Yes, it was probably a significant contributory factor. You see at the heart of the Labour Party is that ‘our way or no way’ instinct but in 2015 it probably led to tribalism topping common sense.
Take a look at the seats where Labour tried to do some damage to the Lib Dem vote because of their hatred of Nick Clegg. In quite a few cases it will show that their actions either led to a Tory MP being elected or in Southport’s case it very nearly did.
This is Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne’s take on it:-
We do not have multi party politics. Britain does not have a culture of coalition. Tribalism is alive and well in politics. Unless and until we have major constitutional reform, including electoral form for Westminister, any strategy which is based upon coalitions will fail.
Just look at how the Labour Party behaved on [election] Thursday. Ed Balls lost his seat whilst Labour activists , motivated by loathing of Clegg spent time failing to unseat him rather than defend Balls. The same happened on a smaller scale in Southport. Labour activists were receiving emails beseeching them to go and help in the marginal seat of South Ribble (which Labour failed to take) but choose instead to work their socks off in Southport where the only outcome which they could hope to achieve would be to reduce the Lib Dem vote and let the Tory in. Fortunately our ground war was just strong enough to repel them. Lab/Con do not have pluralist bone in their body.
But let’s look at another way; what on earth did Labour have to gain by trying to stop John Pugh being returned to Parliament. John is clearly of the left indeed he will hold far more radical views than many Labour MP’s! It was of course naked tribalism that was motivating Labour in Southport and other seats where Labour was clearly always going to finish 3 or 4th – our way or no way, but it led to Tory MP’s being helped to be elected under our warped electoral system!
I have seen the tribalism at first hand in the trade union movement which I worked within for many years. Yes, now a days there are few union activists openly supporting Labour in trade unions because of the Party’s stance for example on starting privatisation within the NHS. And of course this is where Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham has problems because of his involvement in NHS privatisation when Labour were last in Government.
But tribalism can also help forget the past. It’s as though Labour had nothing to do with NHS privatisation if you listen to them these days; it has been expunged from the memory. So you end up with the Labour Party and those trade union leaders who still support Labour openly arguing for someone who helped bring in NHS privatisation to be the next Labour Leader! It did not happen because we say it did not happen.
Not all Labour party members are tribalist of course, indeed I know some who were quite happy to vote tactically this year for Lib Dem candidates to ensure that Tories did not win. Trouble was there were not enough of them this time around and that’s why Labour’s tribalists helped win the election for the Tories!