I think the Labour result leaves us in a real mess. The lack of progress in England will strengthen the argument that Labour was pulling too far to the Left. I don't agree, but that is the claim that will be made. In contrast the wipeout in Scotland will be cited as proof that we didn't go far enough to the Left, as the SNP presented itself as the anti-austerity party.
The Lib Dems have done significantly worse than expected too, and their parliamentary party can now fit in a people carrier. But the UKIP vote held up, even if it didn't result in MPs this time. I fear this is a sign of things to come if we aren't careful. My personal view is that these two developments need to kept in mind when the inevitable arguments about where we go next take place. I'm not at all convinced that the 'centre ground' is where some people on the Right of Labour think.
For what it's worth, I thoughy John Gray's essay on Ed Miliband a couple of months back might prove to be a bit near to the mark. I share Ed's desire for a shift in direction, but my fear has been that there isn't the corresponding desire (yet?) for such a shift on the part of the electorate. John Gray's piece is very pessimistic about this, but pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will and all that.
These bits in particular sound about right to me:
Labour risks an acute form of the voter alienation that affects all the mainstream parties. It is like other parties in drawing its leaders from a narrow and privileged social stratum: the metropolitan professional classes who can afford to live in good catchment areas or send their children to be educated privately and then support them through years of unpaid internships and think-tank positions. But the rise of this political class is a special vulnerability for a party that claims it speaks for working people. Labour’s problem is that it has only one Alan Johnson. Soon it will have none.Back to the drawing board.
Contrary to Miliband’s Blairite critics, there is no way forward in trying to reoccupy the middle ground. In a time when mainstream politicians are objects of disgust and contempt, the middle ground (if it exists) is no longer a safe place to be. Voters want something different – hence the rise in support for parties of protest.