without it people are too busy worrying about where their next meal is coming from to even consider looking for work or inventing new products. Without a social safety net J.K. Rowling could never have written the Harry Potter series.

‘One Nation’ must assure the rich that their higher taxes are not being given away to cheats but should remind them that, in the long term, they, and everybody else, can become even wealthier by helping to grow the economy rather than looking to grab a greater portion of one that isn’t growing. The working class, meanwhile, need to be shown that the wealthiest, those who have benefited the most from the system, are putting their fair share back in. The working class must also be encouraged to climb the economic ladder by a social safety net that will catch them should they fall but only if those who can get back on that ladder do.

With the correct policies ‘One Nation’ has the potential to really improve class relations and trust among people is important to an economy. The different classes no longer trust each other. Fixing that is what ‘One Nation’ should be about.

Local Elections 2012: a powerful blow from an effective opposition, or a voter-toxic Coalition?

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c/o NevilleHobson

By Luke Prescott

The local elections in England, Scotland and Wales have seen huge gains for the Labour party. Indeed, if mirrored in a general election vote Labour would have a comfortable majority, with Labour taking 38%, the Tories on 31% and the Lib Dems 16%. Big gains across swing seats in the South and Midlands illustrate that Labour and Ed Miliband are making the required headway into the seats that decide elections; even in Cameron’s own backyard.

So, is Ed Miliband leading Labour back to power for 2015 with an effective opposition? Not exactly; the current government is an opposition in itself and does not require a formal opposition to sit in Parliament alongside it. Cameron and Clegg (along with their lieutenants) wage war with each other on a number of issues (like the AV referendum) and have been doing so for some time. The beleaguered and delayed reform of the House of Lords is likely to give way to more open disagreement between the PM and Deputy PM.

The infighting of the Coalition is not going away, for both parties’, it useful in distinguishing themselves as each Party proves toxic to their opposite party’s core voters. This provides breathing space for Labour, as the Coalition partners save the most visceral of attacks for one another. Such an atmosphere is new to the opposition, and Ed Miliband needs to seize the opportunity to run a clean campaign in the run up to the general election.

Whilst the Lib Dems bleed the Tories by seemingly tying them down to the centre ground, and the Lib Dems haemorrhage voters, Miliband can concentrate, not on attacks, but on saving the NHS and tangible plans to nurture the economy back to health. Tory MP Gary Streeter has suggested that the Conservative party faithful are ”gagging” for the government to veer right on domestic issues traditionally seen to be in the Tory backyard, such as law and order, and the police. These credentials have been damaged of late; the cuts to police forces are seemingly to blame for the riots spreading around London, and the rest of the country.

Not only domestic issues, but the rise of UKIP (securing around 13% of votes where it fielded candidates) is also an inevitable source of tension. UKIP have seized the EU vacuum. Pressure has mounted on Cameron from influential elements of the Tory party to renegotiate and repatriate powers from the EU before the next election.

The pressure to veer right on domestic issues, such as the upcoming Lords Reform and Tory backbenchers eager for a Euro-showdown, will lead to disarray in the Coalition in the lead up to 2015. Ed Miliband has two roles in opposition: to derail the current Government, and then to promote his own. With one of these responsibilities taken care of already, Labour can concentrate on portraying themselves as the natural successors of the beleaguered Coalition in 2015. A positively run campaign will distinguish Labour and Ed Miliband from the pack, as voters shun austerity and hardship for a more optimistic vision.

However, a pit fall may come in the danger of losing national focus. The major legislative debates over the coming years will lead to inter-coalition battles and the media will continue to feed into the idea of a strained marriage between two coalition partners, seemingly putting on a brave face for the kids. Ed Miliband and Labour will struggle to be heard at times, and a danger is that at the next election they may look like the kid at a wedding, struggling to find a seat at the grown up’s table.