The General Election campaign starts now….
General Elections are not normally won or lost in the three-week campaign that proceeds the main event. They are won and lost in the years preceding, in the thousand and one tiny and huge moments of varying long-term significance. We are in the midst of one of those moments. The government’s long honeymoon is over and, for the first time, Labour is starting to be considered again as a potential government. The old lines, ‘Blame Labour’ being a prime example, no longer work for the Coalition and its credibility and indeed, very existence as a government seem to hang by a rapidly unwinding thread. It is open season of David Cameron in the Conservative Party, even the Conservative-supporting press is fed-up, Boris Johnson is being used as a media-driven stalking horse and they are starting to whisper about the prospect of ‘Prime Minister Miliband’. This isn’t because this is what they want but its a prospect that is being used as a bugaboo, a tale with which to frighten already jittery Conservative back benchers. Meanwhile, Nick Clegg is a man alone and has been for some time. His major tactical blunder in entering the Coalition in the first place is ripping it apart and leaving it in such a state that a senior figure, Lord Oakeshott, has said the co-dependent status of the Liberal Democrats might be less a choice they make and more a priori fact forced on them by a series of electoral massacres.
What Labour does now, as much as whenever the election is called, will determine its future fate. Mr Miliband needs to seize this moment for it maybe fleeting. He has an aura of potential credibility and the country may well listen to him now and push aside how cold they are left by his obvious wonkishness and awkwardness. His poll ratings are still abysmal and they are still an obvious potential downward drag on the electoral prospects of the Party. Many will feel personality, image, etc shouldnt matter. They are right. However, they are wrong to refuse to engage with the political reality that it does matter. Mr Miliband rightly said there is work still to be done and that is true but that work is both for the Labour Party to do and himself as well. It is no good exhorting the Party to greater and greater deeds of achievement while sitting back yourself. He must deal with his poll rating and take it seriously and not assume, like many of his acolytes do, that these problems will simply magic themselves out of existence.
Labour meanwhile does have a world of work to do. Last time around at the General Election polls, incumbency worked in our favour. It obviously will not be the same this time around; incumbency will work more in their favour than ours and this is without the proposed boundary changes etc, etc. We have a mountain to climb and pretending otherwise would be wrong. If we approach this election feeling all we have to do is turn up on the day then we will lose and deservedly so. We need to make sure we have all our candidates in place as soon as is feasibly possible while allowing for democracy to be properly served. Mr Miliband’s demand for constant community based campaigning needs to be enacted but in a way that does not disenfranchise the membership. Our newly captured councils need to be the focal point of establishing a strong Labour activist base which is active but not to the point of being burnt out. The starting gun has been fired, it is game on in the battle for the country, let us all hope for its sake, Labour can defy still imposing odds and be successful.