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What are the consequences of our electoral judgements?

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Let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture – Labour is in deep trouble.

“BNP Breakthrough” the headlines scream at us after the election of two of their members to the European Parliament yesterday, in newspapers and websites one would think that it was the main event rather than the side show. The people in two regions spanning the M62 corridor turned away from the Labour Party and many of them cast a vote for the extreme left nationalist socialist party either in sheer protest or as a misguided reaction to the perceived failure to control immigration and a feeling of alienation as the natural party of choice appears to have deserted their core supporters. An aberration of the electoral system in use provided them with the opportunity and now we are faced with an embarrassment.

But it is not the main story, and to some extent neither is the suberb result from the Conservatives in holding their share of the vote and marginally increasing their numbers in the EU Parliament. A remarkable achievement it certainly was and with almost double the amount of votes given to the governing party and leading the way in Wales for the first time since 1918 David Cameron certainly does have something to cheer about. UKIPs ability to hold up it’s support may indicate to the Tories that the public wish to pursue a much tougher line with the EU, and that we feel totally cheated by Labour’s failure to hold a promised referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, there is a message there to be considered by the Conservatives and we need to know precisely what “we will not let matters rest” actually means. However, in the final analysis, the main story has to be the complete collapse of Labour’s support not only during the period of MPs expense disclosures but over the longer term and the overwhelming feeling that the party no longer offers any real hope to hard working families during this recession and that Gordon Brown’s period in office as Prime Minister is eroding Labour support even further.

The meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party this evening will provide a massive opportunity for those beleagered MPs facing the prospect of impending unemployment to vent their spleen and perhaps set in motion a train of events that may either (a) condemn Labour to the most crushing of defeats at the next election or (b) limit the damage and provide a basis for renewal in opposition. Cabinet Ministers, on the whole, have shown themselves to be faint hearts and cynical cowards, with one or two exceptions. It is palbably clear that Gordon Brown’s continued leadership will garner no improvement in popular support, the man is reviled by the public, and is an electoral asset only to the Conservative Party, loyalty to Gordon will only ensure a one year tenure now for many MPs. Further, hanging on to Brown until the election will only ensure that the first few years in opposition will be spent in an introspective bun fight between rival factions in a Parliamentary group much reduced in size, one that could sway further to the left and condemn Labour to many years in the wilderness. A change in leader now may be widely welcomed by the public but we will baulk at the prospect of two consecutive Prime Ministers who have not gained an electoral mandate (and this is one of Brown’s biggest problems, he did not face a contest to lead his party and he has not faced a contest to lead the nation, he appears to shy away from all elections.) So any new Labour leader must be willing to dissolve Parliament and go to the country sooner rather than later.  This prospect may just about ensure a softer landing for Labour and perhaps limit the amount of seats lost and give them the opportunity to rebuild in opposition rallying behind a new flag.

There is also the question of what the government can or will do between now and the next general election, their Parliamentary programme is almost depleted and they are already legislating less than is normal, instead of berating the Tories as the “do nothing” party they ought to be looking at their own activity, there is an excellent post in LabourList by Bill Dewison asking who really is the “do nothing” party:

The longer this internal battle within the Labour Party continues, the more damage will be done to British politics as a whole, the more damage will be done to an already fragile economy and ultimately the more damage will be done to the country. We need confidence in our politicians, that they can lead us through crisis, but at the moment all I am seeing is that they are fighting desperately to save their own careers with little or no consideration for the long-lasting chaos they are dumping on the electorate. Add to that what this is doing to our position internationally, the confidence the world has in Britain is diminishing by the hour.

At this very moment I don’t want Gordon Brown to put the Labour Party first and I definitely don’t want him to put himself first. I want him to put the country and the well-being of the electorate at the top of the agenda. It is irrelevant whether MPs or the media believe he can do the job, what matters is whether the British people are confident in his leadership.

If Gordon is to continue as Prime Minister for the next 12 months, will anything get done? Will any of the real issues affecting the British people be addressed or are we going to be subjected to another year of political infighting?

Yes, quite, a whole year when next to nothing of great importance will be enacted, and who is to say there won’t be further ersignations along the way? Gordon Brwon will finish off his attempts to buy MPs support to rebuild the government that reshuffled itself today, but the decisions that the Labour Party take over the next few days will have paramount importance for the whole country, they must decide whether or not to tend their wounds and nurse a very sick patient through a long and agonising death, or whether to opt for major surgery. The country deserves to have a government that it has confidence in, a government that is active with fresh ideas and a new progressive programme for change.

We can only get that government and that confidence with a Parliament that has a fresh mandate gained through a general election. Labour MPs could do us all a great service over the coming days if they see our interests as being greater than Gordon Brown’s.

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Written by curly

June 8, 2009 at 10:51 am

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