Every 20 – 30 years there are cataclysmic elections. Moments in history that re-define the political and social outlook for the ensuing period or generation. Perhaps we can draw on the 1997 Labour victory as being one such instance.
In 1997, people came out in droves, not just to reject a tired incumbent Government, but to usher in a new era, represented by a fresh, new Labour party. Complete with charismatic new leader and radical new policy agenda. The present-day Tories boast a new leader, with savvy charisma, but there the similarity ends abruptly. Consistently, in the past couple of years the Conservatives have rejected policy proposals from their focus groups in favour of old policies that keep the party faithful happy. This is the monumental failure of Cameron as a leader, and is part of the reason why I feel Labour can win in 2010.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that the election is in the bag, merely that the criteria for monumental political change does not properly exist, to gift it to the Conservatives. Let’s take the below five points as being the benchmark for a dramatic shift come 2010;
1) Intense public dissatisfaction – perhaps we have seen this with the aftermath of the 10p tax debacle, but it is by no means intense enough to cause serious upset to Labour in 2010. Most voters seem relatively intent on a number of issues, education, health and the environment for example. The Tories are making challenges, and serious ones, on economic competence, but they are not severe enough to deliver a killer blow.
2) High political intensity – this refers to controversy, the Brown Government is relatively scandal free at present, however I can see big problems if Mps expenses aren’t properly sorted out. Unlike the Major Government, Brown’s hasn’t been hit by scandal astronomically.
3) Ideological polarisation – where there are political differences, the Tories are unable to take a polarised position, thus meaning they are incapable of offering an adequate alternative. Until they start flexing their policy credentials, Cameron will face an uphill struggle all the way up Downing Street.
4) Higher than usual voter turnout – we saw this in Crewe, a massive turnout delivered a decided blow against the Government, that is our wake-up call. Damage was also dealt in the local elections however turnout was low. This shows the Labour vote nationally staying at home, but not, critically, shifting to the Tories.
5) Third party challenge – In 1997 there was talk of a Lib-Lab coalition, should the Tories just pull through, this was unnecessary in the end given the size of the majority. The Lib Dems will need to prove their political pedigree if they are to make in roads. Will the put pressure on Labour, as they are doing at the moment, or will they stress their position as the real alternative. Much work is needed by Clegg and is team to prove that they can form any kind of coherent opposition.
I am not arguing that Labour have it in the bag, far from it, if Crewe is our wake-up call then action is needed to counter any Conservative attempts to gain further political high-ground. The Tory tactic at the moment is to attack the economy, that’s all well and good but they won’t be able to win the next election if they don’t challenge anywhere else. As John Prescott said our message should be; social justice and economic prosperity for all. Stand on our records and achievements, but importantly build upon them.
2010 won’t be a cataclysmic election, instead, if Labour lose it will be a referendum on the incumbent, not an unquestionable acceptance of the alternative.