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Five Years from The Next Election

May 17, 2015

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Many on the left seem engaged in head-up-bottom introspection and election predictions, two-hundred-and-sixty-eight weeks (probably) from the next election. They are the same people who couldn’t predict the last election five minutes before the polls closed. Now, they speak with absolute certainty about the next one, which is five years away. The lessons are there for whomever cares to learn them.

Within a similar timeframe in Greece: the leading left-of-centre PaSoK had collapsed from 45% of the vote to 4.5% of the vote; a new radical party was governing in coalition with the equivalent of UKIP; oh yes; and the nastier, Greek version of the BNP had come third.

Elections turn on events and events are notoriously unpredictable.

Who could have predicted “Sleaze” creating a perfect storm with “Back to Basics” in the early 90s? Or the MPs expenses scandal within months of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008-09? There are events that no government can live down. There are wounds inflicted which are fatal, whether instantly or over time. All it takes is a nexus of unforeseen events and an opposition shrewd enough to capitalise on it.

Strangely, I think the former condition was present during the last administration, but not the latter. Cameron was hugely vulnerable after he lost the vote on Syria. His backbenchers were itching for a fight. The “Omnishambles Budget” was a thread hanging off a very delicate coalition fabric, just begging for someone to keep tugging. Nobody did with any conviction. Osborne’s job was on the line that month. 20% more pressure and the LibDems would have joined calls for his head.

These things could and should have been kept fresh in people’s minds. An inescapable narrative of incompetence begged to be constructed. Every time the Conservatives claimed competence in security, the public should have been reminded of a PM who refused to return from holiday, then recalled the House and presented a half-baked Syria motion, which he lost. Every time they claimed economic competence, a reminder of the “Omnishambles” budget should have been the response. By the time we got to the election, the Coalition would have been the brunt of limericks and the punchline of jokes.

Instead, having done little of this groundwork, Labour got involved in a circle-wank with headstones and coffee mugs. This is because for over four years it had been an introspective party, behind the curve of events, concerned over whether it had chosen the right leader, winning the occasional battle, but unable to sustain a strategy for winning the war. Everything was aimed at convincing itself of its own credentials, instead of convincing the country.

Battles are not won or lost only in the four weeks of a campaign. They are won and lost in the years that precede them. Anyone can play a check-mate, provided they are handed a chess board in which a check-mate is one move away. The skill is in getting in that position. Opportunities will present themselves for either side, because they always do; because politics is shaped by the fickle nature of events. The biggest of these opportunities may materialise in four years or tomorrow. All the governing party can do is be as unified, professional and effective as possible; ready to play a killer move. All the opposition has to do is exactly the same. The best strategy will win.

Every moment that is devoted exclusively to introspection is lost from effective opposition. The two activities can and must go hand-in-hand. There isn’t “plenty of time”. Opposition is Labour’s key constitutional role. Once the moment is gone, it is impossible to recover. The stakes are high: the future of the NHS and the BBC, the integrity of our civil rights, our membership of the European Union. If these bedrocks are allowed to be eroded unopposed, the public will never forgive Labour. I will never forgive Labour.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2015 1:47 pm

    For me, the most soul-sucking aspect of modern politics and the recent election was the relentless focus on party “branding”. I don’t want my vote to be competed for in a marketing exercise; I want politicians who have vision and passion. Focus-group-sourced policies and stage-managed sound-bites drip with soporific insincerity. Either be genuine or be gone.

  2. May 17, 2015 2:01 pm

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  3. Jacke permalink
    May 17, 2015 4:35 pm

    I should have voted Labour. I’d done so at the previous election and was expecting to do so again in 2015.
    They finally lost me last November when seemed to be a final attempt by “two MPs” to unseat Ed and keep their jobs.
    Don’t get me wrong, I had issues with Ed myself, but I could have got over it if he’d managed to show me a Labour Party that knew what it stood for and who it stood up for.
    It hadn’t managed that and for a few days at the back end of last year, there seemed to be a realisation that this was the absolutely last chance for a desperate attempt to get it sorted in time for the election.
    Instead of acknowledging the problem that clearly existed, we were met by a wall of arrogance, hashtags, soundbites and overrehearsed buzz phrases repeated ad infinitum by the Top Brass of the Labour-in-Denial Party.
    ‘Nonsense!!’ they told me – even Ed himself said so. Apparently we were all excited by the Cost of Living Crisis, and Ed was tinkering at the edges of that one, so there was no problem. See? That proves it, YOU’RE ALL WRONG!!

    Their sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting LALALA finished me off in the end.
    In my constituency my Labour vote wouldn’t have made one jot of difference anyway.
    It’s just as well.
    I actually warmed to Ed in the end. But not enough to vote for the party he led.

    • May 17, 2015 5:08 pm

      I warmed to Ed eventually but the immigration rhetoric and the edstone totally failed with me, unfortunately and like you, it doesn’t matter what I vote in a Tory safe seat.

  4. May 17, 2015 5:04 pm

    I heard a Labour insider saying they took too long electing a new leader back in 2010 giving the Tories that time to imprint the narrative of the economic shambles they’d been left. It looks like they’re now navel gazing seeing problems that aren’t there and missing the ones that are. I’m finding it hard to keep optimistic especially when they say they want someone to ‘inspire’ them. I’d be content if they took their heads out of their arses and fought back with some well rehearsed and well aimed mantras of their own.

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