Writing in the New Statesman this week, David Miliband has attempted to distance himself from Blair and Brown on immigration and, crucially, Labour’s poor electoral record in England.
Blair, he says, had a “profound electoral attribute” in his connection with Middle England, but then failed to deliver on the key issues of migration, wages and public services. The effects of this failure, he argues, have led whole communites to turn their backs on Labour since 1997 — four million English voters in all.
Brown, Miliband feels, did have one significant achievement on this front, as he managed to “solve the Scottish question . . . of a Scottish prime minister governing the UK in an age of devolution”; however, he then failed to resolve Labour’s growing problems in England. Brown’s “heartfelt and rigorous account of British national identity” faltered against a resurgent tide of regional identity in the years following devolution, writes Miliband.
The Labour leadership hopeful warns that the party faces a crisis of support in England, and warns that, if it is to avoid being marginalised as “a regional or sectional party”, it must start working hard now to win back support among English voters.