Labour's problem is the ghost of governments' past

And so there we have it, the final Labour conference before the election is over. The battle lines are drawn and it is all but certain Ed Miliband will be the man who leads us into the fight. The months until this election will now be filled with dark mutterings questioning why our lead in the polls is not more significant and whether we have done enough to win a majority.

As soon as Labour are behind in a poll, which we will be at some point, the Labour commentariat will start searching for excuses. Some will say it is because Ed Miliband is the wrong leader. Others that the party is not left-wing or right-wing enough. I happen to agree that the party is not left-wing enough, and I believe that there is a case to be made that more radical policy in some areas would be a vote-winner, but the fact is that no one can deny that Miliband has shifted to the left from the Blair era and that he has broken with the Thatcherite consensus. We have announced popular and radical policies on energy prices, house building and tax increases that Blair would have blanched at.

So why haven’t these popular policies translated into significant poll leads? Dan Hodges will tell you that it is because the public are terrified of the red tide sweeping across Britain and are yearning for another 13 years of New Labour, but this simply isn’t true. The real reason they have not made an impact is because people do not believe that Labour will deliver on their promises.

Simply put, the majority of Britons still see Labour as the party of spin, Iraq and ID cards. They do not see us as a radical party. They point to the fact that we were in power for 13 years with a very significant majority yet failed to deliver the New Jerusalem many on the left hoped for.

Sadly, we have to accept that the public do not simply alter their perceptions of a party as soon as they get a new leader or change tack. The Tories are still feeling the reverberations of Thatcher’s policies in Scotland and the north till this day, and, to many on the left, Labour are traitors to socialism and will never be trusted again. The ghosts of New Labour are present in ex-Cabinet ministers now in the shadow cabinet, in Peter Mandelson and John Reid showing up on the BBC to criticise Ed Miliband and in the terror of ISIS.

Ultimately, we have to realise that there is no solution to this, no quick-fix. We can only be redeemed, as it were, through sticking to a social-democratic agenda if we are elected and treating people as adults rather than drones who can be bought off with press releases, slogans and smiles. Unfortunately, until that point, even if Ed Miliband turned around and announced Westminster was being renamed ‘The Glorious Workers’ Assembly of the United Socialist Republic’ people would roll their eyes, sigh and go ‘I’ve heard it all before, mate.’ 

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