Saturday, April 24, 2010

The downfall of the Labour Party?

How much worse can it get for Labour?

The trend in the polls looks pretty awful for them, and there is clearly no atmosphere of peace and love in their campaign either. Judging by the ground war, Labour seem very short of money and very short of activists. There is a real chance that Labour will come third in votes already. The question that is going to be asked pretty soon is whether the scale of the Labour collapse gets so big that they start to lose a large number of seats. This asks two more questions: which seats and to which of the other two parties ? A Hung Parliament is still pretty likely - if the polls stay roughly where they are. If, however, Labour falls significantly below their current polling average of about 27%, which was thought to be pretty much their core vote, then it could get pretty catastrophic for them.

In 1997 we saw Labour elected on an unexpected and unprecedented landslide. Could 2010 see them removed in an unprecedented and unexpected obliteration? For sure Labour have not been giving the voters too many reasons to support them. For sure Gordon Brown has been graceless and uninspiring- "Women, and you are one", and other clunky howlers. Even worse though, has been the total lack of self belief. "Socialism" as an ideology has been intellectually bankrupt for at least twenty years, but the cynical and unprincipled charlatanism of the Blair "project" somehow kept the show on the road for the Labour Party. Now, with the three-ring circus of the Blair ego now gone, the light has gone out of their eyes. The zombie party could finally be facing its inevitable doom. The fact that Labour seems to have effectively been playing for a draw does not look like tactics, but more like political suicide. The Labour Party has now only got ten days to recover any ground or indeed give anyone a reason to vote for them. In fact the postal votes, which have been issued in high numbers this election, are now beginning to come back. A significant number of people have therefore already voted in large numbers for the Liberal Democrats. The door for Labour is already closing. For the Tories, the mood music is probably slightly improving, although there is increasing bitterness and rancour amongst their campaign team, as simple exhaustion sets in. Certainly I do not think that George Osborne has covered himself in glory by trying to cover the Lib Dems in the brown stuff. In terms of the popular vote, it is pretty unlikely that the Conservatives can move up very much from the low-mid thirties in the polls, but the Labour collapse might mean that the Tories could snatch a small majority.

The real work for the Liberal Democrats is now beginning. Obviously the party is seeking to maximise its vote and maximise its tally of seats in the House of Commons. The party is riding a wave of revulsion at the old style politics of the Conservatives and Labour- and the concerted smear attacks by the Tory press just shows how much George Osborne and Andy Coulson owe to Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell.

The Tories are hoping that the Labour collapse is small enough to essentially split the anti-Conservative vote and allow the Tories to get a majority government despite only getting a bear third of the vote. I think there would be burning resentment amongst the voters at such a result, and demands for a fairer voting system have grown ever louder through the campaign. That resentment would be fuelled further by the fact that the Tories are pledged to ignore any call for a change in the system. This election has become about who is ready to enact the real constitutional reform the country needs: it is demonstrably not the Conservatives, and the cynical partial measures proposed by Labour are too little and too late to give them any credibility.

As we lead into the last full week in the campaign, Labour are falling to bits, but despite the dirty work of their media supporters, the Tories have still not sealed the deal. There is still the chance that the Liberal Democrats can make such a strong advance that economic sense and real political reform can be the priorities of the next government, instead of the callow bromides of Cameron and Osborne.

In that sense - and most unexpectedly- the battle of the next few days will be to see whether the the Liberal Democrats can seal the deal, and take sufficient support from both Labour and the Conservatives to ensure that the agenda of reform that we propose, and which the British people generally support, can now be put into government.

UPDATE: the Labour rally just finished, Lame celebrity endorsements, Elvis endorsements and all, is such a car crash, that it is hard not to think that Labour are now in a death spiral.

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