Today's Guardian reports that Labour is bracing itself for losses of 200 seats in Thursday's local council elections in England and Wales, together with Boris Johnson winning the London Mayoralty.
If such a result did happen, it would be a remarkable meltdown for the governing party. That is especially the case when you consider that Labour did pretty poorly the last time these seats were up for election in 2004, so they are starting from a very low base.
I will stick my neck out and say that despite the chaos surrounding Brown's government, their losses will not be as much as 200 seats. Labour are managing expectations very nicely so that when their actual losses are somewhere in the region of 80-120 seats - which would still be a catastrophic performance - they can turn round and say that things weren't as bad as expected.
However, that same Guardian article does give an example of why Labour deserve to lose as many as 200 seats. It quotes Jack Straw's performance on a radio phone in, talking about the fiasco of the 10p tax rate change. It's worth quoting Straw in full:
"Sometimes even with the best brains available to government there are inadvertent consequences of changes. We put our hands up to that we should have known more about the impact of the abolition of the 10p rate. I am sorry that this has happened."
Straw clearly needs a lesson in basic mathematics. If he couldn't work out that changing some people's tax rate from 10p to 20p would actually involve them paying more tax, he's too stupid to be a cabinet minister. What more is there to know? And it's worth pointing out that there was nothing inadvertant about this: it was the clear strategy of the government to shift the tax system around so that middle income earners could get what was then thought to be a nice pre-election tax cut.
Despite Labour's stupidity and utter callousness, there will still be enough people who will turn out to vote for them on Thursday to avoid a complete meltdown. But they will still do exceptionally badly.
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