Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

After Glasgow East, Labour Lemmings Peer Over the Edge

There is much talk today of a “suicide election”, along with the speculation of who will succeed Gordon Brown (this weekend’s choice, after the deflation of Harriet Harman’s appalling PMQ performance recently, is Jack Straw). Certainly, albeit with an outsider’s view, the Labour activists I happen to have heard and talked to recently do seem to see some merit in “getting it overwith”. While suicide may be an apt analogy – in that calling an early election knowing you will almost certainly lose goes against the DNA of any party – it is inappropriate in that there is a mortal afterlife for most of those involved.

It won’t happen though, anymore than it would have happened in 1995. The general election won’t be as bad as Glasgow East, the reasoning will go, and that reasoning would be correct. But that leads back to the comfort zone thinking that it really is mid-term blues and things will swing back before the election, if only we give them time.

In truth: no, things clearly won’t be as bad as a by-election result. General elections don’t work like that. But to put off the election only gives the mantra of “time for a change” longer to soak into the electorate’s mindset. Two more years for the idea of a tired and rudderless government to become accepted fact among the media. The longer Labour go on, the larger the Conservative majority in 2010, and the longer Labour will need to de-toxify their own image (as well as David Cameron having a larger majority to cushion himself against the inevitable hiccups of government).

Of course, it won’t likely be Gordon Brown calling an early election anyway. A new leader could call it, get the expected result (but by less of a margin than feared under Brown) and get on with the real job that he/she was elected for and rebuild the party. That, after all, is an opposition leader’s main job: they can’t win elections as such (as the old saying goes, it’s governments who lose elections, not oppositions who win them), but they can pull a battle fatigued and demoralised party together and prepare them for the long slog back to power.

In the Conservative’s case, it was a task that initially fell upon William Hague – a party leader before his time, he nevertheless did a lot of the hard work: he lanced the boil of Europe and enacted some important internal reforms.

But I don’t see it happening with Labour. Those may sound like words ready to be eaten, but if I do find myself brandishing the cutlery over my digital scribblings, I won’t be too upset, as it will mean that Labour have had less time to screw things up, which means less repair work for us to do (including the pain which some will try to blame us for) before making things genuinely better for the country.


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