Dead Ed: Time to Listen to the Regions

By Nathan Lee, Politics Correspondent 

What happened to the days when the Premier League was just Manchester United and Chelsea, Mourinho versus Ferguson, red versus blue? The title would slide one way and then the other, the status quo occasionally disrupted by a surprising league or FA cup run but by and large you knew where you stood. But then Manchester became less about United and more about City, Chelsea came under threat from a once marginalised club on the south coast. In the parlance of Bobby D, “the times they are a changing”.

And so is this the case in politics. The two party rule that has existed since the early 19th century has seldom looked as fragile as it does today. If ‘disillusioned’ were a party it would take a majority in parliament, while those who are politically active swaying between Labour and the Greens on the left and the Conservatives and UKIP on the right. The Liberal Democrats lose out when the electorate is both disillusioned and inactive, they can blame Russell Brand for an unavoidable political battering come May next year.

So should we be surprised at the proclamations that Ed Miliband’s days as Leader of the Opposition are numbered? A YouGov survey for LBC radio released today found that 49 per cent saw Miliband as a problem for his party, showing a clear desire for the Labour leader to be replaced before next year’s election if the party are to stand a chance at winning. But is this a demonstration of Miliband’s leadership (or lack of) or is it just typical of mainstream politics? In other words, would a survey on Cameron, Clegg or Osborne produce a different outcome?

The reality is that Miliband isn’t really fighting for his job. In the same way Tory politicians have defecting to UKIP, Labour politicians are voicing their disgruntlement with the current political order. What’s more, no one has the answer. As Richard Roberts pointed out in his blog on Labour last week, the trouble with Ed Miliband is that he has no big idea. There’s no talk of Blue Labour, pre-distribution or One Nation Labour. In fact, there are very few policies at all that differentiate the party from the crowd.

As the Torygraph gleefully pointed out, “even The New Statesman, the magazine which once championed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, is accusing him of failing to connect with the electorate”, saying he lacks a “compelling” back story and does not understand middle-class aspiration. But then, who does? Do UKIP understand? Do the Greens? They both represent a lack of an alternative rather than a viable choice.

The key to success for the big two lies in the regions. As Osborne and Cameron attempt to protect Britain’s interests abroad there hasn’t been enough consideration given to the region’s interests in Britain. The most popular politician in UK is the one who has the most devolved powers. London policies for the people of London. It’s an enviable position, but further exacerbates the north/south divide, the former being horrendously misrepresented.

The party which maps out a way of listening to the regions will be the one that turns disillusioned voters into supporters. Ed isn’t dead, but Westminster may soon be. After all, a 49 per cent approval rate isn’t bad at all, it’s typical.

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