Thursday, October 16, 2008

The next general election: in the style of 1997, 1992 or 1945?

I was going to blog a week or so ago about what the next general election could resemble in terms of past elections. I had in mind a rerun of the 1992 and 1997 contests. Both were very different types of election which produced very different results. But I didn't get round to writing it and since then, we have had Gordon Brown striding the world like a modern day Churchill, leading the fight back against the dark forces of a banking meltdown, telling the world what needs to be done and how to do it, yet dependent at the end of the day on the US (and the EU) to control the global menace.

So, is the next election going to be compared to the 1997 contest? In other words, is the prevailing mood going to be that we need anyone other than the existing lot? In 1997 the Tories were in disarray, and had lost all economic credibility, yet Labour, despite having dumped their left wing garbage and posturing, didn't ultimately stand for much but did project themselves as a change in management. It needs to be remembered that in 1997 the economy was recovering and there had been a few years of economic growth - Labour often added the Tory years to the claim Blair and Brown had given the country its longest period of growth since the Romans left Britain.

So despite the economy having turned around and people's personal finances improving, the prevailing view was that the Tories' credibility had been shot to bits by the collapse of the ERM policy and they had to go. Could 2010 be a rerun of this but with the boot on the other foot? Perhaps the US presidential election will give us a clue as to how things could turn out here. By the next general election however, we will either be in a recession or recovering from one. Will Labour pay the price for that? Has their credibility been shot to bits by the events of recent months?

Then there is the prospect of a rerun of the 1992 election. Then Britain was in recession and the Tories had previously been deeply unpopular - and looked set to take the blame for the deep downturn being suffered. Labour felt they were on course for victory. But the public mood was not one of recrimination. Instead, people looked for a safe pair of hands, leaders with the ability to get them out of the trough they were in, even if the same leaders had led them into the mess in the first place. The Major government was helped by an opposition over which people had significant doubts. People went to the polls and reluctantly voted Conservative despite their recent history. In troubled time, better the devil you know.

But then there is the 1945 election. The Conservative had been in power for quite some time (granted in the final 5 years as part of a coalition). For 5 years they had been led by Churchill who dominated all around him and strode around the world leading the free nations against the menace that threatened to undermine the planet. The Conservatives however had been in power when all the problems blew up. They had failed to take action to prevent the rise of the threat from the Nazis. They had run the system that let the calamity, the 2nd World War, take place. Churchill as Prime Minister, was regarded as a colossus by the people who had saved them from the calamity. But they were not in any mood to allow the people who presided over the birth of the calamity to remain in power. Churchill was out. "Never again" was the prevailing mood.

So what will the next election be? 1945 "Never again"? 1992 "Better the devil you know"? 1997 "anyone other than the current lot"? Well, I haven't the foggiest idea. Perhaps the next election will resemble no other but the clock is ticking and the election is getting closer.
Sent via BlackBerry


Darrell G said...

92 if Brown goes to the polls in 09 ...45 if he leaves it till 10....if it hadnt been for the credit crunch then it would have been 97 but I think thats been shot to pieces now....

Anonymous said...

Michael Portillo said last night on "This Week" that Gordon Brown should go to the polls in early 2009 rather than hang out until 2010 because he will still be gleaming from his actions of the last fortnight. I have this funny feeling it will be on the grounds of the 92 election.

Julie Nicholson