Is Mandelson right? Is the election up-for-grabs?
I find this a hard question to answer on one level; everything logical screams no, this government and the Labour Party in government are finished; there can be little doubt that there is a sense of finality about the government which, like it or not, is personified so well in Gordon Brown. However, Peter Mandelson thinks differently and part of me can see why; so many factors show clearly that while Brown’s government might be in a similar state of disrepair to the Major government, David Cameron’s opposition are nowhere near as highly regarded as Tony Blair’s Labour were and that has been proved time and again.
Part of this is no doubt due to the political DNA of the different parties and how they are widely perceived; it is simply not the case that people instinctively think of the Conservative Party when they are wanting radical change. Labour, by contrast, are perceived as being a party of radical change and therefore are much more likely to generate positive enthusiasm against a decaying Conservative government. No matter how many times David Cameron booms ‘Now for Change’ he is unlikely to be able to change this and this does make him and his party still vulnerable no matter how unpopular the government becomes. Major’s Conservatives spectacularly failed to undermine the notion that Blair had radically changed Labour but the reverse may not be true; the above means that the Labour Party is de facto seen as more capable of changing.
Hardly surprising then that a recent poll found people thought Cameron was more spin than substance(a charge that never really stuck to Blair until after the Iraq War). So, this might prove a fruitful line of attack for Labour (along with policies to motivate the core vote) as long as it is not done crudely like it was in Crewe & Nantwich. The same poll also incidentally finds that the public shares the uncertainty about the outcome of the next election; this is desperately bad news for us because it makes supporters of both the Conservatives and Labour less likely to ‘risk’ a vote for the Liberal Democrats.
However, the sticking point remains Gordon Brown and his leadership which is deeply unpopular and a serious barrier to Labour’s prospects. The Independent poll that found almost anybody would do better and coupled with the data on the lack of enthusiasm for the Conservatives clearly does show a way back for Labour; if not win the next election outright at least lose it in a way which does not see them exiled from power.