The scene was set, at the recent UK general election, for a turn to the left – as we have seen in many other Western countries – of precisely the kind that Ed Miliband pitched to the Labour Party in his leadership campaign, and then to the public, albeit in a slightly milder form.
After a prolonged economic crisis, inequality has become a core concern of a large part of the electorate, and even the chattering classes. The coalition government has presided over deeply unpopular spending cuts and an economic recovery which is, at best, uneven and exclusionary. And yet: Miliband delivered an abysmal electoral outcome, as the Conservatives shed their Lib Dem shackles and waltzed their way to a majority.
Miliband’s key failure has little to do with his poor communication skills, or apparent lack of experience. The clamour among some within Labour for a lurch back to the right is horrendously anachronistic: British politics has no centre-ground any more – the Lib Dems’ even more awful results show this. Our economy remains at an impasse, stuck between one further throw of the neoliberal dice, and an alternative developmental path where the destructiveness of phoney free markets is recognised.
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Image: Chatham House