Sunday, December 27, 2009


'Voters Don't Do Gratitude'

Andrew Rawnsley, today, produces his usual well balanced analysis of the political situation on the cusp of 2009-10. He sees the next election as one likely to set records:

1. If Labour win it will be their first ever 4th term victory. I think this highly unlikely. Voters are tired of Labour who they do not feel have governed with conspicuous skill and are also held responsible, wrongly, for the economic crisis. Moreover, Brown has not been able to knit together a vote-winning narrative about 'weathering the storm' of a massive worldwide crisis and when asked a huge majority of voters would hate to see him lead Labour into another win say pollsters. Even if Brown tries the 'I saved us' line Rawnsley observes: 'Voters, generally, don't do gratitude.'

2. To win the Tories need to win 117 seats, whilst not losing any of the ones they already have. A very big ask. They have not managed this since 1931 when circumstances were uniquely different. Ideally they need to take the 5% presently being claimed by the 'other' smaller parties and to lean too much in the direction of UKIP or BNP would repel the centrist votes they also really need.

3. We have not had a hung parliament since 1974, but if we do the Liberal Democrats might see an opportunity to form a coalition government. Clegg says he'd support the party with the 'strongest mandate', wisely probably, not specifying if this could be measured in votes or seats.

4. Rawnsley concludes by hoping disillusion with politicians and the political process does not produce a new low in terms of turn-out.

For this last to be minimised all parties need to appeal to the whole electorate. However, Rawnsley notes signs that Brown, perhaps mindful of a looming defeat, is pursuing a 'core vote' strategy-Labour's is about a quarter of all voters- through such policies as sustaining spending and playing up the 'class war' themes which activists love. This strategy risks a retreat into Labour heartlands and probably, a minimum two-term absence from power. For me, however, the most chilling section of the article Brown can read is this:

My friends in the polling industry tell me that no prime minister has been as unpopular as Gordon Brown and gone on to win the subsequent election. Nor has there ever been a four-term Labour government. In fact, only the Tories have won a fourth consecutive election in more than 140 years. So two very big records have to be smashed for Labour to win.

You say Labour are "wrongly" blamed for the economic crisis. I think not. Perhaps they cannot be blamed for the fact of it. But they can certainly be blamed for the extent of it. They fueled a housing boom with low interest rates and de-facto encouraged buy-to-let(by their destruction of private pensions), allowing housing assets to inflate to levels that anybody with a brain knew were unsustainable. And they probably have some way to fall in the next couple of years I suspect. Labour started borrowing money in 2001, when growth was strong and the economy was booming. They increased this borrowing so that by 2005, they were borrowing more than 3% of a boom. By 2007, before the "global" troubles started, Britain was already running unsustainable borrowing. Now in the midst of what is clearly a global downturn, the UK is raising all sorts of taxes on ordinary people, and bringing in huge spending cuts in certain areas. And make no mistake, whoever wins the election next year will have most of the cuts still to find.

When has a Government EVER borrowed so much money at a comparable stage of the economic cycle? All this was done while Brown was at the Treasury, and before the world had the problems it has now. People have got it right. He is blamed for the economic crisis and they deserve to be.
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