Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Might it be Better for Labour to Lose the Next Election?
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?
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.....
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.
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
Links to this post: