July 25, 2008

Holed below the waterline in Glasgow East

Labour have lost Glasgow East by 365 votes on a 42% turn out. This is a swing against Labour of about 20% matching the massive shift against Labour that have been seen in the opinion polls over the last few months. That this could happen in one of Labour's safest seats shows the perilous state that they have got themselves into. This means that Gordon Brown is nailed onto the Labour leadership until the next general election in 2010, nailed on in much the same what that Jesus of Nazareth was nailed on. It also means that next election is going to be an annihilation for Labour.

The current political situation reminds me a bit of the events that lead up to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. On sighting the iceberg strait ahead the officer in command's first instinct was to try and do everything he could to avoid it, but it might have actually been better had they not tried to avoid it at all. Sure they would have lost the bow and flooded the first compartment, but Titanic was designed to be able to survive losing up to four compartments. By trying to maneuver around the iceberg First Officer Murdoch instead scrapped along the side of it. Instead of losing one compartment in a head on collision they lost five with the hull punctured in repeatedly along the side. This meant the ship was going to sink.

This is not the Labour Party I am thinking about here, they have already had their keel ripped off and are sinking fast, it is the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg has spotted the massive swing to the conservatives in the opinion polls and losing a large number of seats in the south of England is looming up before him like the iceberg before First Officer Murdoch. He is trying to maneuver around it by going full reverse on their long standing policies of higher taxation for more services. This could be a mistake (I'm not the only one to think so).

Since New Labour mounted their raid into Conservative policy areas the Liberal Democrats have in many ways been to the left of both the other main political parties. They are now trying to get over to the right of the resurgent Tories on tax, the Tories home waters, from a position that was to the left of both main parties in order to save their seats in the south. I don't see how they are going to make it, especially since their small media profile means that they cannot reposition themselves half as easily as the other two parties. Even if they could reposition themselves in time they are not going to overcome the shear size of the Conservative revival. It might be better to use their current position the party to the left of the others and target Labour seats in the north instead of trying to hold onto the traditionally Conservative ones in the south. Glasgow East has shown that Labour can lose seats anywhere at the moment, but there are places they are not going to lose them to the Conservatives.

Maybe instead of being cynically opportunistic and trying to emulate one of their rival's successes, by becoming born again tax cutters, it would be better to be cynically opportunistic about exploiting their other rivals problems, by being resolute to the left leaning principles that they have been talking about for a long time. What they lose in the south they are going to lose anyway, but they could end up gaining even more up in the north by giving the more naturally left wing electorate a credibly left wing alternative to an increasingly hated Labour Party. 2010 offers an extremely good chance for the Liberal Democrats of actually overtaking Labour and becoming Her Majesties Loyal Opposition but it might take a big gamble and a lot of nerve to make the best of this chance. I hope they have it.


Blogger Nich Starling said...

I don't believe the Lib Dems are set to be culled in the South of England. Lib Dem MP's have a remarkable ability to buck national polls and trends (see North Norfolk last time as an example), but 10 seats could be lost (and I could probably name tham now), but you are right that the Lib Dems are at something of a crossroads. I wouldn't see the Glasow result as too significant. The Lib Dem effort there was minr compared to other recent by-elections.

5:11 pm  
Blogger chris said...

Glasgow East is significant in showing that the lib Dems have a real chance of becoming the official opposition party. The Lib Dems were not going to win there, but Labour shouldn't have lost there and they did.

If the Lib Dems ability to campaign on local issues makes the southern seats more secure than they would appear from the polls then there is even less reason to target Labour. Labour is on the way out, there core vote is deserting them and looking for something else. The Lib Dems should be up there in those northern seats providing that something else. There isn't going to be as good a chance as this for a break through for maybe another generation if they cannot seize the moment.

4:26 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home