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!