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British politics after Blair 
8th-Sep-2006 01:16 pm
British politics, Britain
So Blair has set a 12-month time limit on remaining Labour Party leader although, as Guido Fawkes notes, not necessarily as Prime Minister. Guido calls this the Aznar option, it's worth pointing out it was also the less-than-successful Gerhard Schröder option too.

Personally, I doubt Blair will last 12 months or anything like it. Until he goes, civil war will reign in the Labour Party. Unlike Blair, too many people in the Labour Party have an interest in not losing the next election for that to happen. Unless they're really, really stupid. And I don't think they are.

Will Gordon Brown simply be annointed as Labour leader? Even though I’m not a Labour supporter, I’m rather inclined to agree with what Charles Clarke said this morning about Brown being able to stop last week's anti-Blair letters if he wanted to.

Brown will be a disaster as Labour leader. If Brown really had the capacity to be leader, he would have become so after the Granita restaurant, after Blair was clearly out of step with the country on the war, after Labour lost 50 seats at the General Election, etc., etc. He didn’t because he has no killer instinct and no real leadership skills. Brown likes to skulk in the corner and avoid difficult issues (so, what's your position on the War, Gordy?). You can't do that as Prime Minister. He might well become Labour leader, but he isn’t going to be a good one.

And the left will end up hating him - they forget that he’s co-creator of New Labour and just as pro-American as Blair. Cue more Labour infighting

The Blairites seem to be rallying round Alan Johnson or Millburn - these are not serious suggestions to anyone outside the No. 10 press office. In fact they just go to show how far detached from reality the Number 10 coterie are these days.

I mean, like, Alan Millburn? Be serious.

A second-rate minister with the charisma of a plastic toilet-roll holder and a tendency to bully, who’s so far to the right he even makes me nervous and, more importantly, will be incapable of shoring up a Labour grassroots more and more disillusioned with their natural party. Who is going to go out and canvass for that eejit to become Prime Minister. And the ground war might matter a lot in what could well be (note the hedging here) a low-turnout election with a lot of splintering to micro-parties.

This is the silliest idea in politics I’ve heard for a long time. If Millburn is leader, Labour will be crushed at the next General Election. Enough people know that for him not to become leader.

As for Alan Johnson - who are ye, Alan Johnson? John Major without the charisma. No chance.

John Reid obviously wants to be Prime Minister and his performance over the transatlantic hijack plot has sent his stock soaring. Just remember that shares can go up as well as down, he's also very right-wing, he's not an especially likeable person (it's useful to be liked when your party is falling to bits), and he's profoundly, irredeemably, Central Belt Scottish. There are a lot of questions to be answered here, but at the end of the day I can not only see "John Reid, Prime Minister" as a possibility, I can see him winning re-election in 2010.

However, my real tip for an outside bet worth keeping an eye on is Jack Straw. Straw has been around for a long time, is the ultimate internal hack, will know how to win votes among his parliamentary collegaues and the unions in Labour's complicated electoral college system, and he's redeemed himself with many of the left-wing rank and file members by getting sacked by Blair for being too pro-Palestinian. Watch Jack Straw.

What about the other parties? What about the Tories and their recovery?

The first point worth remembering is that in the latter days of Thatcher, Labour were more than 20% ahead in the polls. And even poor Iain Duncan Smith had the odd good poll. Mid-terms polls when the government is tearing itself to bits are one thing, winning elections is another. Leading mid-term polls in these circumstances by 5-9% isn't only no big deal, it's nothing of consequence at all.

Cameron has restored the Tories’ credibility with the media, yes, but has he done it with the voters? It’s far too early to tell.

As for the LibDems, ditching Kennedy was right but Ming Campbell was a desperately bad choice. He was clearly out of his depth in the leadership campaign and he can't give an interview without making a stupid policy concession to a reporter. I can't believe that many people actually voted for him as leader after seeing his lame performances on TV. However, the LibDem front-bench is strong, probably stronger than it ever has been - the more the public see of Huhne, Clegg and Davey and the less of Campbell the better it will be for them.

Oh, and does anyone really think Britain's Middle East quagmire will be forgotten about by 2010? And even if it is, Vietnam may not have cost Nixon the 1968 or 72 election, but it combined with Watergate to cost Ford 76. The LibDems are the only party who agree with the public on the seminal foreign policy question of the day. They sort of need to remember that and say it a bit more often.

All this political confusion makes me think the next General Election will produce a hung parliament, which is what I've thought since about a year before the last one.

And the great addition to the unpredictability is the continued success of 4th parties in both the polls and local elections. The Greens, UKIP and BNP between them will easily poll 10% at the next general election if they contest enough seats. That, in effect, reduces the 'winning post' in a first-past-the-post electoral system and makes the whole thing very difficult to predict, although its net effect is probably to help Labour slightly.
Comments 
8th-Sep-2006 07:56 pm (UTC)
Nick was right to point people here methinks.

I don't think I'd have managed a roundup like that even when I was on form, my current writers block is stopping the thoughts from forming anyway.

I can't disagree with any of the analysis, and agree completely about the likelihood of a hung parliament. The question there is how the parties, and her majesty, react.

