Has Labour passed the point of no return?

by Stephen Tall on March 20, 2008

That’s the stark question that’s being asked today by The Times’s Peter Riddell, following two post-budget opinion polls showing support for Labour below 30% in the wake of Alastair Darling’s damp squib of a budget.

This is the first time this year that Labour support has dropped below this level, and it only occurred four times last year. This is very dangerous territory for Labour, akin to the trough into which the Conservatives plunged in the mid-1990s.

As Mr Riddell notes, Labour has been here before – but at least under Tony Blair’s leadership, supporters could hope for the political tide to turn once he departed the stage. Indeed, during Gordon Brown’s honeymoon (it seems so long ago, doesn’t it?) this was just what happened. The novelty of a new PM saw a Labour recovery.

But with the economic news becoming gloomier, and public spending facing a tight squeeze in the year ahead, it’s becoming increasingly hard to see how Labour might be able to transform their fortunes. They may well recover from the doldrums of the last few polls – but by enough to ensure a fourth term?

Is there a rabbit left in the hat for Mr Brown to pull out? Or are Labour now wholly reliant on gritting their teeth and relying on the Tories to commit hara-kiri? What one might call the ‘John Major strategy’. After all, it worked so well for Sir John.

That’s the dilemma facing Labour MPs, activists and members. Is there anything they can do, or is this Government’s fate now out of their hands?

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There are now two options for GB calling an election. A “super Thursday” next year – General Election, Euros, and local/County in one go. This could be very bad for Labour if all opposition parties put 110% into the one ballot day.

Holding on until 2010 – suggested by the play-it-safe budget – could tire the population of Labour to such a degree, they’d be buggered anyway.

The only way I can see Labour doing well out of an election is splitting the GE from the Euros/locals in 2009, stretching resources for the other parties

by Liam Pennington on March 20, 2008 at 3:35 pm. Reply #

I think that the saying ‘a week in Politics is along time’ is very true – so I dont believe Labour can be written off. What the Opinion Polls have been showing is that voters are more ‘fluid’ & all three major parties have all to play for. Of course under our corrupt/out dated voting system just because you get fewer votes doesnt mean you will lose the GE!!

by Greenfield on March 20, 2008 at 3:49 pm. Reply #

I made a blog entry on the guardianICM poll results recently. What’s worrying if labour has no tricks left and play the major route. Is that unless we as a party can truely proove ourselves, the tories could get a majority in the next general election. I spoke to some labour councillors before I joined the LibDems in February and they said how they thought Gordon would take the major route and they were angry about his dithering in October. It’s certainly going to be a hard fight for us. But I believe we are capable. We really will have to push in order to take a force in the next parliament.

by Alasdair on March 20, 2008 at 4:39 pm. Reply #

I think it is too early to write Labour off, remember the polls before the Budget were showing Labour steadying themselves and a narrow lead.

I fully expect Brown to wait until 2010 on the basis of the Budget and what he has said previously about giving himself time to carve out his own agenda.

by Darrell on March 20, 2008 at 6:35 pm. Reply #

I’m surprised Gordon Brown hasn’t written his own party off yet! He didn’t show much confidence in the talent on his own backbenches when he made his cabinet appointments.

by Oranjepan on March 20, 2008 at 7:54 pm. Reply #

Once the public (and press) decide they’ve had enough of Labour there’s no going back. The only two options now are a Brown defeat if the opposition manages to enthuse voters sufficiently, or a reluctant Brown victory if they don’t. A clear Labour victory, of the sort he might have achieved last Autumn, is now an impossibility unless something really drastic happens to rewrite the rules.

This means that the sole task from here to the election for the strategists in Labour – and in the Lib Dems, if we want to avoid a murderous squeeze – is to nobble Cameron.

I know it’s my theme tune and I keep saying it, but the public are looking for someone or something to latch onto and the ONLY thing that makes the Tories a possibility for them is Cameron. Remove him, by whatever means, and they’re sunk.

That would obviously help Labour, but it would also clear the field for huge Lib Dem gains as our best prospects are always when the public is sick of the government but unimpressed by the main opposition party.

So, if Labour really has passed the point of no return, the next task is to give Mr Balloon a good hard shove in the same direction…

by Andy on March 21, 2008 at 12:19 pm. Reply #

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