Saturday, May 07, 2005

Not a bad result

All in all, I'm happy with Thursday.

I think that it has sent the right signal to Tony about just how poor a decision the Iraq war was and that he needs to rediscover some of the roots of the Party. I have no doubt that one of the main reasons we lost so many seats was because of Iraq and because of his failure to resign when the truth of the argument came out. I'll give him credit for standing by his decision and it is possible that history might prove him right in the long run, but the decision was wrong and the attempts to justify it by spinning limited intelligence data were hamfisted and bad government. The hammering that we took on Thursday has put the lid on any further foreign adventures with Uncle George and the US Marines - quite apart from the military limitations of our stretched armed forces.

Half-baked ideas like ID cards and these daft 'control orders' also need to be re-addressed and junked, but Tony needs to reconnect with the grass roots of the party. We're finding it increasingly hard to get people out to do the hard graft of running a campaign and it gets even more difficult when you need people to work in between the excitement of an election. Dropping 10,000 leaflets through doors in a Birmingham council ward isn't going to set the pulse racing, but it is important in connecting with the electorate and also showing them that politics isn't just conducted on TV by an elite class of Oxbridge graduates, but by people in their own community, just like them. Failing to do that dooms the party in the long run - that ground work wins tight elections, not party political broadcasts or photo-ops by the leaders. From here on in, it will be difficult, but then we're at our best when we're fighting for a cause.

It is now a matter of when Tony decides to go. Nobody seriously expects him to serve out a full term and hand over to a new leader with a few weeks to go before the next election - the party would demand a longer run-in than that. I'd expect something between 9 months and two years - perhaps a hand over at the 2006 party conference would be appropriate.

A majority of 66/67 (depending on whether we manage to overturn Patrick Cormack in South Staffordshire when that is run in a month - not a likely scenario, I'll grant you) is still more than workable. It is more than Thatcher had in 1979 and is three times that granted to Major in 1992 and invulnerable to the vagaries of by-elections (barring an outbreak of food poisoning in the members' dining room). It does empower the awkward squad, which will be enlarged now.

If you were an MP in 1997, your chances of making ministerial office have reduced significantly - there's been a couple of new intakes and they might well have good claims to promotion. Also, we're on our third term now and the pendulum will swing against Labour sooner or later, so your chances of a ministerial career in the future don't look good. All this means that you might as well start voting with your own head rather than with that of the whips. Hopefully this will mean that some of the more awkward policies will fall. This shift can only be good for democracy, as the government will no longer be able to rely on a thumping great majority of compliant backbenchers, so expect focus to return to the Commons for the first time in a while.

Amongst all the gloom and doom, we've still put a Labour government in power for the third time in a row - another record. Even though a week may be a long time in politics, I'm also confident about our chances of achieving a fourth victory under our next leader.

1 comment:

Scribbles said...

Dismay this morning to find the usual suspects more than happy to talk to the media about Blair resigning.

There is real irony in their stance that Blair is damaging the party, when they're doing a good bit of that themselves.

Thanks very much for this blog by the way. It's very insightful.