The Labour Party lost the election because its policies and campaign lacked coherence; it appeared to be a collection of policies that did not have a common arching principle to connect them. The leadership always appeared to be on the defensive, and unable to reply with a counter narrative to that presented by the Tories.
Let us start with the argument of austerity and cuts to public spending as the answer to the 2008 economic crash. The argument by the Tories was that austerity is working, let us finish the job, and don't let Labour ruin the economy. The Labour Party, instead of pointing out the stupidity and the moral bankruptcy of austerity imposed following the crash as pointed out by world renowned economists (Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Ha-Joon Chang), agreed with it, and tried to match the Tories' public expenditure cuts.
Many economists would argue that without austerity the recession would not have lasted as long as it did, and the recovery would have been stronger and more sustainable, and without the pain and suffering these cuts inflicted on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. As it is this recovery is not sustainable, and it is largely based on inflating another Housing Bubble, and supporting financial markets through Quantitative Easing.
In an article in the Guardian, Ha-Joon Chang, the Cambridge University Economist, writes:
"When private sector demand collapses, as in the 2008 crisis, the government "living beyond its means" in the short run may actually reduce public debt faster in the long run, by speeding up economic recovery and thereby more quickly raising tax revenues and lowering social spending. If the increased government debt is accounted for by spending on projects that raise productivity - infrastructure, R&D, training and early learning programmes for disadvantaged children - the reduction in public debt in the long run will be even larger... The success of the Conservative economic narrative has allowed the coalition to pursue a destructive and unfair economic strategy, which has generated only a bogus recovery largely based on government-fuelled asset bubbles in real estate and finance, with stagnant productivity, falling wages, millions of people in precarious jobs, and savage welfare cuts"
Then there is the issue of the SNP. Here again Labour were forced to be on the defensive. Ed Miliband seemed to be in total panic about working with them. One may disagree with them on the issue of an independent Scotland, but why rule out working with them on issues of social justice, fairness, and measures to reduce the obscene inequality in our society. Patrick Cockburn summed it up well in the Independent thus:
"Labour ended up being squeezed twice: once by surging Scottish nationalism overwhelming their strongholds in Scotland, and then by newly awakened English nationalism stirred up by the Conservatives in England. Ed Miliband seemed to accept too easily the premise that the SNP had somehow earned pariah status, and any reliance on their support for a future Labour government had to be ruled out. The argument sounded weird and wholly unconvincing, and Labour always looked as if it was running scared, never counter-attacking by saying that Tory rabble-rousing against the Scots was itself weakening the union of the two countries."
Some in the Labour party are arguing that the party should go back to new Labour and Blairism. That, in my view, will push Labour into irrelevance. They will lose the support of those who still cling to the hope that they could be more radical, and capable of articulating a vision to counter the greed, selfishness and meanness espoused by today's crony capitalism.
People are looking for more than tweaking this policy or that. I believe Labour would do well to adopt many of the Green policies and make them its own. Such a move would transform the chances of both parties, and inject some hope and enthusiasm for politics, invigorating democracy in the process.
People worldwide are looking for fundamental changes in the way capitalism works, and they want honest principled politicians to lead them; minor adjustments at the edges will not cut it.
A Tory-lite Labour Party did not offer much of an alternative to its supporters, so they stayed at home and who can blame them!