“Labour’s crushing election defeat has given way to bloodletting, as leading Blairites turn on Ed Miliband and the Labour left, presaging a bitter ideological battle” for leadership, says George Parker in the FT. In its worst performance since 1987, Labour won 232 seats, 99 fewer than the Conservatives, leading to Miliband’s resignation.
A “burst of activity” from the likes of Lord Mandelson was meant to “stall” any momentum behind a leadership bid by Andy Burnham, former health secretary and favourite of the unions. Meanwhile, Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, has thrown his hat into the ring, as has Liz Kendall, a Blairite shadow health minister.
“Choosing a new leader is important, but not nearly as important as choosing a direction,” says Tony Blair in The Guardian. The path to the top “lies through the centre ground”. Labour must stand for “ambition and aspiration as well as compassion and care”.
Labour proved “incapable of offering a compelling vision” around which a “progressive but pro-capitalist electorate could coalesce”, says Will Hutton in The Observer. Miliband was “reaching for” a “new One Nation politics of social justice, a progressive, inclusive capitalism and a strong public infrastructure”, but his “unreconstructed political base in the party and the unions” and the perception that he was “anti-business” let him down. A Labour leader must be “unambiguously on the side of wealth generation”, even while suggesting a more inclusive architecture.
A weakness of Miliband’s was a tendency to come up with a “universal theory” then adjust reality to fit, says Robert Harris in The Sunday Times. His conviction was that the 2008 crash produced huge inequality and provoked public anger, meaning 2015 would be a year for “change”. This view spawned policies such as the “unworkable” mansion tax. Yet for all of Labour’s despair, by 2020 there is likely to be a “yearning for change”. To benefit, Labour needs a leader who “challenges the cosy certainties of the left rather than panders to the prejudices of the faithful. They will need a new form of Blairism – even if they cannot stomach Blair.”