5 things we learned in 2013

By Mark Ferguson and Marcus Roberts

In only a few hours the clock will strike midnight and the year will be over. 2013 was the middle year of this fixed-term five-year Parliament, so what have we learned. We’ve put together five things worth considering as the year comes to a close – and tomorrow we’ll bring you five things to look out for in the year ahead.

Happy New Year everyone.

1. UKIP’s complex effect on Labour – it’s impossible to look back on 2013 without talking about the rise of UKIP. They shocked many people with their strong performance in the local elections, but they also performed strongly in both the Eastleigh and South Shields by-elections (finishing second in both). Whilst most of the focus has been on their impact on the Tory vote, it’s clear UKIP are having an impact on the Labour vote too. Labour campaigners desperately need answers to important questions about how, where and why UKIP is effecting the Labour vote. Waiting until after the may elections will be too late.

2. Syria/Iraq – remember the Syria vote? Yes it’s only a few months since David Cameron recalled Parliament days before the end of the summer recess, only to lose a vote on military intervention. Ed Miliband was able to argue that he had stopped the “rush to war”, but both he and the Prime Minister proposed motions that would have moved Britain closer to intervention. Miliband stumbled into non-intervention strategically and the Prime Minister stumbled into humiliation accidentally. The House of Commons now has real primacy over matters of war and peace – with big implications for future PMs. But how must Tony Blair feel to think his long-term legacy might be a world in which intervention was harder and less likely?

3. The Tory General Election position is clear – You can almost see the Tory election slogan being written on billboards up and down the country already “Britain is recovering, don’t give the keys back to the guys who crashed the car.” Their focus will be on national stats (GDP, unemployment) as they try to dodge the successful “cost of living crisis” framing that Labour has adopted in recent months. They’ll also run a campaign intended to discredit  Ed Miliband, push Cameron as a Presidential-type figure and attempt to destroy the credibility of Ed Balls (who they’re obsessed with). As well as the economy, expect sabre rattling divisive pitches based around immigration and the welfare cap.

Ed Miliband

4. The fallout from Leveson – the public may not trust politicians, but they sure as hell don’t trust the media either. This year the two have got perilously close to all out warfare at times, with Ed Miliband’s war with the Mail shading Murdoch’s anger with Cameron as the media/political scrap of the year. Parties are increasingly looking to use digital and social media to disseminate messages “without the filter” of the mainstream media. For Labour, that went up a gear this year, largely because there’s a feeling that the number of papers that will give the party a fair hearing is small and dwindling. Yet at the same time, Labour’s improved focus on local media and quiet hiring of more regional press officers is to be welcomed.

5. Leadership matters – 2013 was bookended by the deaths of two historically significant figures in both British and world politics – Mandela and Thatcher. Both pursued big changes, and neither were content on playing small ball politics. Both are remembered as important figures who did a great deal to advance what they believe in (although unsurprisingly we favour the uniting (One Nation?) Mandela over the divisive Thatcher). Both of their legacies present Ed Miliband with a question – will he tip toe to number ten with small ball politics or charge in at the head of a radical government that changes politics with big policies and ideas? 2014 will be the year that will likely reveal the answer…

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