Ed Miliband 'must do better in South to win general election' warns former Blair adviser

Blair adviser issues a warning to Miliband after party’s gains are put in shade by Ukip victories

Ed Miliband has been warned that Labour is not doing well enough in the south of England to be confident of winning an overall majority at the 2015 general election.

Although Labour made some gains in the South in last Thursday’s council elections, these were eclipsed by the dramatic advance by Ukip, undermining Mr Miliband’s rebranding of his party as “One Nation Labour.”

Nigel Farage’s party won more seats than Labour in areas such as Kent and Essex, which include several key marginal seats Labour needs to win to regain power in 2015.

Patrick Diamond, a senior adviser to both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when they were Prime Ministers, warned that Labour’s performance last week was “patchy” and “underwhelming”.

Writing in The Independent today, he says: “The truth is that Labour is still not doing well enough to be confident of victory. It is an inescapable fact that if the party is to win the next election, it has to do much better in southern England.”

Labour’s spell in the political wilderness between 1979 and 1997 was blamed partly on what was dubbed the party’s “southern discomfort”, which was relieved when Mr Blair broadened Labour’s appeal beyond its traditional supporters. Mr Diamond, who has studied Labour’s problem in the South, says Mr Miliband is right to argue that the public have moved on from New Labour.

But, after last week’s breakthrough by a right-wing populist party, he warns  that the Labour leader would be  wrong to think that people have shifted to the left.

“People no longer see policy issues in conventional ‘left’/’right’ terms,” says Mr Diamond. “Indeed, they are increasingly uncomfortable with the false choices implied by what passes for political debate at Westminster.”

Mr Diamond says: “The lesson of history is that Labour triumphs when, as in 1945, 1964 and 1997, it is seen as a party capable of uniting a broad spectrum of constituencies and classes.

“This means reaching out beyond narrow, partisan and tribal lines, demonstrating that Labour is a national party capable of governing in the national interest.”

He adds: “Winning voters’ trust to manage the economy competently, spend responsibly and tax fairly need not be achieved at the expense of improving conditions for those most in need, tackling inequalities of income and wealth. In challenging times, Labour must be a party capable of offering a hand up to those who want to get on, as well as a helping hand to those in trouble.”

Labour insists it is fighting back in its target constituencies in the South --  winning seven out of eight council seats in Hastings and three out of four in Harlow. It gained 12 seats in Hertfordshire, where Ukip gained none.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, told The Independent yesterday that Mr Miliband is making progress in the South, admitting this is  necessary both politically and electorally. “If you purport to lead  the country, you have to lead the whole of the country, not just pile up votes in sections of it to get yourself into Number 10,” she said. “The progress is very encouraging, but obviously we have further to go. We are building from a low base, or no base, in some areas.”

After Ukip’s success, Mr Miliband may come under pressure to drop his opposition to an EU referendum. But  Ms Harman said: “We need to look at their voters and their issues of concern, and to inspire their confidence – not just look at Ukip’s policies and adjust ours.”

Research by Ipsos Mori suggests that Ukip is most popular among men, working-class people and older voters. Its support is strongest in the South, South-east and Midlands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions