Labour pains

A recent article in The Spectator provides the best account yet of life inside Labour’s dysfunctional campaign operation.

It describes how one party member couldn’t stop screaming when he first saw Ed Miliband’s 8-foot tablet of stone, how party leaflets were signed off without anyone seeing them, and how the now former leader continued writing his victory speech long after the exit poll pointed to a humiliating defeat.

Senior figures who just days ago were signed up to the Miliband programme now denounce it as a disaster, its inevitable failure evident to many (though apparently to few with the power of speech before May 7th).

A party that half-expected to be in power by now instead finds itself deep in crisis, unsure of its future direction, or if it even has a future.

But rather than pause to reflect on how it went so very wrong for Labour, the party seems instead to be rushing towards the very same wall it ran into just a few days earlier.

Chuka Umunna’s withdrawal from the leadership contest has left Andy Burnham the apparent front-runner. And it seems he is moving as quickly as possible to tie up so many Labour MPs that his rivals may struggle to find the 35 needed for a nomination.

Rumours abound of a Unite-led plot for a Burnham coronation, with Tom Watson — the man who ten years ago was plotting moves against Tony Blair — as deputy.

If Unite boss Len McCluskey wishes to avoid being characterised by the tabloids as a “union baron”, it might be time to stop acting like one.

Less than a fortnight after Labour’s worst election defeat in almost 30 years, the leader of Unite makes threats about ending support for the party unless the “correct” leader is chosen.

Almost two-thirds of Labour MPs are either members of Unite, or have received donations from the union, making it hard to see how any genuine debate about a change of direction is even possible.

The unions won’t get a block vote in this leadership election — but they’re rushing to persuade thousands of members to sign up as “affiliated supporters”, able to join the one-member, one-vote ballot.

It seems odd that so many within Labour would decide quite so quickly that what cost them victory was that they weren’t left-wing enough.

John Cruddas — the architect of much of Labour’s manifesto — has perhaps bizarrely been chosen to lead a review into what went wrong.

He’s already warned the party faces its greatest ever crisis — and right now it’s hard to know what the party even stands for.

Ed Miliband’s rejection of an EU referendum — part of Labour’s programme for government at the start of this month — has been jettisoned already by two leadership candidates.

One — Mary Creagh — wants to scrap the Mansion Tax as well.

And while Labour faces a four-month debate about its future direction, a Conservative government with a painfully thin majority can’t believe its luck.

By the time a new Leader of the Opposition is in place we’ll have had an emergency budget, and work will be underway on cuts totalling billions of pounds.

Labour’s naval-gazing, coupled with the near elimination of the Liberal Democrats, means the new government’s first few months will probably be a lot easier than many ministers would have expected.

Not that many of them expected to be there in the first place.