There are two reasons that don’t seem to have been picked up by the mainstream of the party. They are as follows:
1) We bought into the dog-whistle chorus against immigrants and welfare claimants. This failed to satisfy the right (nothing ever does) while alienating everyone else
This is Jon Cruddas, with Jonathan Rutherford, professor of cultural studies at Middlesex University:
For many young people without decently paid work and housing, it has become impossible to follow the conventional rites of passage into adulthood – leaving home, getting a job, establishing a family and taking on legal obligations and rights.
The consequences of this social marketisation were inevitable. Insecurity and a feeling of dispossession turned into hostility to foreigners. Righteous anger at class injustice soured into ethnic hatred. Self-interested individualism eroded the bonds of community and corrupted the ethics of public life. Chronic deprivation spawned self-destructive behaviour, addiction, mental illness, criminality and ‘conduct disorder’. These are symptoms of incivility, however, not its root causes.
The media responded by scapegoating recipients of welfare, single mothers and immigrants. Images of ‘chavs’ and ‘feral’ children legitimised the criminalisation and incarceration of the young and the poor. Government welfare reforms identified the poor as responsible for their own unemployment and poverty. As it sought to repair the tensions in its electoral coalition using right-wing populism, Labour lost its moral compass. More of the same is not the post-election solution that Labour needs.
2) We introduced expensive and intrusive security legislation that alienated what should have been our natural constituency
Launching her leadership bid, Diane Abbott said she was amazed that Labour had ‘lost the civil liberties agenda to the Tories. What were [we] doing bringing in ID cards in the first place?’
Although on balance I will vote for David Milliband, I think these two insights illustrate that the Labour left needs to be involved in the debate – as silly as some of its positions are. The parochial and miserabilist political culture in the UK needs to be challenged, not indulged. The dead end for Labour would be to ‘reconnect with our core vote’ by going on incessantly about immigration.