Sunday, May 15, 2011


Labour Have a Tough and Steep Mountain to Climb

In the wake of last Thursday and the anniversary of the Coalition 'marriage', the focus has shifted to Labour and the state of the party I still insist on supporting. Why? Because I always have and lay some store by consistency and loyalty and because I still believe it is the best chance the poorer sections of society have of ameliorating their quality of life. I know they made lots of mistakes after 1997 and they have been rubbished by both the coalition partners, in some cases quite unfairly, but that's politics and there is precious little fair about that as we all know.

Andrew Rawnsley advises Labour' to follow a number of rules over the near future. Firstly ignore the polls. It is true they have been amazingly volatile of late with Scotland swinging from a predicted sure victory for Labour to a crushing one for the SNP. Rawnsley points out that Neil Kinnock lad Thatcher by somew huge poll leads but come the election in 1987 he was overwhelmed.

Secondly it would be fatal for Labour to imagine they can sit tight and let victory drop into their lap in consequence of the government's follies. As he points out voters acquire a pretty clear idea of a party after a couple of years into a parliament and tend not to lose it.

The time frame to think about is the mid-term of this parliament. By then, Labour ought to have demonstrated that it has learned from its mistakes in office, developed a persuasive critique of the coalition's record, and started to look like a convincing replacement. Even if this parliament goes the full five-year stretch, the midterm is now only 18 months away. That is not long at all. In fact, for the Labour party, I'd say it is frighteningly little time to establish themselves as a credible alternative government.

I might add that it is by no means impossible that the coalition will actually achieve its objectives of balancing the budget, winning voters confidence and sweeping to another period in office.

Eawnsley also warns that arguments between Lib Dems and Tories are not necessarily good for Labour as they appear to take on the role of 'significant debate' about the major issues, thus marginalising and usurping Labour's opposition role. He adds that Miliband's 27 policy review exercises have happened way beneath the public's radar. He suggests such things are too early in the cycle to have much relevance or impact.

Finally he points out that politics is now essentially 'presidential', they swing on someone having a major impact, like Salmond in Scotland, or Cameron in the AV referendum. Ed has been doing much better in PMQs but he is still not having the sort of impact Tony Blair had in the mid 1990s. This is the mountain Miliband has to climb:

An operation on his adenoids isn't going to be enough. He needs to demonstrate much more verve and daring, and articulate a much clearer sense of direction, if he is to show the stuff of successful leadership. Given a more dynamic lead by its chief, his party might then start to follow and look interesting again.

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