Monday, 8 June 2009

A bad day for mainstream democratic politics, but especially for Labour

The UK European election results are undoubtedly dire for Labour, especially those in Wales and the South of England. But they are not a good day for any of the three mainstream political parties either. For the Tories to get just 28% and the Lib Dems to do even worse than Labour at a time of such unprecedented unpopularity for Labour suggests a real anti-politics mood among the people. If David Cameron thinks his party were the 'clear winners' last night, he needs his head examined.

That the odious BNP now have two seats is bad. That the only slightly less extreme UKIP have increased their representation to come second is almost as bad. A quarter of people voted for far right wing anti-immigrant parties in Britain. The anti-politics fostered by the expenses saga has made this nearly as much a crisis for mainstream politics as it is for Labour. All the main parties have a duty to win these people back.

That said, Labour are undoubtedly the biggest losers and must find a way to reconnect. After all, the economy is starting to recover thanks to the measures taken by Alastair Darling and Gordon Brown. And Brown is right to say that any reconnection depends on the economy, democratic reform and the public services. But the party must realise that the shambolic disunity that has gripped Labour in recent weeks is as much a cause of decline as a product of it.

That is why Barry Sheerman is right to suggest that the leadership issue needs to be settled one way or another in the next week or so. And a secret ballot of the entire PLP is the best way to do it, given that no cabinet member is prepared to put themselves forward for a contest. Once that vote has been taken, there should either be a leadership election involving the whole party if the PM does not enjoy strong support among MPs or an end to the clamour for leadership change if he does. If he wins, Brown must have an absolutely clear strategy for the next year - based on the principles he set out at his Friday press conference - and get on with delivering it with the full support of the parliamentary party.

If we don't get a grip now, Labour will be the agents of our own destruction.

1 comment:

Richard T said...

Perhaps the declaration was later in Scotland but there seems to have been little comment on the results here. The outcome is of course very worrying for Labour - 20.8% and a drop of 5.6% against the SNP. The quasi fascist UKIP and the BNP are both nowhere here.

There is a further nuance in Scotland namely that there is a signficant majority voting for the pro Europe parties. What is potentially disturbing for the Union is that when (or hopefully if) the Tories win the next general election and start down their covert path of leaving the EU, this will clearly have a significant impact on the relationship between the 2 governments. With Alex Salmond in power in Edinburgh, this looks like a sure source of trouble which wee Eck won't hesitate to use. A Tory win could bring about a breaking of the Union despite their protestations. Their intellect is of course such that all the SNP have to do is cross out Brussels and insert London into everything the Tories say on Europe and the case is made for them