Can Labour win a 4th term ?
If you’ve been watching the political twittersphere since the Norwich North by-election, and probably before, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the next general election is in the bag for the Tories and a lost cause for Labour.
But is it ?
Well no it’s not. There are some fairly recent precedents for saying that. Seasoned hacks may will recall Margaret Thatcher being extremely unpopular at a time when the newly formed Social Democratic Party – headed by the Gang of Four, were streets ahead in the polls. We just couldn’t wait for the election.
But what happened ? Well General Galtieri invaded the Falkland Islands, and Margaret Thatcher invoked the blitz spirit in order to get them back and secure a Conservative government until 1997. Hell it seems had perhaps not quite frozen over – but it was pretty chilly.
Wind forward to 1992, and Thatcher’s successor as both Tory leader and PM – John Major did not it seemed have a cat in hell’s chance against the slick camapaign run by Neil Kinnock. At the time I had a friend working in Conservative Central Office, who even as the votes were half counted was still under the impression that the Conservatives had lost – but they hadn’t. What went wrong ? Who knows – with hindisght we can see that there was a gradual swing over several elections and that the victory which never happened wasn’t quite the potential walk over it seemed.
So what of Brown’s chances. Well while it’s fair to say that a hell of a lot could happen to change the way things look between now and next May. But it is clutching at straws a bit. Short of ending the recession by October, getting the world cup brought forward to April and England winning, and the entire shadow cabinet being convicted of armed robbery – it’s difficult to see what random act of political astonishment will save his bacon.
No – it will have to come from hard slog and convincing people not to vote for the opposition.
How will he do it ? Well it beats me – but one thing I’m certain of, is that it won’t be by lurching to the left.
There are plenty of voices out there amongst the labour bloggerati ready to denounce the Blairite tendency, and speaking of New Labour as the spawn of the devil.
But let’s face facts – to be electable – and to be fair and equitable – Labour must be supportable by all sections of society – not narrowly defined sections such as the “poor” or the “working class” – but everyone who believes in fairness and a just society.
New Labour is no longer new – it’s just a not so old version of old Labour, and for voters who’ll be voting for the first time in the next General Election, there’s no Brownite or Blairite either – there’s just Labour (oh and don’t forget the other parties – these voters have no brand loyalty to our party).
If you exclude what some would call the “middle classes” then you exclude all those people who’ve spent the years since 1997 prospering and becoming part of those classes.
Contrary to what the Tories would have you believe there are quite a lot. I’m one of them – I was brought up in a council house in the heavy woollen district and am now living in the leafy home counties, commuting every day to London where I earn what I’m told is one of the top 5% of salaries in the country. Should make a good story for a Tory supporter I guess, maybe I should vote for them.
Like hell I will – I’ve succeeded because of the measures put in place by Labour Governments – the NHS, access to education, Universities – and so on and so forth. And I’d probably have done better if it hadn’t been for the Tories making me spend a year on the dole in the early 80’s.
So I’m not turning my back on Labour – but I can’t pretend that I’m working class anymore – and I don’t want Labour turning it’s back on me. I’d go so far as to say that even using expressions like “working class” and “middle class” is so counterproductive now as to be inadvisable. Such language pitches us into ground where Tories can accuse us of the politics of envy – and they have some degree of justification for that.
I don’t want to stop other people doing well for themselves – I just want everyone to have the same opportunity to do so, and to make sure that other people don’t suffer because of the prosperity of a small group of privileged individuals.
So somehow Gordon Brown, and his government has to get that across – Labour is for everyone – and everyone can be for Labour. Maybe I’ll blog later about how he might give it a go.
In the mean time I wish him luck – and hope that I can help !
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