People
The New Party News

News from the New Party

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let the people speak

It is increasingly clear that in the interests of the country a general election should be held as soon as possible.  It is, moreover, increasingly likely that Gordon Brown has already reached this conclusion, or is about to do so in the next few days.

There comes a point where election speculation becomes a driver for the election decision itself.  A prime minister risks being branded a coward for refusing to call an election when the clamour has reached a certain level.  Equally, a prime minister can be criticised for opportunism in calling an election more than two years early for essentially tactical reasons.

Regardless of whatever tactical concerns may apply in the present case, it is appropriate that the British people should now be consulted on the progress of the new government, and should have the opportunity to endorse or reject our new prime minister.  Indeed it is also increasingly important for British politics as a whole that this should occur.

Although it is undoubtedly the case that the public has responded reasonably positively to the Brown administration, it is also clear that the political ghost of Tony Blair has yet to be exorcised.  The fact that ministers of the new cabinet from the prime minister down feel the need to accentuate the changes that have taken place since Blair stepped down is clear evidence of this.  An election is needed for Labour to be able to let go of the Blair era and find a clear new voice.

For the Conservative Party, an election is equally urgently required.  It is now apparent that the Cameronian revolution has failed, at least in the short term.  Whether or not there is to be a longer term, we will only find out after new elections are held.  While nothing is certain in politics, it is overwhelmingly likely - though an unedifying prospect -  that the result of a general election held in late October will return another Labour government - possibly with an enhanced majority.  It is also reasonably clear that this situation is unlikely to be reversed even if the election is deferred until 2009.  In the circumstances the Tories have nothing much to lose by calling for an election now. 

The Liberal Democrats are, if anything, in a worse position than the Tories.  With poll ratings plummeting, and a leader who is increasingly an embarrassment, though impossible to replace, the Lib Dems are on a hiding to nothing whether the election is held now or in 2009.  Albeit that the party stands to suffer heavy losses, two factors give them cause for some cheer. In the first place, Liberal Democrat incumbent MPs tend to be fairly resilient: even if they lose half their seats (which is unlikely) they will be better off than they were before Tony Blair became prime minister.  Secondly, the likelihood of a hung parliament does not particularly depend on there being a huge contingent of Lib Dem MPs.  And the sooner the election comes, the sooner the dismal Campbell era can be brought to an honourable end. 

So from the point of view of all the main parties, it is best to get the election over and done with as soon as possible.  But what of the country?  We would argue that the country too can only benefit from another election as soon as possible.  For all the "new" faces, "new" politics and "new" parties, the political scene is looking remarkably stale, with the main parties fighting over an ever smaller area of political terrain - the mythical "centre ground".  It is just possible that a general election held soon might help to break the logjam.  Opinion polls are still showing that something like one in ten people are prepared to vote for a party other than one of the big three.  There is an appetite in the country for a genuine alternative.  The voters should be given a chance to demand one.