The biggest dread is the German option, at least to me, but at least Cameron is making the right noises to allow the LibDems to not have the proverbial barge pole reaction.

Interesting times, especially for psephologists and poll watchers.
8th-Sep-2006 09:19 pm (UTC)
Actually, I can't see the German option occurring here - Labour, in particular, have a lot of supporters who viserally hate the Tories and quite happily vote LibDem in council elections. If Labour jump into bed with the Tories then a lot of their voters go yellow (and Green, Red and BNP). Again enough of them know that for it not to happen.

I'm quite sanguine about the idea of a blue-yellow coalition. There, I never thought I'd hear myself say that! It will cause a lot of problems for the LibDems (who'd actually have to put policies into practice) and for the Tories (who have this silly idea that coalitions are somehow... well foreign. If they can get over that (and I think Cameron, Osborne, Huhne and Davey are more than capable of whipping their respective parties into line).

A red-yellow coalition I don't like the look of. Scotland writ large? I really don't like the current Scottish government which makes policy like a mad middle-aged social worker and I think it would be an economic disaster for the UK. I also think it would do the LibDems serious, long-term, damage. Nobody thanks you for propping up an unpopular government that's been around for too long. Ask Dick Spring about how he managed to muck up the Irish Labour Party's golden opportunity.
8th-Sep-2006 09:36 pm (UTC)
Labour, in particular, have a lot of supporters who viserally hate the Tories

On that, I agree completely. I can actually see the current leadership thinking it a great idea, but it would never work.

I'm quite sanguine about .. a blue-yellow coalition. There, I never thought I'd hear myself say that!

Neither did I, and I agree completely; am in fact intending to work quite hard for it over the next few years (my blogging magnum opus thus far). Which given I'm way on the left of the LDs and openly use the term socialist as a self description is showing how bad I think the current lot are.

It will cause a lot of problems for the LibDems (who'd actually have to put policies into practice)

I actually think that, at least within Parliament, they're nearly ready for that. Especially true of the newer intake who are actually looking seriously at the chance of Govt rather than simply being decent constituency MPs like some of the '97 and earlier intake)

and for the Tories (who have this silly idea that coalitions are somehow... well foreign.

Like the Tory Party itself isn't a broad church coalition in the first place. They spent 20 years preaching choice, competition and markets, but want winner takes all choice denying FPTP in the false illusion of strong govt... I'll, um, stop ranting shall I.

If they can get over that (and I think Cameron, Osborne, Huhne and Davey are more than capable of whipping their respective parties into line).

Yes, agreed. Huhne in particular really impressed me in the leadership bid. And I own one of his books, which threw me when I figured it out.

Scotland writ large? I really don't like the current Scottish government which makes policy like a mad middle-aged social worker and I think it would be an economic disaster for the UK.

Y'know, if you keep making off the cuff comments like that, you'll have no problem picking up readers; agree completely, I haven't read much good things to come out of the Scottish Govt for ages, and that the SNP are the only other valid coalition partner is worrying in many ways. Still, at least the Nats are a little less "we must stamp and categorise everyone" than Labour.
8th-Sep-2006 09:56 pm (UTC)
Well, I can't disagree with much of that either!

As far as Scotland goes, I don't think Alex Salmond is returning to the Scottish Parliament for nothing. He wants to be First Minister. If the LibDems can maintain something close their UK General Election performance and the SNP can avoid meltdown, a LibDem/SNP/Green coalition with a workable majority is entirely possible, at least mathematically. Especially as the Scottish far left is in circular firing squad mode, which will gift 4 or 5 seats to that putative coalition. The LibDems could even consider gifting Salmond an independence referendum in the knowledge the pro-independence side can't really break the 35% mark which would kill the issue for a generation. Although it would split the government and there would be a risk of a backlash.

The LibDem experience in coalition with Labour in Scotland has been odd - there was a lot of early promise, Labour's repeated leadership problems helped the LibDems make their own mark in terms of policy, the vote held up well... but the longer it's gone on, the more the LibDems realise why they didn't join the Labour party in the first place. Or at least that's my impression.
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The Tories detest anything south of Calais... the Lib Dems bend over backwards for anything with the prefix Euro in its title. Square that circle and try and keep the plates spinning. At least we will all be able to have a laugh while they tear each other to pieces.
13th-Sep-2006 09:03 pm (UTC)
The Tories detest anything south of Calais...
Not true
the Lib Dems bend over backwards for anything with the prefix Euro in its title.
Also not true
Square that circle and try and keep the plates spinning.
Already done.

Official Tory policy is to remain in the EU, but to reform, decentralise and democratise the whole thing.

Official Lib Dem policy is to stay within the EU, but to reform, decentralise and democratise the whole thing.

Only real difference is presentation and emphasis.

I, for one, was rather happy with Hague's speech to Open Europe in June, and while I disagreed on some of his emphasis, it would be more than possible to build a consensus around what he set out.

Some Tories hate anything south of Calais, some LibDem are centralising enthusiasts, but most Lib Dems want to decentralise and democratise pretty much everything, including the EU.
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