Local elections results 2014: Ed Miliband attacked by his own MPs after disappointing returns
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 23 May 2014
Ed Miliband has come under fire from some Labour MPs after the party’s performance in the council elections left them gloomy about its general election prospects.
Ukip ate into Labour’s traditional working class support, fuelling complaints that the Labour leadership had been complacent about the “Farage effect” because it believed it would mainly harm the Conservatives.
Labour trumpeted wins in areas such as Cambridge, Croydon and Crawley where it hopes to gain parliamentary seats next year. Labour took comfort from a strong performance in London, a key general election battleground with 73 seats, where Ukip’s appeal proved less potent.
But Labour’s gains fell well short of the 400 council seats experts said it needed to show it is on course for general election victory. A Ukip surge in Essex saw Labour lose control in Thurrock.
John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, said the results were the “fault of Ed Miliband and all the people at the top of the Labour Party,” adding that its “metropolitan elite” excluded ordinary Labour people. “Some of the pointy heads at the top of the party thought that Ukip doing well is what we needed,” he said.
Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, said Mr Miliband “is behind in the personality stakes” and the party was behind on economic policy. He said it was “unforgiveably unprofessional” for the Labour leader not to know how much his family spent on the weekly shop when he was running a “cost of living” campaign.
Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, said: “Of course Ed Miliband is an issue on the doorstep.” David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, admitted: “There's no doubt about it, Ukip is biting into parts of Labour's working class vote.”
Mr Miliband admitted there was "a was deep sense of discontent" among voters. He added: "You also saw some people turning to Ukip and I am determined that over the next year we persuade them that we can change their lives for the better.”
Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, conceded that the results were "not good enough yet for Labour" and that the party had "more to do" to get its message out.
His aides insisted that Labour had won the council elections even though the birth of “four-party politics” had taken support away from all three mainstream parties. “We can win the general election; we have a lot to do before we will win,” said a senior Labour source.
Douglas Alexander, Labour's chair of general election strategy, who was accused by some MPs of not doing enough to combat Ukip, said the council results reflected an "anger and alienation" among the electorate. He admitted: “Politics as usual is not an adequate response. Labour can win the general election if we take the right steps between now and a year's time."
Labour officials said the party had won the “ground war” at local level, with twice as many footsoldiers than the Tories or Ukip. They claimed Labour’s £250,000 campaign budget was a quarter of that spent by these two parties.
Diane Abbott, whom Mr Miliband sacked as shadow Public Health Minister last year, said: “The window of possibility to remove Ed is long gone. People should stop whinging and get on with winning the next general election.”
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