17 March 2008
Labour will lose the next general election
I'll stick my neck out and say that Labour is going to lose the next election.
I began to think that two weeks ago during lunch with the journalist Neil Clark in Oxford. Neil reported that something like 700 pubs have shut since the smoking ban came into force last year. I remarked that nothing was more likely to cheese off the last working class votes that Labour had than to see their local swill shop close down.
Of course it isn't just the smoking ban that will cost Labour the next election. The ban, though, is symptomatic of a polity that has become disengaged from the electorate and their concerns. To give just one example, the war against Iraq is not something that features much in conversation, but the cost of utility bills does. It may be argued that the parties have never fully represented the wishes of their supporters, if they had, then Labour would be the party of capital punishment. However, the parties represented some of their supporters wishes and desires - enough of them to ensure that the core vote would turn out at election time.
Today neither of the two main parties, but especially Labour, can be said to articulate the desires of anyone other than a small, metropolitan elite, who are unconcerned about house prices, utility bills, or immigration. Labour will pay the price for that at the next election.
Secondly, there is about the Labour government an air of cack-handedness that fairly takes the breath away. It is not just the loss of two million people's personal data that was contained on computer disks that some pen pusher mislaid, it is the sheer level of incompetence that seems to emerge with every day that passes. Today for instance it emerged that Leeds Magistrates' Court has managed to forget to pass on several hundred convictions to the National Police Computer.
This level of incompetence has been matched by an equally unpleasant level of sleaze that threatens the Tory record set during the Thatcher and Major years. The Lee Jasper affair in London is just one example of a Labour Party that seem to be more concerned with handing out goodies to its sinecurists than it does with aiding its traditional supporters.
Finally, does it really matter if labour loses? It is not as if the party has done much to unravel the Thatcherite changes of the 1980s. Why should a working man, living on a northern council estate, really give a stuff about which of these gangs of thieves has their paws on the levers of power?