This post* is my reaction to the Crewe and Nantwich by-election and my current thoughts on the general political situation.
What does the result of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election mean for the Liberal Democrats? Well according to leading Lib Dem bloggers the answer is “not a lot” (James Graham) or “not a whole lot” (Stephen Tall). So take your pick. Looking forward James is optimistic, although Linda Jack remains to be convinced, while Stephen warns of the dangers of getting squeezed by a resurgent Tory Party.
I have nothing particularly different or original to add to what has been said in other places. My view can be summed up in James’ words;
“the result this morning does nothing to dispel the notion that we have already turned the corner and are finally making progress after two years of going backwards. Whether or not we can recover enough to hold our own or even make net gains in the next general election remains to be seen.”
A view that also mirrors my take on this months local elections as being a good set of results and several degrees better than our worst private fears. Yet also being nothing particularly spectacular and with the worrying issue of what to do about London.
All this is further evidence that nationally we as a Party have consolidated our position enough in areas where we are strong to avoid falling back significantly when under pressure, and even in some cases have the potential to make modest gains, but outside those areas we are currently in too weak a position to be able to make the most of the opportunities that the political climate is opening up for us.
In short, the Liberal Democrats have consolidated our position and are making some modest progress. But while we have remained largely static, the real story over the last 18 months has been elsewhere.
Until recently, if you had asked me, my prediction for the outcome of the next General Election would have been, although heavily qualified, a Labour win with a small majority.
My reasoning was that, despite David Cameron having done a lot to make the Tory Party electable, a sufficiently large section of the electorate would remain unconvinced. Plus, whatever the ups and downs the Labour Government would face, by the time the election came their campaign machine would have managed to put together enough of a fightback to allow them to squeek home. Whatever the level of disillusion with Labour, I reckoned, in a time of economic uncertainty there wouldn’t be enough voters prepared to risk a Tory government.
I have now changed my mind.
In line with what appears to be a growing consensus I am now of the view that it is the Tories that are on course to be, at least, the largest Party.
I noticed that over on PoliticalBetting.com Mike Smithson nails his colours to the mast and is betting on an overall Conservative victory.
Why this change of mind? Simply Gordon Brown.
As this post from July last year shows I have somewhat misjudged Brown. One of my reasons for betting on a Labour victory was that the change from Blair to Brown would, while remaining essentially New Labour, provide an opportunity for enough change and refocusing of Labour to give the electorate reasons to give them another go. Brown’s brief honeymoon period last year shows that this opportunity was there, yet he failed to make use of it.
Since then I have been astonished, not by the various cock ups and disasters the Government have fallen into, but the lack of direction displayed from the top.
Given all those years plotting to be PM, you’d have thought Brown would have spent some time thinking about what to do with the job.
I do believe that the potential is there for Labour to turn the situation around. If not enough to make them confident of victory at least enough to ensure they avoid a catastrophic disaster. Yet to do this they will need to make some dramatic changes. Something that looks impossible for them to do with Brown as Leader.
Unless something dramatic happens soon, it looks like momentum is with Cameron and the Tories.
* As you can probably tell the outcome of the “concerted effort” mentioned in my previous post has rather come to nought. Another batch of half-written articles but nothing actually posted. I am rather struggling with time, energy and conflicting priorities at the moment.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.