UK Politics

Ed Miliband did not lose election because he was too left wing - study

Ed Miliband Image copyright PA

Labour didn't lose the general election because it was seen as too left wing, according to new research.

Ed Miliband was unlikely to win in May no matter where he placed the party on the spectrum between left and right, say academics from the British Election Study.

Their analysis suggests voters were just as likely to back Labour whether it was seen as a party on the far left, or just to the left of centre.

But they warn the economic crash of 2008 appears to have fundamentally changed voters' views on whether Labour can be trusted on the economy.

In research to be published by the IPPR think tank, Jane Green and Chris Prosser write: "Labour needs to give working class, left of centre voters a reason to vote for the party again and the party needs to win support at the centre. It should resist choosing one over the other."

At this year's general election many voters still blamed Ed Miliband's party if they thought the economy was not improving.


This chart will be seized on by the left, because it seems to tell a very simple story.

Image copyright British Election Study

Predicted probability of voting Labour by perception of Labour's left-right position (Source: British Election Study)

Take Labour left, it suggests, and the party will not suffer. Take it right, and it loses votes.

This is why Jane Green of the British Election Study says there is very little to argument Labour was too left wing at the general election.

But - and it's a huge but - the chart shows only the answer to a question about how left wing voters thought Labour had become.

Her paper also says the banking crash of 2008 appears to have done for Labour what the ERM crisis did for the Conservatives in 1992.

Labour must once again become - she suggests - the party most trusted with the economy.

Can an economic policy fashioned by new leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell achieve that?

They are about to find out.

Green told the World at One: "Labour wasn't able to shift that blame so if people saw the economy doing better they gave the Conservatives some credit.

"If they thought the economy was still doing worse they gave some blame to the Tories but they also gave blame to Labour, so Labour got some of the blame and none of the credit."

The problem for Labour worsened in the run up to May's election, with Conservatives being seen as increasingly economically competent even before the economy itself improved.

During the campaign every leader but the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon proved unpopular, but David Cameron was less disliked than Miliband

Perversely, when Labour gained votes from former Lib Dems they helped the Tories win seats.

In total Labour votes won from Lib Dems alone secured seven seats for the Tories.

The British Election Study interviewed 20,000 voters in March and immediately after the general election.