Tag Archives: Nu Lab

The slow, strange death of The Labour Party 2

We are living in strange and interesting times. One thing that never fails to surprise me is how Prime Ministers never seem to realise when the game is up. They always enter a delusional twilight world where they think they should just go on and on, even when the overwhelming evidence is that they have lost all public support. Labour’s humiliation across two sets of elections last Thursday has broken all kinds of records. It must be apparent to Gordon that he is about as likely to win the next General Election as (with apologies to Monty Python) Tarquin Fim Tim Lim Bim Wim Bim Lim Bus Stop Fatang Fatang Ole Biscuit Barrel. But still he goes on deludedly surrounding himself with a dwindling band of ‘yes’ men and women, while anyone who dares to question him is either fired or resigns.

Apparently one opinion poll says over 40% of the electorate want him to stay. Maybe, but they will be the supporters of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats who know that the longer he stays. the more seats Labour will lose.

At the current rate of decline, Labour could easily be facing another twenty years in the wilderness.

I once worked at a building which overlooked a humped back bridge. One day, the traffic lights beyond the bridge failed causing a tailback of traffic towards the bridge. From my vantage point, I could see traffic approaching the bridge too fast. All day long there were squeals of tyres and the occasional crunch as accident after accident occurred (thankfully none of them serious – but all of them avoidable). Watching Labour destroy itself wilfully is the same experience, You can see what they are doing – but they are going to do it all the same.

It won’t be the same without them.

Are we ready?

Tories are very quiet this morning, and with good reason. As the gyroscopic spinning subsides, it becomes apparent that they are in trouble.

Labour will rightly crow about how they hung on to their safe seats with respectable majorities. For anyone to overhaul either of these seats would have taken a massive swing – and we all knew that from the outset. But no seat is completely safe in a by election – as the Tories almost found out in Bromley. The fact that Labour maintained these two seats comfortably is evidence of the ‘new leader bounce’ that Gordon is currently enjoying. It is proof, if proof were needed, that Mr and Mrs Average have not yet transferred all of their antipathy to Blair to his successor.

For ourselves, we can look at these results and take comfort from the fact that our hard work produced two solid second places in seats that were unlikely to fall anyway. Hopefully, the whispering campaign can subside now, for it deflects our focus from the hard work we need to do.

The Tories at Ealing Southall looked gutted – and well they might, for all their efforts have been rewarded with sweet nothing. Even Iain Dale has been honest enough to admit as much:

…let’s not pretend this was a satisfactory result. It patently was not…

The fact that David Cameron nailed his colours so firmly to Tony Lit’s mast (oo er) turns out to be a clanger. Tony Lit was a risk – and it has backfired. Imposing a candidate is also a slap in the face to hard working local activists and budding politicians – some of whom will have worked hard for the party for years. The local party morale has been sacrificed on the alter of a gamble, and a gamble which failed spectacularly.  In fact, Tony Lit could almost be a local metaphor for Cameron: photogenic, glossy presentation – but scrape away the veneer, and there is little of political substance behind it. When will they ever learn?

All this must be manna from heaven for Gordon Brown. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to calculate that a snap general election would almost certainly result in a increased Labour majority. Cameron’s Conservatives are clearly a million miles away from looking electable or having a programme for government. They are still warring with themselves just as Labour were in the eighties. They are riven between the choices of modernise or die. Too many would still prefer to die. But modernise means more than just having a pretty, witty leader. There has to be a vision to communicate to the electorate – and they are nowhere near to having one that they can all agree on, let alone sell to the public.

Gordon Brown likes to spring the odd surprise – and bucking the trend of hanging on for as long as possible would become one of his most famous. The only question Gordon has to ask is ‘can the Labour Party afford the campaign?’ Election campaigns are costly, and the ‘dodgy loan’ route has now been effectively closed. That is, of course, for him to calculate and for us to guess.

So are we ready? Can we, as a party, hold our own in a snap general election in the face of the New Labour election machine promoting ‘New Gordon’? We can and we must. We have some clear, distinctive policies. We have a clear agenda for radical tax redistribution that would begin to address how unfair this country still is. We have a clear vision on the environment, civil liberties and respect for international law. And we have some of the best local activists ready to give everything for the cause. We must stop doubting ourselves – in particular, our choice of leader, and we must keep pushing our selection programme so that every seat has a locally chosen candidate in place.

Go back to your constituencies – and prepare for a fight!

General Election, anyone?

I belatedly came across this interesting piece on UK Polling Report, which analyses the ‘boost’ that a party gets when a new leader takes over mid-term. I won’t repeat it all here, but it looks at past examples – such as Callaghan succeeding Wilson or Major succeeding Thatcher. In those, and other cases, the incumbent enjoyed a poll boost which led to their parties’ languishing fortunes being reversed. Recent polls suggest that Labour have received a healthy boost from the long-overdue departure of Tony Blair.

If Gordon Brown is smart, he will have not failed to notice the ‘but’ here. The ‘new leader bounce’ is a time-limited phenomena. The graphics seem to suggest, for example, that if Jim Callaghan had gone to the country shortly after taking over he might have won his own five year mandate. The whole course of history might have been different! But Callaghan dithered for too long, and his bounce ebbed away.

So if I were Gordon Brown, and I were smart (and I think parts of Gordon’s make-up are quite smart), I might be circling dates in the autumn. Of course, the by election performances might encourage me to jump or dither!

A Natural Home

Iain Dale was, I think, first with the news that five Labour Councillors have defected to the Tories in Ealing. He goes on to quote their joint statement thus:

‘we believe the Conservatives have become our natural home’

I have a mental picture of some of the dyed in the wool Telegraph reading blue rinse and bow tie brigade choking on their cornflakes at the idea that five Labour councillors now find that they feel at home in Cameron’s Conservatives!

Tale of Two Blairs

Watching the final hours of the Blair years yesterday, one could not help but be struck by the two sides of Tony Blair. It was, perhaps, fitting that the last word in the house went to Ian Paisley. For, it would have seemed incredible for much of my life that anyone could persuade Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness to work together for the future peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland. But that is what the ‘patient, thorough, thoughtful, diplomatic’ Blair pulled off – and despite my opinions of Blair in so many areas, we should never lose sight of what an incredible achievement that was. It will be, and deserves to be remembered as part of Blair’s legacy.

It makes a bitter, ironic contrast with his handling of the ‘special relationship’ with the US Presidency. Blair was clearly enthralled by George W Bush, a hawkish neo-conservative who should have been politically as far from New Labour as it was possible to be. Thus followed the spectacle of a moderate left of centre British government marching to war on the coat-tails of Bush’s right-wing crusade to change the face of the Middle East. Unable to secure UN mandate, or the backing of our other allies in the EU, he resorted to a tissue of half-truths and deceptions to gain the backing of his parliament. Make no mistake, the history books of the future will have this monumental misjudgment right up there with Suez.

Now Blair is to be an envoy to the Middle East. On the basis of the first example above, one would think – if anyone can get these people talking – he can. But on the basis of the second, one doubts if the Arab world will ever be able to do business with him. I hope I’m wrong.