The 25th of September 2010 was when it all went wrong for the UK Labour party, not the 7th of May 2015. Nobody should have been surprised; not the politicians nor the media. The bloody nose that the Labour party had been asking for, and which the electorate duly delivered, was trailered in other bloody election defeats – of Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot.
In the build up to this May’s General Election all the talk was about how close the result would be – too close to call apparently. Afterwards the pundits lined up to deliver pallid excuses about how they’d managed to call the election so badly, with “voters made their minds up late” being perhaps the lamest of them all. Poor pundits, they had no way of expressing the truth because it is so unpalatable, so mindlessly horrible, so reminiscent to a rational adult of the bad old days of the playground bully. The truth is simple: Labour was smashed at the polls because Ed Miliband looks like a nerd and speaks like a man chewing a bee.
I’m being harsh on the bee chewing, Ed can’t help his adenoidal issues. But here I am, apologising for attacking a man because of a physical characteristic he can do nothing about. Neil Kinnock was similarly unbeautiful and spoke with a Welsh accent, and Michael Foot looked like the old mariner in a duffel coat stolen from a scarecrow.
So what happened to Labour’s vote? Where did it go, and why? The answer is simple: it went to Nicola Sturgeon. That’s right, it went to a person and the attachment to a political party is purely coincidental. If the jowly, sour-puss Alex Salmond had remained as head of the SNP then they would never have taken all those seats from Labour. He just doesn’t look or sound right. There is no other explanation for how Mhairi Black could have defeated the vastly more experienced and pretty famous Douglas Alexander. She didn’t defeat him, of course, her leader defeated Douglas’ leader and she won as a consequence. If Mhairi Black had to win a debate on just about anything with Douglas Alexander he would quickly make her look like the naïve, 20-year-old novice she is. Who needs a naïve novice to promote their interests in parliament? It’s like fielding a goldfish as your champion in a pool full of sharks.
All of England knew that David Miliband was a much better candidate than Ed, not that he was perfect by any means, but because he looked and sounded like a man who could represent them. Tony Blair’s election victories were precisely that – his victories. Gordon Brown could never have won and all you had to do was look at him and listen to him speak to know that. John Major, twice victorious in elections for the top job, was lucky that in his time he came up against John Redwood (trekkie Vulcan lookalike with a hint of Sith Lord), Neil Kinnock (Welsh accent and hardly going to win any prizes for beauty), and Michael Hesseltine who had been mortally wounded in his battles with Margaret Thatcher and Leon Brittan.
Now that Labour are going to elect a new leader I would urge them to remember one thing above all others: the electorate are shallow, so pick a leader who looks good and sounds good. Nobody reads the stupid manifesto, or cares about your policies, they only say they do (as you have learnt to your cost). Ninety percent of the electorate don’t recognise ninety-nine percent of politicians or know what they do. Nobody with half a brain trusts politicians (and that’s not going to change) or believes they can deliver on their promises without a huge slice of good fortune. Sad though it is to admit, aesthetics matter far more than belief or integrity. It’s not an election you need, it’s a beauty parade.