Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Might it be Better for Labour to Lose the Next Election?

Andrew Grice in the Indie today discusses recent polls. The Sun last Monday reported a poll showing Cameron's party 10 points ahead; the Indie's calculations, based on all the polls published during May, show a seven point overall lead. I remember well how the Conservative hegemony seemed to stretch out into the indefinite future, even in the early nineties, reinvigorated by a replacement PM who, while of the same party, provided the sense of some kind of new beginning. The graffitto shown on the building above, if anything understates the volcanic bile I felt when Major won in 1992.

But in a democracy we should appreciate that similar feelings are found on both sides of the divide and so Conservatives, incandescent at what they see as Blair's shortcomings must be delighted to hear professor John Curtice, the foremost psephologist of the day, say that if the Conservatives can 'maintain their lead through June and into the summer,' then 'Labour's 14 year-long dominance of the electoral scene will clearly be finally over.' My heart sinks at the awfulness of the idea, but we have to accept the swing of the pendulum. A few thoughts are provoked however:

a) Will Gordon's expected accession deliver a 'Major Effect' and give the appearance of freshness? I'm not sure it will actually as the gloomy Scot seems a much less talented vote gatherer than his more histrionically talented rival and neighbour.

b) Can Tony somehow engineer another rally and recover much of his former position? This remarkable political magician should never be written off but this time the Houdini act seems unlikely.

c) John Biffen, not to mention several others, claimed 1992 was the election the Tories should have lost as the rot, well advanced by that year, was allowed to fester and deepen during John Major's hapless five years. As result the Tories flatlined at a third of the vote for over ten years. Has Labour reached a similar position? I'm not stating it, or being defeatist, but merely tentatively enquiring: given the self inflicted wounds incurred over the last decade, might it not be better, in the long term, for Labour to lose the next election the better to rebuild its credibility and morale?

Might it be better for Labour to Lose the Next Election - DON'T EVEN GO THERE. Although it is the reality that Labour will lose; and I just can't see anyone coming through to re-energise the party with new direction, policies and leadership. Should the party stick with its New Labour theme which may become more discredited or drift back to the left and be annihilated by the press and news media? I feel when the torys get back in we may be in for the long haul.
Saying that "it is the reality that Labour will lose" is far too pre-epmtive. A lot will happen in the next three years - a change in prime minister, of course, but many unpredictables as well. Cameron's Tories have everything going their way at the moment, and still the polls do not predict an absolute majority in the Commons; things will certainly not be so rosy come election time.
Spl is correct, there are more than a thousand days until the next election; plenty of time for Labour "to rebuild its credibility" (or not).....

I must be getting old because I keep looking back. 1992 was indeed the election to lose, if Labour had won it with a tiny majority they'd've been out again by 1996 and Michael Portillo would now be starting his eleventh year as PM instead of scruffing around for journo jobs. Neil Kinnock did two great services to the party: kicking out Militant and losing that election. He's the real hero.....
I can remember a similar argument being put forward in 1979. The rest, as they say . . .
Fair comments made by SPL, Hughesey and Steve and I do hope they are right that with three years to go there's time to pull it around.

But the way I look at it now a hung parliament is the best Labour can hope for and limping on thereafter via partnership with the Lib Dems or smaller parties does not inspire too much enthusiasm or confidence.
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This is something I've been thinking quite a lot about lately. Let's face it - the Tories will be back in government eventually. Whether that's in 2010, 2014, 2018, whatever, it's going to happen sooner or later.

The point to make is that it should happen at the optimal time for not just the Labour Party, but most importantly for the progressive left cause in the country. Is that going to be the next GE? Possibly.

Possibly because Cameron (if not his party) seems to have doublethought his way into triangulating his policies to the left of Blair.

Possibly because, as happened with the Tories in the early 90s, there are chickens that will come home to roost for Labour after the next GE (the faults of PFI and tax credits are already rearing their ugly head - this will only increase over the next five or six years).

Possibly because people need reminding. Kids are growing up these days without a deep-held antipathy to the Tories (my lad was 9 years old in May '97 and doesn't quite believe me that the school he's just left used to have portacabins instead of proper classrooms). If this lack of antipathy is left unchecked, the Tories may be in power for a generation come 2015.

I'm not saying I want us to lose the next GE at all. But I am saying that there is definitely an argument to be made from the country's perspective that a four year lame-duck Lib/Con coalition with a centrist leader at the helm, may be just enough for Labour to renew itself sufficiently to meet the challenges of the future.

It's certainly an argument that deserves an airing, even if the conclusion is pre-ordained.
Well argued case re better to accept limited damage now rather than mega damage later. But how does the party do this? Does it sit onn its hands and not campaign? Does it become even more error prone and careless than at present? Very tricky
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