Will Labour be out of power for as long as last time?

Will Labour be out of power for as long as last time?


    Could Dave beat Maggie’s 11 years at Number 10?

As we face the real prospect of a change of government it is a sobering thought that these days parties stay in office for quite considerable periods of time. Labour will have been there for 13 years assuming they go on until 2010. Before that, of course, the Tories went on from 1979 right through until 1997 – a total of eighteen years.

For once confidence in a party of government goes, as we saw from 1979 and 1997, it can take a long period for them to get their act together. After a big defeat it’s hard to re-focus a develop a proposition for power all over again.

There’s also the challenge that a government has so much control over the news agenda. It decides when and how things are announced and presented and it can be very difficult for oppositions to get a look in. Alistair Campbell’s politicisation of the government PR machine might come to haunt Labour when the Tories are in charge.

Just before I left to go on holiday I half-joked with my son, Robert, that I could live for the rest of my days under the Conservatives. For what strikes me about David Cameron is his massive thirst for power and that his overwhelming objective after a likely 2010 victory will be to win again four years later and then to go on winning at four yearly intervals.

Some Labour commentators might console themselves into thinking that the next election could be a good one to lose but once Cameron’s Tories have get their feet under the table they are not going to give up power easily.

Tory governments have a better record than Labour in the longevity stakes. They were there for thirteen years from 1951 to 1964 as well as the 1979-1997 experience. The notable exception was Edward Heath’s ill-fated 1970-74 administration. Labour by contrast had 1945 to 1951, 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1979. Tony Blair’s achievement in winning three consecutive general elections has to be seen in that context.

So the internal Labour consideration of its future leadership should be set against the backcloth of what the future could hold if and when the Cameron wins the next election.

Mike Smithson

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