Saturday, 17 March 2007

Labour - Election Lost?

A few more thoughts here moving on from my post of 13 March 07. In that post I said:

Today we see a tired government being dragged to the knacker’s yard by a leader hoist on his ego and lost in the frantic search for his legacy

and that this happened because:

Blair’s insistence on power has given the Conservatives time to change and time for Cameron to grow into a potential PM but has denied a new Labour leader the time to reshape the party. Brown, Milliband or whoever has a much harder job today that they would have had in 2005.

I suggested that all parties who win two or more elections run major risks of losing support for several reasons:

- the longer in power the more chance there is of a government turning voters off across a variety of policies and actions

- failure becomes unacceptable after years in office

All of this gives rise to what I called “dis-isms” - disillusionment, dislike and distrust - which will kick in at some point. Labour’s has kicked in now. Initially, I believe, much of this anti-feeling was directed at Blair but recently the government as a whole has suffered.

Whether or not a government in this position can continue and can win an upcoming election depends crucially on how electable the opposition is perceived to be. During the Thatcher year’s Labour wasn’t seen as electable and so, despite deep anger at Thatcher and her government, the Conservatives won again Labour’s is kicking in now. Even in 1992, with Thatcher gone, the resentment wasn’t sufficient for Labour to win.

Labour is in a less fortunate position: the Conservatives have moved back into the middle ground – albeit some years ago this would have been the right-wing – and are now being seen more and more as possible election winners.

The key question now is, “Has Labour reached, or is it close to, the tipping point at which election loss is inevitable?” They are close. With Blair in charge I can see no way Labour could win. The negatives surrounding him are so large that defeat would be inevitable but how would Brown or Milliband fare?

A few days ago I thought that Brown, Milliband or whoever had a much harder job because Blair had stayed on so long. Today more thought brings me to conclude that I was too optimistic.

Under Brown, whom I believe is immeasurably the best candidate, Labour might just win the next election but it is hard to see how he can transform the government’s fortunes and that is what is needed. He is so closely tied to all Labour’s policies that Blair’s failures are Brown’s. Without the transformation, Labour would definitely hit the tipping point. Therefore, the best I can see for Labour under Brown is an election win – but no more.

Whether he won an election or not, Brown would be a John Major figure: taking over at the fag end of the government’s life and destined to fall after one term if lucky and after 2 years if not.

Now if Brown can’t transform Labour who could? The Blairites madly exclaim, “Blair!” but the Labour party isn’t as mad as that, is it? Clark – no! Milliband – not in the short term. He’s not ready yet. Would I want is policies – probably not.

But imagine, if Milliband stood and won the leadership. Losing the general election would see him severely wounded; he might even stand down. If he won the general election, he has still to deal with all the dis-isms floating about from Blair’s premiership and he too might suffer as Brown would: one term PMs waiting for the tipping point to tip them out of office. There are huge risks for Milliband if he stands and wins against Brown.

Everything here suggests that Milliband should not stand against Brown. If he doesn’t stand then Milliband, acting selfishly, would want Brown to lose the general election in which case he (Milliband) can take over (probably 2009) and have 4 or 5 years to transform Labour in opposition ready to win in 2013 (say)

The danger for Milliband is if Brown won the election. As I mentioned earlier, Brown would last only one term after which, the tipping point having been reached, he would stand down with Labour in opposition. Milliband could take over (about 2013) and then transform Labour in opposition but that would mean he couldn’t be PM before about 2017. He would no longer be the young one then.

My crystal ball shows Brown taking over as leader with a general election loss in 2009 and Milliband subsequently taking over in opposition.

This is all really negative. I want more left-wing policies but no left-winger is likely to win the Labour leadership far less a general election. Therefore, I am stuck with Brown now and Milliband later but my thesis also has a Conservative government either in 2009 or in 2013 perish the thought!

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