Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Analysis: The Future

I have already tried to extrapolate some of the trends in this election's results in the other articles themselves. It is hard to analyse the future, since by its very nature we don't know what it contains just yet... but let's speculate.

The Tories have a real chance in 2009/2010... but they must learn to make themselves more relevant to more people. Fate will be kind to them next time, and they will gain many more seats by default because of favourable demographic trends in the South and South East. This is very good for them. They will be a danger, especially if they can pick a leader that is capable of communicating better with the electorate. David Davis is not that man. He will fail the Tory party for the simple reason that he is too right wing.

If anything, this election has demonstrated that we are not comfortable with the agenda of the right. We may be worried about immigration - perhaps needlessly - but we still have an internal brake that will regulate it. The electorate seemed to agree with the Tories on immigration, but many people were concerned that they themselves were beginning to get racist, and so dismissed their negative thoughts by voting against them, even if they didn't feel that way.

It is hard to see where the next leader of the Conservatives is from. If I were them, I would consider taking a risk on David Cameron or George Osbourne. They have plumped for party old relics far too often, but now is the time for radical change. A new young leader would invigorate the party, and it would help them to forge a new image against the one that they are the party for aging cynics. Next election will be a nailbiter, and such a leader would make it so.

Labour have problems. They are no longer safe, and Blair should consider resigning after the EU constitution referendum, if France or someone else does not reject it before then. But he cannot serve more than two years. Any longer and it will leave Gordon Brown with little more than a fag-end of a lame duck Labour administration, giving him little time to look like he can lead the party to an unprecedented fourth term. This would play right into the Tories' hands, who by then could be looking very professional and modernising with a young leader, while Gordon Brown would now be approaching his 60s. It would almost be the reverse of the situation between Tony Blair and John Major, ironic though that may be.

Labour have seen that there is deep anger within the party. Peter Laws in Blaenau Gwent's election should be a clear message that the party grassroots are beginning to get fed up with bullying from the centre. His presence in the next Parliament will be a constant reminder that they must allow some decentralising. Either that, or they should stop trying to piss off so many people and instead of constantly battling against their own party, they should work with it. It seems so obvious, but people like Blair, Milburn and Mandelson have made a career out of opposing. If it is their style and they have no other mode of operation, then the simple answer is to remove them. The Parliamentary Labour Party now have more power to do that. They need to act sooner rather than later.

The Lib Dems are in a dilemma. They can advance, but they are at a junction. They can go forward and left... they can go straight on and try to defend their vulnerable position, or they can turn right to attack the Conservatives properly. This last one seems unlikely, and the first does too. But the second one is fraught with danger, as I have already considered. Sooner or later, however, they are going to need a new leader. But I can't see one who could fill Charlie's boots. They have a lot of work to do.

Meanwhile, the minor parties have a chance. I was hoping for a Green win in Brighton Pavilion, and they did indeed pull off a very respectable result. They can work on this for the next election. It would be nice if they achieved one or two MPs, and I would have encouraged all Lib Dems to vote Green there, just so some representation could be achieved for other points of view. But the Greens made the big mistake of fielding candidates in far too many constituencies, costing them vital money which could have been used in the two fights they focused on. Instead, they cost the Lib Dems a seat in Oxford East, and who knows what could have happened in Norwich South if they hadn't resisted the Lib Dems efforts to unseat Charles Clarke. All this nonsense leads us onto electoral reform...

Many people have joined the call for electoral reform, and it's a sentiment I would like to echo. Yet, I suspect we all want a more proportional electoral system. The question is, which one? Labour could well make soundings in this area by bringing back the Jenkins report and their proposal of AV+. Labour like this system because it will have an unhealthy tendency of killing off the Tories altogether, since Labour voters will vote 1-Labour, 2-Lib Dem... and Lib Dem voters will do the reverse, leaving the Tories very much out in the cold. There is no question that some reform is needed, but I remain to be convinced as to which is the best way. I strongly dislike list systems for the power it gives to party patronage. At least we have a chance to get rid of people we don't like under FPTP. Some people would stick around forever with party lists...

Whatever happens on this score, 2009/2010 will be a genuinely difficult election for all parties, possibly the first such slice of real battleground democracy since 1992. This can only help motivate people to come back to the political fray, something this country desperately needs in our growing isolationist society.

I hope you have enjoyed my attempt at analysing this election. All comments are welcome, either by responding to the comments section or by e-mailing me.


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