Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Chink of light for Labour Election Prospects

Nobody will be too surprised at the results of the poll in today's Guardian which reveals Labour could get a boost of 8 points in any election 'if it can show the economy is beginning to improve by polling day'. After all, this is what Major managed in 1992 when voters believed those 'green shoots' of recovery were appearing. This current poll result, discussed at length inside, reinforces the theory that voters are volatile and are not following any regular partisan patterns. If the Tory lead is 'soft' as Labour ministers allege, this really does offer an opportunity if Labour can contrive to exploit it.

The inside page article suggests Labour should craft a coherent vision for the future to dispell the impression of being 'burnt out' after 11-12 years in power. A leading British psephologist, I spoke to on Monday reckoned the Tories need a swing of 10% even now; their poll lead suggests they could make it but it would be as big a swing as the historic one in 1997. So there is still something to play for. But it would be foolish to ignore the negatives in the poll:

i) this is the third month in a row when the lead had been 12 points

ii)45% say Cameron would make the best PM compared with 24% for Brown, a 13 point increase on April 2008.

iii)69% said it was 'time for a change' including 27% of Labour supporters.

iv) 44% think we would come out of the recession faster under Cameron compared to 35% under Brown.

v) 66% think Labour has 'run out of steam, out of ideas'.

However, finally, another chink of light, perhaps: 82% think the government should 'take active steps to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor'. This suggests an area where Labour might make some inroads if it is sufficiently bold before the next election arives and remember: it's only just over a year away.

Just to bring back a bit of gloom (!), welcome though the news that 82% think the government should 'take active steps to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor', the problem lies in defining those steps.

It was comparatively simple for Mrs Thatcher's government to set the UK onto the path of increasing inequality. Much harder to see what steps will have any real impact in the other direction without risking the wrath (whether deserved or not) of the dreaded floating voters in key marginals.

Pension and tax credits have achieved more that they're often given credit for but have only produced a small improvement and are rarely mentioned by the key influencers in our country (who are usually people who have done rather well for themselves at least in material terms since 1980) who often prefer to rail against alleged benefit scroungers.

It may be difficult to persuade people (few of whom will have read anything such as “The Spirit Level” which provides compelling evidence that everyone tends to be better off in a more equal society) to sacrifice their 'differentials' for the good of society - as the late Brian Redhead once quipped on Today whilst comparing his pay cheque with John Timpson's - one man's anomaly is another's differential.
"Alleged benefit scroungers"?

Nothing alleged about it. I suspect such detachment from reality is one of the main reasons voters have deserted Labour.

And Skipper, posts like this are just whistling in the wind.

"However, finally, another chink of light, perhaps: 82% think the government should 'take active steps to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor'"

If that is the case after 11 years of a Labour government it shows what a complete load of *ankers the New Labour lot are - and include Brown in that.
From an ideological point of view, I think Andy W is right - Labour's focus has been entirely on maintaining the economic orthodoxy it inherited.

The bad news for Brown, as well, is that the real impact of redundancies, and rising unemployment, is still to make itself felt. I see no polling light ahead for Labour, although equally I'm not sure that winning in 2010 won't be something of a poisoned chalice for the Tories. It all depends on how long this recession lasts, and some observers seem to think it;ll be a decade before it's really over.
I end to agree that such a poll finding is an indictment of new Labour.
Maybe I do 'whistle in the wind' from time to time, but i'm trying to read the runes just like anyone else and in March 1992 few would have given Major much of a chance of winning the election. It would be a foolhardy Tory to think it was completely in the bag and from Labour's point of view damage limitation is a key concern when it comes to how long they will be in opposition.
As you have said before though, in many ways all the polling and the continual haemorraging of this Government's dignity makes it more 1997 than 1992. And we know what happened then.

I would go the other way if I was you Skipper. Next year is lost. All the angst on the Labour benches is in vain. Labour is already dead. 2010 is gone for them. Move past it. Think about renewal and actually differentiating yourselves from the Tories in a way that is not socialism and a return to the defeated ways of the past. The winners of next year's election may not look back in History and be glad they won it. There is a hell of a lot of damage to the public finances and things are going to be tough throughout any term and beyond. As GM said, not a bad one to lose. Rather like 1992 in that way I suspect.
On balance, yes, I think I'd agree this is 'a good one to lose' for the points you quite rightly make. But it's also a question of 'lose by how much?' a total wipeout might mean another 18 years of the Tories and I'm not sure anyone could stand that....
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