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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Will Miliband play the race card?

In his Telegraph column yesterday, Dan Hodges suggests that Labour have finally realised that they may lose the next general election. His concern is that in a blind panic Ed Miliband will begin to 'dog-whistle' to Ukip voters on immigration:

His speech will be dressed up. It will include lots of references to disfranchised working-class communities. There will be lots of condemnation of the exploitation of migrant workers. But it will be a good old-fashioned dog-whistle speech just the same. 

Miliband doesn’t want to be whistling Nigel Farage’s tune, of course. He hoped to spend this week issuing vacuous homilies about One Nation Britain. But he is panicking. And he’s trying to stay one step ahead of his own MPs who have finally turned round and said “enough is enough”.

Dan Hodges says that if Miliband goes down this road then three things will happen. Firstly, Labour will implode as fault lines that have been papered over for years split open:

The country may not have been listening to Miliband, but his party has. And they’ve trusted him. They’ve trusted him when he told them they could win from the Left. They’ve trusted him when they told him they could win by being true to themselves. He cannot turn round now, less than a year from polling day, and say “You know what, I’m sorry, I lied. The only way I can win is by pretending I’m Nigel Farage.” 

The Left will break away. The students will break away. The Iraq war refuseniks will break away. The Lib Dem refugees will break away. And for what? So Ed Miliband can shore up that minuscule percentage of the Labour base that is flitting with Ukip? Is that seriously what he’s planning? Abandoning the 35 per cent strategy for the 1 per cent strategy?

Secondly, he believes these tactics will not work. It will be the abandonment of authenticity and voters will see right through the Labour leader:

There is a final reason Labour’s leader must stick with his chosen strategy to the bitter end. This small "c"/Blue Labour/call it what you will agenda is important for Labour. There will come a time, if it wants to regain power, when it will need to look again at its stances on immigration and welfare and law and order and public spending and Europe and its broader fiscal credibility. 

But that time is not now. Not whilst Nigel – “you know the difference” – Farage is continuing his victory tour of the bar-rooms of Britain. Yes, we need a serious discussion about immigration. But that discussion cannot be held against a backdrop of “No dogs, no blacks, no Romanians”. The far Right is on the march across Europe. Today is not the day for the leader of the Labour Party to be picking up and dusting off the race card.

If this seems like a turning point for Ed Miliband then perhaps that is because it is. How he responds now will be the real test of character.
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