Saturday, August 15, 2009

How could Labour win the next general election?

A disclaimer: this is an issue I don't have real depth of knowledge on. I'd love to see Nick Robinson, Ian Hislop, Johnathan Dimbleby, Martha Kearney and a non-BBC commentator as a panel facing a public audience to thrash it out, absent any party lines and attention-seeking from politicians.

What could Labour do to win it, then? The public reviles politicians, particularly Labour, and particularly the incumbent leader. Even impressionables like me have finally got tired of Brown and the various expensive schemes like ID cards that have proven foolish.

Reading Ian Hislop's page on wikipedia, he has apparently expressed support for Vince Cable as potential treasurer, which made me wonder. What if the Lib Dems joined up with Labour? They could give Cable the treasurer spot, put in a smoother operator like David Milliband to run the show and set a fixed date 6 months away to have an election. This should give the country time to get used to the idea, push through some high-profile Lib Dem policies (needed to demonstrate that it wasn't just a gimmick) and get some battles fought against the Conservatives in the Commons. They would do well to field Cable nearly as often as Milliband in the Commons if the PMQs rules allow it, because although Cameron might rate higher in public minds than Milliband, Cable must thoroughly trounce Osborne.

They would need, inevitably, to keep a few less well-liked faces around - Mandelson for his astute manoeuvring, perhaps a real surprise like Blair as foreign secretary for his experience and respect beyond the borders.

Policy-wise, having the Lib Dems on board would be a fantastic excuse for rewriting the policy book - they could drop ID cards, 42 days, clarify Iraq and Afghanistan, commit to cutting spending (which was always inevitable, but now acceptable), and so on.

It would be an utterly catastrophic result for the Tories, whose position is currently so defined by New Labour that they would struggle to find a footing, perhaps long enough for some memorable moments like Michael Howard's Paxman interview. Taking a solid devolutionary line would pacify the Old Labour North with the prospect of more local rule, and the lower taxes would be a step squarely into the Tory sweet spot.

The only Conservative defense would be that they are merely rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, or the derision of having to resort to joining up with the Lib Dems. But the flaw here is that these are political arguments. The public cares about policy arguments at the moment - what will you do to the NHS? What will you do for the economy? How will I know you are a good politician, not a typical, dodgy one?

But they wouldn't do it, would they? Either they'd rather lose this election and pick up after a Tory term, or they are too shortsighted to try something really radical.

No comments: