Two interesting articles in today's Guardian, which taken together point to a real opportunity for the Lib Dems.
In the first, John Harris, not someone I always agree with, points out that many Labour cabinet ministers are positioning themselves for the inevitable leadership election following their party's likely defeat at the next election. However, none of them are showing why they'd be any different or have any real understanding of the hole Labour finds itself in. Nor are they showing that they have any real ideas about what Labour should stand for in the future.
Harris calls all this positioning the inevitable noise before defeat, which seems a fair enough assessment. And if Labour is beaten at the next election, does anyone think that a Miliband, Balls, Harman or Cooper would be the sort of inspirational figure who could lead a Labour revival? No, thought not. That's the sort of talent pool you get when you have a party which is interested in power purely for its own sake.
And that points to the opportunity the Lib Dems have got, which is amplified in Martin Kettle's article. He notes that recent opinion polls have been more favourable to the Lib Dems (a couple have had us back up to 22%, the figure we polled at the last election) and that we could be set for an unexpectedly decent result come the election if that continues.
Come the next election, the question is going to be whether people trust the party that got us into our current mess to get us out of it. For all Labour's rhetoric about the recession being a global problem, no-one seriously believes that policy decisions in the UK had no impact on our current problems. The failure of the financial regulatory system put in place by Gordon Brown and the housing bubble created by the government's refusal to include house prices in its measures to tackle inflation were both Labour's fault.
And Kettle is right to highlight that the Lib Dems may be benefitting at last from Vince Cable's economic expertise. If that continues, not only do we have a real opportunity to have a good election - and Kettle is right to say that second place in the popular vote is not beyond us if Labour really does collapse - but we would also be well-positioned when Labour indulges in its ritual blood-letting.
Roll on the next election - and beyond!
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