Friday, 9 May 2008

Sun stops shining....for Labour at least

. So, quite a few of us may well have broken a habit of a lifetime today and actually read The Sun if only to take in the details of it's You Gov poll. The poll put the Conservatives on a whopping 49% to Labour's 23 with the Liberal Democrat's on 17%. One thing that has been blatantly obvious for a while now but has just been made even more so is that the love affair between the Murdoch press and New Labour is definitely over. It will now launch a concerted attack on the government and will give plenty of space to sickening eulogies to the Conservatives and David Cameron.

It should go without saying that the poll is not an accurate reflection of how an election would turn out (who can realistically see the Tories chalking-up Glasgow North, for example) but it does show which way the wind is blowing. Anti-Labour sentiment is running high, not quite as high as it was against the Conservatives in the lead-up to 97 but given two years to fester it could well come close. Downward spirals like this are very hard to reverse and frankly Gordon Brown isn't the man to do it; he exudes none of the self-confidence of Tony Blair or even David Cameron and as such doesn't inspire it in others. The image of the 'clunking fist' is sticking. One is defiantly reminded of how weak and ineffective John Major looked against Tony Blair and personalities count.

However, the poll (despite how we might quibble over the numbers) reflected another truth in that the anger is against the Labour Party not just it's leader. This is a serious problem for Labour and more than anything suggests that they are powerless to avoid their own demise; any economic miracle is unlikely to be credited to them and a positive event will be seen as happening in spite of the government not because of it; unless it was something it could clearly claim sole credit for (withdrawing troops from Iraq and an expression of contrition, for example).

So, where does that leave the Liberal Democrats? They are certainly not 'squeezed' as some Tories are fond of claiming (in fact, it is more likely that Labour will be squeezed at the next election) but they are faced with serious challenges most notably in expanding themselves into areas where they do not currently enjoy a base of support. This has to be done from the bottom-up, recruitment of members and creation of campaigning teams, winning councillors and then challenging for the seat.

We should be recognising that people want a change but challenging them to take that thought further and ask what kind of change people want. Barring unforeseen events a General Election is two years away which gives the party plenty of time to make strides in establishing itself. If that is done then we may well not be 'preparing for power' but we may well become recognised as a credible and even electable opposition and that would be an amazing stride forward.

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