John Woodcock: Coalition woes inspire Miliband

After the local election results underlined just how far the Government has fallen in recent months, this feels like a crossroads for politics in Britain.

John Woodcock: Things are not how they used to be in the Coalition
John Woodcock: Things are not how they used to be in the Coalition

Labour was sufficiently dominant over the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to underline the possibility that the coalition could be a one-term failure. The potential for a Labour comeback was underlined by the fact Ed Miliband was successful across the country, including in parts of the south of England that are vital to returning to power.

No-one on the red side is getting carried away. The particularly low turnout emphasised that many members of the public have little faith in any political party at the moment. If any confirmation were needed, that will reinforce Miliband’s recognition that midterm poll upsets do not automatically translate into general election triumphs.

But all eyes are now on how the three parties react to the voters’ verdict. The Government’s relaunch, take three, sought to get back to what David Cameron and Nick Clegg want to be the defining issue of the Parliament: the need for cuts to deal with the deficit. They know they are losing support with every moment the public sees how their economic plan is failing, and so they are desperate to convince people there is no alternative. That means restoring focus on the size of the problem rather than the alternative solutions to tackle it.

But like many couples, Cameron and Clegg’s renewal of vows has only served to highlight that things are not quite how they used to be.

Where there was once a flush of enthusiasm for the new way of doing politics that the coalition seemed to represent, the coalition’s PR machine can no longer mask the fact that there are now two tribes increasingly unhappy at being in bed with each other.

More Liberal Democrats seem to be floating seriously the idea of collapsing the coalition early, even though it would probably mean decimation at the polls.  

As its opponents wobble, this is the ideal opportunity for Labour to get back in the game and Miliband is determined to take it.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown

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