Monday, October 04, 2004

Vote Blair, get Brown

Well, the Tories are on to yet another vote-winner. Launching "Vote Blair, get Brown" as a slogan would make a good vote-winner for Labour, whose single biggest election liability is the prime Minister, but for the Tories to try it on is just ridiculous.

How is "getting Brown" bad exactly? He's (mostly) been a damn good Chancellor, has one of the most powerful intellects in modern politics, and a certain statesmanlike gravitas which could, given the opportunity, work well on the international stage. Blair, meanwhile, is discredited in the eyes of the public, can't be trusted to tell parliament the truth, seems to be having health problems, and is increasingly disliked even by the people who brought him to power.

Meanwhile Brown has kept the economy ticking over nicely, and Blunkett's hardline approach to his Home Office brief has been just as right-wing as an Conservative Home Secretary's would have been. Get rid of Blair and the major Tory objections to Labour are removed - no warmongering, no close personal friendship with George Bush, no dodgy mates like Peter Mandelson, Carol Caplin and the like, no weird wife, no rabid pro-Europeanism, and far fewer attempts to be trendy by appearing on television in ironed jeans while holding a fender stratocaster. Blair was once the personification of Labour's successes, now his close involvement in every one of their failures has made him a liability. Were there to be a proper opposition in this country, Labour would be out at the next election.

But instead we're stuck with the Tories on the other side of the Commons. So is this week's Conservative Party Conference FINALLY going to signal their death as a political force in this country? They're already following the same mistakes as Hague and Duncan-Smith by swinging to the right (once again neglecting that Blair got in based on the votes of the centrist majority), and now they're helping Labour out by suggesting that the one thing that everyone's got a big problem with might not be around for much longer. Way to go the Tories!

Even though the Liberal Democrat Conference was nothing overly impressive, they seem to have the drive to succeed, and may yet manage to at least put in a convincing show against the Conservatives. The only trouble is that as much as I like Charles Kennedy, and as much as he's done wonders for broadening the support base of the Lib Dems, I really can't picture him as Prime Minister, and I doubt many others can either. But with Menzies Campbell too old and infirm and Paddy Ashdown running around the Balkans sorting out problems, who else can the Lib Dems turn to? They've got no one of sufficient stature waiting in the wings, and in this age of personality politics that could well be their undoing.

When the hell are we going to have a proper opposition in this country again? It's been seven years of a one-party state, we need some kind of challenge. The Lib Dems' showing in Hartlepool was promising, and the UK Independence Party are continuing to leech votes from the Tories, so maybe we're finally going to get one of those sea changes... If so, it's long overdue.

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