Local Election Failure Shows the New Labour Project is in Decline

May 2, 2008 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

So, bleary-eyed we all crawl out of bed after too little sleep and an overdose of Jeremy Vine. Labour heads will be most hazy; there are no two ways about it, they are headed out of office. Of course, it is true that a General Election is most likely two years away, but that doesn’t change the general trajectory. The general mood of the populace is that it is time for a change. We have seen that reflected in polling, and now concretely at the pooling booth. It would be totally disingenuous to say this started with Gordon Brown; the rot was setting in this time two years ago and was spreading rapidly despite the 2005 General Election win. Although Labour past the post it did so with 36% of the popular vote, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of any government. It was a probationary notice which, unless things change drastically, will be served in two years time. Although Iraq has faded in the public mind, it was the spark that lit the flame. The Blair government broke the covenant of trust between a government and the governed by duping them into going to war.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives will be jubilant and are decidedly on the march, while Liberal Democrats can be satisfied with their performance. However, the story is not yet of a mass enthusiasm for a Conservative government. One caller to the BBC’s Radio Five Live this morning mentioned the ‘spirit of 1997’, and that it is not quite in the air yet; that complete contempt for the incumbent mixed with popular desire for the successor.

Progressives who scramble to save this government at all costs are making a huge mistake; there is nothing quite like the left’s capacity to delude itself into defending gains that have already been liquidated – one step forward, two back indeed. Yes, Labour has instituted some progressive reforms (like the minimum wage, and “Sure Start”) which would be imperilled by the return of the Conservatives, but the reality is that the tide has so decisively turned that Labour is incapable of defending those gains; it has simply ceased to function as a party of progressive reform and now its unbending goal is to retain power, living like a parasite off the goodwill of people whose interests it has ceased to represent.

Losing 5 seats in Sunderland, 8 in Rotherham and 2 in North Tyneside not to mention 4 in Bury is a sure sign that the writing is on the wall for Labour as far as the core vote is concerned. John Curtrice on the BBC showed a decline in the Labour heartland vote of around 5% which with the flaking away of the non-core vote is the deadly cocktail that is destroying the Labour Party. Of course, elections are not won by ‘core votes’ or even ‘core vote strategies’ but they do provide a party with an important bedrock of support; houses are not bricks alone but it’s hard to make one without them. This predicamnet will only be compounded by Tory success in the London mayoral election, whic will provide a huge boost to David Cameron.

It is hard for progressives to derive much satisfaction from the onward march of the Tories. But blind loyalty to Party before cause and even self-interest has continually cost the left and working classes dear throughout history; it is time for change but it is time for the right kind of change

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This post was written by Darrell Goodliffe

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