It’s like Thatcher never happened… 365 days of Brown, and British Labour slumps. And slumps. And slumps again. June 26, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics.
It’s almost painful to read the polls taken of British public opinion one year into the Brown premiership.
Because the results are a unmitigated disaster for him and for his party.
Near incredibly… 74% of those questioned say that he has been a change for the worse compared with Tony Blair, and only 24% think Labour has a chance of winning the next election while he remains leader.
And to add insult to injury we read that:
the Conservatives [have] a record 20-point lead over Labour, six points up on last month. Labour support has fallen two points to 25%, the lowest recorded in the ICM polls, which began in 1984
It’s like Thatcher never happened. And the political implications are significant…
Conservative support, at 45%, is at a 20-year high. That would give David Cameron a landslide victory as big as Labour’s win in 1997, with some 400 seats. Labour might be reduced to well under 200 MPs, with many ministers losing their seats. The Tories would retain Crewe and Nantwich, won in a byelection last month, while Labour would lose previously safe seats such as Wakefield.
They now are the masters? Again. Farewell to the progressive twenty-first century.
But, then how progressive has the past ten years been when a centre-right Labour government has governed with remarkable ineptitude? And let’s not place all the blame on Gordon Brown. There surely must be some element of buyer’s remorse at work here in relation to the last election. Tony Blair may not be focus for this apparent electoral rage, but he is in no small way the architect of it.
Yet Brown has brought his own very unusual persona to the feast. How else to explain…
…the dramatic decline in Labour fortunes since Brown took over as leader. A year ago, Labour had a four-point lead over the Tories in the June Guardian/ICM poll. Support for the party, at 39%, was 14 points higher than today.
I always used to dismiss the talk relayed in the media about him being a little odd, difficult to deal with, lacking personality. But his public appearances have merely brought those tendencies to the fore. Which is odd, because I know someone who had the opportunity to observe him while Chancellor at closer quarters on a number of times across a number of years and found him both witty, warm and personable.
Unfortunately the latter admirable qualities are entirely missing when translated through television, or whatever. And that’s to ignore his centre-right economic inclinations.
The question is whether this can translate into actual political problems for him in the here and now. I’d be doubtful that we’ll see him deposed. And yet, with these historic lows, the seeming lack of even a single ray of hope and the concentration on his qualities – or lack of same – as leader, no doubt some people are wandering the corridors of power, stats in hand hoping for a deus ex machina to deliver them from this plight. Because:
A majority of people who backed Labour at the last election, 57%, also say that they do not think the party can win again with Brown as leader. Even among current Labour supporters, 38% think Brown cannot win.
And where are those former Labour Party voters going?
Liberal Democrat support, at 20%, is two points down but remains only five points behind Labour, the narrowest gap on record. Backing for other parties, at 10%, is up one on last month, partly because of the strong nationalist performance in Scotland.
But delve into the figures and we read that:
Labour is shedding support to both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats: 17% of people who backed the party in 2005 are thinking of backing the Tories instead while 7% may vote Lib Dem.
Are those going to the LDs going because they can’t quite transition to the Conservatives? Or does the greater figure for the Conservatives indicate that the seemingly impenetrable psychological barrier that for so long surrounded the Conservatives has now been breached so that anyone, yes, even the Tories is a better bet than the Labour party.
That said, and I’d be more rather than less certain of a Conservative victory next time out (and isn’t it remarkable how even as recently as last Autumn there was talk of shafting Cameron inside the Tory party?), I suspect the scale of a Labour defeat might be somewhat lesser than these poll ratings imply. Still, who knows, particularly in an environment where a Blair clone is apparently the thing the British electorate wants, and now! What a pity to the Blairites that they were unable to offer up something similar to the voracious appetite of the public, but then they were always working with thin material. Remember the chatter about Alan Milburn? Grey, grey, grey. And yet, logically, could he have been worse than Brown has turned out to be? Or what of Charles Clarke who continues to lurk in the background, being somewhat less than helpful to the government last week on the 42 day detentions issue. But then one thinks of idiocies such as that and really, does it matter who is at the helm, and is it entirely unreasonable that people might quite literally give up on the Labour party? Because is a Labour Party with a higher poll rating under Blair Mk II, or even Brown, a significant improvement? Clearly not. Perhaps quite the opposite (and Phil at The Gaping Silence had some good points on the dangers of viewing politics through a prism of party advantage…). But then the question is what if the Conservatives get in, and what of the alternatives? Problem is, they don’t seem to be going left… there is no evidence at all that the further left is gaining any support at all.
But that’s cold comfort in Number 10 today. And there is the worrying thought that if this is the free fall we hear so much about in politics how much further can it go?
Once Blair et al dreamed of a hegemonic project that would dominate the centre left for decades. At this rate they’ll be lucky to salvage anything from the wreckage.