By Chris Jarvis
2015 has been a tumultuous year for politics. From the rise of the SNP to the shock victory of the Conservatives in the General Election and from the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party to the decimation of the Liberal Democrats, it has been a year like no other. As the year draws to a close, our Co-Editor, Chris Jarvis offers analysis as to who are the 10 biggest political losers of 2015.
Losing an election hurts. Losing the same election twice must sting more than twice as hard. Andy Burnham knows this all too well, having stood to be leader of the Labour Party on two separate occasions – in 2010 and again in 2015, and also losing on two separate occasions – in 2010 and again in 2015. Serial election losses are an almost impossible phenomenon to come back from, and so it may now be the case that Andy Burnham is coming to terms with the fact that he will never become Leader of the Labour Party.
Even though he has taken on his most senior post of his career as Shadow Home Secretary in Corbyn’s team and therefore avoided the image of sneeriness and sore-loserdome of his fellow election losers Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, who refused to serve in the Shadow Cabiner, Andy Burnham will unlikely recover from his defeat this year, and never rise to be Labour Leader and by extension Prime Minister. For someone as ambitious as Andy Burnham, as years go, that’s quite a bad one.
2. Liz Kendall
The second Labour Leadership hopeful to make the losers list is Liz Kendall. After entering the leadership election as the Blairite candidate, Kendall was depicted as a Tory by opponents, had her campaign materials mocked to the point that someone made a spoof mash up of her election video and Eminem & Dido’s ‘Stan’ and was roundly defeated in the ensuing ballot. Achieving a woeful 4.5% of the vote, Liz Kendall has returned to political obscurity after chronically miss judging the mood and views of Labour Party members and supporters. Perhaps Liz Kendall’s defeat will be symbolically of the defeat of Blairism within the Party.
3. Grant Shapps
The now former Conservative Party Chairman and International Development Minister leaves the year steeped in controversy as he resigned over allegations that he had been made aware of the actions of Tory election aide Mark Clarke. The ensuing bullying scandal has led to the banning of Mark Clarke from Conservative Party membership for life, but the fallout was tragic, including the suicide of a twenty-one year old Tory activist.
Any complicity that Grant Shapps had in this scandal means that his political future is irretrievably mired, and we shall not see him return to frontbench politics for a number of years.
4. Ed Balls
The 2015 General Election saw a succession of high profile ‘scalpings’ – big beast front benchers who were unseated across the country, much like in 1997. Overnight, Ed Balls went from being Shadow Chancellor in Her Majesty’s Opposition to being Ed Balls, that annoying bloke who used to be on the telly and the former MP for Morley & Outwood. Ouch.
5. Douglas Alexander
Much the same as Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander lost his seat at the General Election this year, being taken out at the hands of the Scottish National Party. What made the defeat of Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary even more astounding was that it was at the hands of Mhairi Black, the now beloved firebrand socialist who was just 20 at the time of her election. It was quite an embarrassment and Douglas Alexander fades into history.
6. Vince Cable
Probably the third heaviest of the political heavyweights who lost out in May – Vince Cable was toppled by his former coalition partners in the Tory party in his seat in Twickenham. Much like the defeat of fellow former ministers Simon Hughes and Danny Alexander, Cable’s defeat became symbolic of the Liberal Democrat wipe-out on election night. Having been in parliament for nearly 20 years, we have now seen the end of the road for Vince.
7. Natalie Bennett
2015 was a year of nuance for the Green Party. The Green surge (both in membership and vote share) propelled the party into their strongest General Election performance to date – totalling over one million votes. At face value, this might seem to suggest that Ms. Bennett would in fact be deserving of a place within our ‘winners’ list. In spite of this, Natalie Bennett’s time in the leadership saw the Greens fail to take target seats in Bristol West and Norwich South. Irrespective of whether you blame the First Past the Post electoral system, the fact that they were running for office at a time of Tory, rather than Labour government, or on their leader’s personal failings, the difficulty for Bennett is that it is under her premiership that this took place.
Perhaps this could be forgiven, if it weren’t for her now infamous and frankly woeful media performances in the run up to the General Election. Natalie Bennett ends 2015 with a difficult year ahead of her, should she fail to deliver in next year’s London, local and devolved elections in Wales, party members may not be so forgiving when she faces a mandatory Leadership election in the summer of 2016.
8. Leanne Wood
Plaid Cymru were the surge that never came. While the Greens had theirs and the Scottish National Party incredibly and memorably had theirs too, Plaid had no such luck. Despite standing on a similar, populist left of centre ticket to the SNP and the Greens, Plaid Cymru’s support plateaued and they failed to attract enough voters to increase their share of the seat count at Westminster.
Leanne Wood, as leader of Plaid Cymru, therefore failed to make the breakthrough she and her party would have hoped for, and leaves 2015 a little worse for wear. Next year will be the true test though, with devolved elections for the Welsh Assembly coming soon. Time will tell whether Plaid’s left wing leader can garner similar support to her English and Scottish bedfellows.
9. Nick Clegg
Looking back, it seems unbelievable how quickly Nick Clegg leapt from Cleggmania to lacklustre election results to being public enemy number one. If 2010 was the year that Nick Clegg rose and then spectacularly fell, 2015 was the year that his chickens came home to roost. Clegg’s party lost 49 seats, bringing their total down to just 8 MPs, their worst electoral performance since 1970, throwing the party out of the frying pan of ridicule and hatred and into the fire of the wilderness and oblivion.
Nick Clegg leaves 2015 with the party he used to lead in tatters, having previously led it into Government, but overseeing the decimation of their parliamentary presence, their poll ratings and also their base in local councils across the country. Clegg could perhaps be seen as the political loser of the decade, but he definitely lost out in 2015.
10. Ed Miliband
It all started out so well for Ed Miliband this year. A strong poll rating for Labour and pundits arguing he would enter Number 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister, it seemed to be going in the right direction. And then the exit poll came in on election night, and any previous optimism Ed Miliband and the Labour Party may have had must surely have left a bitter taste in the mouth – it was clear that Labour had lost. Throughout the night, it became ever more obvious that Miliband had failed – nowhere else more so than in Scotland, where the Labour Party was left with just one MP as the SNP swept the board.
Ed Miliband will go down in history as the man who tried, but was ultimately unsuccessful at unseating David Cameron’s government, and as the Labour Leader who lost Scotland for the party. All of that came to a head in 2015, and so Miliband leaves the year on an all time low.
You can read the 10 Biggest Political Winners of 2015 here.