April 27, 2010


Labour is learning that it has no right to exist: Gordon Brown could lead his party to its worst result since 1918. Will anyone be able to pick up the pieces? (Rachel Sylvester, 4/27/10, Times of London)

Is this the end for Labour? The party is trailing third in the opinion polls behind the Liberal Democrats. When Michael Foot secured 28 per cent of the vote in 1983, it was seen as catastrophic. But now Gordon Brown is regularly polling that or less. Some commentators claim that Labour could be heading for its worst result since 1918.

No wonder the Prime Minister looks exhausted. “Gordon is cyanide on the doorstep,” says one candidate from the front line of the campaign in what was once — but is no longer — a rock-solid Labour seat. But parties get the leaders they deserve and Labour too is behaving as if it has run out of steam and ideas. Cabinet ministers now openly describe a hung Parliament as a success. On Sunday the party wrote to the BBC to complain about its coverage of the election campaign, a sign of desperation rather than of determination to win. Seventy-five years after George Dangerfield published his book The Strange Death of Liberal England could we be witnessing the strange death of Labour Britain?

With ten days to go, the election is still extraordinarily open. It is too soon to write off the party that has been in power for the past 13 years. Potentially, however, the situation is even worse for Labour than it was for the Conservatives in 1997 — because there is an increasingly viable alternative to it on the centre Left. Even if Mr Brown secures more seats on polling day than Nick Clegg, as a result of the electoral system, everybody will be watching the share of the vote. It’s not impossible that the Lib Dems could leapfrog Labour as the party of choice for left-of-centre “progressives”. A hundred years ago the Liberals were the main Opposition to the Tories and there is no iron rule of politics that says their successor party could not be so again.

When a Third Way leader like Tony Blair was leading Labout it seemed like the Liberal Democrats would fold, but as his party has reacted against him it has made itself the superfluous entity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 27, 2010 5:42 AM
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