Thursday, July 24, 2008

Whatever happens, I don't think Brown will go

It is the time of a by-eleciton evening when there is no result and to fill in the time, politicians and commentators are speculating about the result and the consequences were the speculation to turn out to be accurate. The speculation in this instance is about whether or not Brown will go if the SNP win the seat from Labour.

I have said on a number of occasions on this blog that I do not believe that Brown will resign. Getting rid of a party leader in opposition is one thing (a skill both the Lib Dems and Conservatives have developed into a finely tuned artform in the past decade), getting rid of a sitting Prime Minister is another, especially one who has been in Downing St for such a short time. There is of course no clear alternative to Brown in the Labour party at the moment even though the likes of Straw, Milliband, Purnell (even Harman!!!!!!!) have been named as successors were the grey men of Labour to hand Brown the silver pistol.

There is a further point that it is not just Brown who is unpopular. It is the whole of the Labour party. And I think there are many in the Labour party who know this is the case. I was at a party about 3 weeks ago and there were a large number of grassroots Labour members there. A summary of their views, expressed at that event is as follows: what is the point of getting rid of Brown when it will change nothing?; Labour are unpopular; they are resigned to losing the election and frankly, what is occupying their minds is how to salvage a survival of their own local MP. The event I attended was in London but it may well be that the grassroots of the Labour party across the country are of the same frame of mind.

One other point about this by-election is that it illustrates that the party in a constituency that is best placed to beat Labour will be the one that does well. The challenger varies from one constituency to another and in Glasgow East, the SNP were firmly established in people's minds from the start as being the party best placed to beat Labour. Go back to the 1990s and you will see a similar situation only with people lining up behind the party best placed to beat the Conservatives. Labour therefore are facing a pincer movement that they have not experienced since the 1930s when, particularly in 1931, Labour were crushed almost out of site, even though they got a share of the vote not that far behind what they got in 2005.

Tactical voting has benefitted Labour enormously in the past 3 general elections. But just as it has worked for them, Labour can be seriously handicapped when it works against them. Time will tell whether the tactical vote bandwagon picks up momentum against Labour, and if it does, they are in big, big trouble.

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