David Maddox: Labour’s divisions must be mended

Many of the attacks on Ed Miliband appear to be emanating from Ed Balls' circle. Picture: PA
Many of the attacks on Ed Miliband appear to be emanating from Ed Balls' circle. Picture: PA
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OCCASIONALLY those of us living in the political bubble have to remind ourselves that there will be a general election in less than 12 months. Why is this? It’s because the three main parties who, in one way or the other, hope to form the government after May 2015 seem to be locked into a sort of death wish.

The travails of David Cameron and his constant fight with the eurosceptics is now entering its fifth season in terms of political soap operas, and the end of the affair between the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg has just become painful to watch. In both cases the parties detest their coalition existence and seem set on being drummed out at the next election.

But harder to fathom is the increasing crisis surrounding Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party. It seems now that a week does not go by without a senior colleague briefing against him.

Many of the attacks on him appear to be emanating from shadow chancellor Ed Balls’ circle, although Mr Balls himself will always claim total loyalty to his party’s leader.

Former cabinet minister and front-bencher John Denham has been up front. He said working-class voters “don’t believe they are in any story that Labour is telling about the future of this country … if they’re not part of our story I don’t know what the Labour party is for”.

Phil Taylor, a former Labour speechwriter said: “Miliband-Balls is just as bad as the Blair-Brown era. Everything has to be agreed by both of them. Miliband is too weak to stand up for himself. I fell out with Ed Balls because Labour’s economic policy is nonsense.”

Things are so bad that, over the weekend, former leader Lord Neil Kinnock had to be wheeled out to defend Mr Miliband from the growing chuntering within the Labour ranks.

The strange thing is that this is a party leading in the polls which should be expecting to win next year and form the next government. Yet senior figures on and off the record seem to be happy to confirm the image of Mr Miliband that the Tories want to portray, of a man who is incapable of leading a party, let alone a country.

And the stakes are high. If Labour lose next year they will be out of government for another five years, making it a decade out of office. No wonder former home secretary David Blunkett warned that they could be 15 years in the wilderness.

The problem with Mr Miliband, though, is that he was elected as a compromise because he was not his Blairite brother.

The last compromise was Michael Foot, who was not Tony Benn on the left or Denis Healey on the right. That led to a record defeat at the polls in 1983 for a party riven with division. History threatens to repeat itself.