Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Normal service resumed (again)

I'm now back online following a very relaxing long weekend in Jersey - luckily they had the Cup Final on in the hotel bar - so without further ado here's this week's Saturday Column and accompanying Podcast, about how Blair and Brown stepped back from the brink, together with my North West Enquirer column which focused among other things on how the North-West's MPs fared in the reshuffle.

In terms of other things that have been happening while I was away....the disquiet surrounding Ming Campbell has now reached the point where he feels obliged to deny that anything is wrong...Paddy Hennessy reckons John Reid is planning a Labour leadership bid, which may just be an attempt by the Brownites to flush him out...and there's some utter drivel from Stalin's Gran and others on Guido about how Labour would have lost the 1997 election under John Smith. Enjoy.


stalin's gran said...

Utter drivel - I rise to your bait sir. No it isn't!

stalin's gran said...

PS Wednesday to Tuesday is not a long weekend - it's nearly a week!

Paul Linford said...

It is drivel Gran, and the reason I made a comment about it is because it is dangerous drivel. It's not just ancient history - this idea that only "Blairism" can deliver Middle England for Labour is one of the key points at issue in the current Blair-Brown power struggle.

You are right in identifying the 1992 Shadow Budget as a factor in Labour's defeat that year, but it wasn't the main factor. The main factor was Kinnock, and polls at the time repeatedly showed that if Smith had been Labour leader, the party's lead over Major would have been much bigger.

I would also accept that Blair's popular appeal was a factor in Labour's 1997 victory, but once again, it wasn't the main factor. The main factor was that the public simply thought it was time for a change, and everything we had seen of the Major Government in the three or four years running up to the election simply confirmed people in that view. This would still have been the case had Smith been Labour leader.

The Tories thought Smith was vulnerable because they thought they could successfully paint him as an old-fashioned tax-and-spender. But that wasn't how most of the public actually saw him. To most people, he was a steady, reassuring figure, as identified with the right-wing of the Labour Party as Kinnock was originally identified with the left. In short, although he might not have produced the wave of popular enthusiasm for Labour that Blair did - all of it sadly misplaced - he would not have frightened the horses, and would have won the election with a majority of between 80-120.

As to what happened after that...it would have depended on whether the Tory Party would have behaved any differently, but assuming they still picked Hague, IDS and Howard as their leaders they would still be in opposition.

Smith would not of course have gone on and on, and would have handed over the leadership half way through the last Parliament. I've a hunch that Blair would still have succeeded him though - he would have remained a media darling even if the arguments that were employed to secure him the leadership in '94 would have had less resonance with Labour actually in power.

stalin's gran said...

Paul - Smith would have got an inordinate kicking over tax and spend, not least from the Daily Mail. The same dark forces would have played up the economic success of the Major years post ERM-crash, Major would have been forced to go, probably by Clarke, sometime before 2001, having resolutely proved the right wing (Redwood et al) had no appeal. Sorry, I think you are wrong. As we know, the media pick a topic and harp on about it. Now, I am not repeating the "Sun wot won it mantra" but it does have an effect. News Intgernational, for example, came out for Blair. They would not have done for Smith.

Paul Linford said...

Well, for a start, not all of News International did support Blair. The Sunday Times still came out for Major even in spite of all those helpful stories that were fed to them by Mandy.

But in any case, I really refuse to accept this idea that it is the Sun and the Mail who invariably determine the British Prime Minister. In a tight election, like 1992, stuff like "Nightmare on Kinnock Street" may have an effect. But 1997 would not have been a tight election. The public had simply had enough of the Tories, and decided it was time to give someone else a chance. So long as it was someone reasonably decent and moderate, as Smith was, Labour would have won.

stalin's gran said...

Pah. You're right about the Sunday Times of course - but I was talking about influential newspapers.