Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Any lessons?

Watching the aftermath of that '92 election shock, a number of thoughts also struck me. The first was the absolute loathing for the press shown by every Labour supporter interviewed. This was such that Michael Foot could describe an election with the highest turnout for twenty years, that gave John Major the highest ever number of votes, as a disaster for British democracy. This led into the second reaction: that the Labour message was the right one, though maybe it had compromised to the right too much, and that what was needed was not a different message, but a different electorate.
Luminaries like Ken Livingstone, John Prescott and George Galloway all opined that what was needed was a clearer delineation from the Conservatives: an identifiably Socialist message. Looking back, as a conservative, I suppose I ought to regret that they didn't take this route: a truly unelectable Labour Party would surely have resulted.
The danger for the Labour Party today is that many will consider that the alternative - the centrist repositioning of New Labour - has been tested to destruction and that only by a return to true Socialism can Labour be reborn. If Brown becomes leader and goes on to lose the election, not only will this hypothesis look more reasonable, but the opportunity for Labour to elect someone like Miliband will have receded - a more ideolgically 'pure' candidate will have to be found, like John Hutton for example.
Labour would then be in danger of falling into precisely the same trap as the Tories did in 1997 - retreating into ideolgically pure water, refusing to compromise with the electorate - and thus rendering themselves unelectable all over again. They dodged the bullet in 1992 - can they do the same again in 2009?

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