How strange is the way that history repeats itself. I have been canvassing for the forthcoming election in an area that should contain a bedrock of Labour support – a large estate of now administered by a housing association. Obviously I have been doing this because I hope that some disaffected Labour supporters might consider backing my party instead. I have now concluded that there are three types of Labour supporters in Britain today:
- Thick and Thin. This supporter is still loyal, and will probably get out and vote Labour on May 3rd. He or she has supported Labour through thick and thin, and recognises that 2007 is thin! Thick or thin Labour voter is at a loss to explain some of the decisions of the current administration, and secretly longs for Blair to be replaced in the hope of a new dawn where Iraq, cash for peerages and Blunkett will be allowed to fade as bad memories.
- Disillusioned. Disillusioned voter spent 18 long years believing that while the Tories were only out for themselves, and couldn’t be trusted, Labour politicians were different. When the time came (because come it surely would), a Labour government would usher in a new dawn of ethical government. A government that would turn Britain on it’s head, bringing social justice and fairness for all. When the Labour politicians behaved exactly like the Tory ones had done, they came to the conclusion that all politicians were the same, and none of them could be trusted. They are likely to stay at home because none of us can be trusted. They may vote Labour again if and when Labour looks like it has consigned Blairism to the dustbin of history.
- Angry. Angry Labour voters are similar to Disillusioned, except that they still think politics matters. They still want to vote on May 3rd, but want to vote for someone that deserves to be voted for. This is the real danger area for all of us! Angry is an opportunity for us, but also and opportunity for Cameron’s reconstructed Tory offering. I’m sad to say that some Angries have been an opportunity for BNP in some areas too. Angries may have been former Tory voters (for many switched in 1997), so if they believe the Tory party has truly reinvented itself they will return to the fold. We must reach the Angries, for they are the floating voters of 2007 – and as we all know, floating voters decide elections.
What’s really interesting is that Labour knows this. If you spend a little time trawling Labour discussion sites, they all know what the problem is (or rather who the problem is), but the Labour Party seems to lack any mechanism to apply the brakes as their runaway train hurtles towards the canyon with no bridge.
When the Tories were at their lowest ebb, in the dying days of the Thatcher government, they could be forgiven for thinking that, as the party of natural government they would live to fight another day. The next Labour leader faces being the John Major character – more balanced and moderate than his predecessor, but unable to halt the slide into oblivion. During the 1997 election campaign, I recall some moderate Tories saying that ‘one term in opposition might be a good thing’ – it might enable the party to bounce back when a grateful electorate returned them in 2001. They never dreamed that they might be in opposition for two or even three terms.
Labour have no such excuses, and yet appear determined to continue their headlong plunge into the abyss.
I make no excuses for believing two things:
- That this constant see-sawing of fortunes and power between the two biggest parties is bad for Britain, only a strong third party like ours can deliver any balance
- That the first past the post system makes it extremely difficult for us to deliver that balance as it delivers Labour or Tory majorities in parliament on the slimmest of margins in votes cast
That is why we matter, and that is why we should all be out canvassing – instead of reading this!