A split party doesn’t get elected. All politicians know this, but yet large groups of them ignore this basic lesson of politics.
Labour after Jim Callaghan’s defeat in 1979 went in for internecine dispute and were out of office until 1997. Given a helping hand into office courtesy of the Tories tearing themselves apart on, you’ve guessed it, Europe.
And now they’re about to do it again over the same issue. According to a poll for the Independent paper by ComRes, those polled believe the Tories are at greater sixes and sevens than even under the lack lustre Premiership of John Major.
The polls show voters deserting the party because of the internal rows over Europe and same sex marriages.
But despite the dissatisfaction with Cameron voters are not switching to Labour they’re going to Ukip as are Labour voters for that matter.
Since the last ComRes poll those backing Labour are down to 34 per cent, a drop of four points since last month and its lowest share of the vote since Ed Miliband was elected leader. The Conservatives are on 30 per cent (down two), Ukip on 17 per cent (up four) and the Liberal Democrats trailing with 10 per cent (up one).
But although its not good news for Miliband it’s even worse for Cameron. In the detail of the poll 56% see the Tories as more divided than in the days of Major and only 23% disagreeing. Forty-nine per cent of Tory voters and 72 per cent of Ukip supporters see the party as more split than it was in the 1990s.
How ironic it should happen to Cameron because he recognised the danger that’s why in his first conference speech as leader he warned his party that they would face grave electoral dangers if they kept “banging on about Europe.
He was right to do so for it was the split over Europe that gave Blair his landslide victory.
So is history repeating itself? As the song goes ‘It’s not necessarily so.’ To use another cliché ‘It’s the economy , stupid.’ If the coalition manage to get the economy turned around. Then it’s a different ball game. But that would require a different strategy and a new Chancellor, if this one were not for turning.
Sort out and keep his loony wing in check and Cameron has a fighting chance. Why? ‘Cos Her Majesty’s Opposition have landed themselves with a pretty lacklustre leader.
With all the travail’s of the government Labour should be steaming ahead in the polls. They’re not. The low ratings show that the next election is not a done deal. No not by a long chalk.
Labour’s four-point drop in a month suggests it is also losing support to Ukip. Hence, John Prescott’s call on Ed Miliband to offer a referendum on Europe, even before the one promised by the Conservatives . That’s very knee-jerk action that Labour ought to avoid.
No Labour has a more difficult problem. Very few in the parliamentary party either wanted the younger Miliband as leader. They neither wanted him, nor voted for him. But it’s the leader they’ve got and no one is likely to challenge him this side on an election.
There is no warm support for him amongst his shadow cabinet colleagues. He’s often seen as a leader without an army. He’s seen as part of the metropolitan elite and has little resonance with the ordinary working class voter.
That’s why in England traditional Labour voters are drifting to Ukip. To win support back the party needs to spell out clearly some policies. It needs to tell the country what it to will do with the economy, Europe, welfare and a whole raft of other areas. Victory will not come on the hope that Government will cock things up. Although at the moment the Tory wing of the coalition are doing a pretty good job of messing things up. Nevertheless Labour have to show that they’ll make a difference and they’re far from being convincing at the moment.
And what of Wales, well no opinion polls until the autumn. So we don’t really know.
At the start of the week it was the Prime Minister that was under the lash. Now it’s the Chancellor. And not by the swivel eyed, but the clear-eyed International Monetary Fund (IMF).
They tell George to get his finger out and take some action to boost the economy.
They make the point that the country is “still a long way from a strong and sustainable recovery”. A point of view that far to many Welsh people is aware of as they search for work.
But they make the specific criticism of the Chancellor’s plans for this year that the £10bn cuts and taxes he’s embarking on will be a drag on growth. Their message is clear and unambiguous; the policy ought to change so that the economy can be kick-started.
They say, “In a range of policy areas, the government should be more supportive of growth. What is important now is not to make a mistake today and presume that all will be well with the economy some years from now. I think it’s important to get started on infrastructure projects that will support the economy.”
Many economists have been urging the Chancellor to change course for some time with little effect. Lets hope that the Chancellor listens to the IMF but his track record of taking sound advice is not good.
An area of government policy that the IMF are concerned about is the proposal from the March budget the Help to Buy scheme. They reckon that its main impact will be to push up house prices. A better approach according to the IMF would be to impose a tax on unused development land. This would see more houses built and rather than fuel house price increases would have the opposite effect.
In Wales with the real shortage on the supply side of housing a capital programme of house building would provide a real answer to the dual problem of increased homelessness and high unemployment. It is this that’s required than gimmicks that just inflate house prices.
All in all the IMF provide a sharp reminder that the economy needs a transfusion rather than to be bled further if the patient is to recover.
It’s not a pretty sight watching a political party tearing itself apart. But this is what seems to be happening to the Conservatives. No sooner did they decide to humiliate Cameron over his European policy, they’re now having a go at him over same sex marriages.
To top it all, a row about whether or not a Cameron aide had described party activists as “swivel-eyed loons.”
If that wasn’t enough there’s another intervention. Not one by a swivel-eyed loon but by an old party bigwig. None other than local Port Talbot boy done good namely, ex Chancellor and Foreign Secretary, Lord Howe.
He described the debate of last week as bringing the “Conservative party to a new, farcical low.” He went on to urge the Lib Democrats and Labour to sort the mess out.
Gosh, what a Monday morning feeling the Prime Minister must have. Almost every newspapers and every news bulletin this morning were discussing the melt down within the Conservative party. Some even speculating that the Premier would have to go before the next election. He surely regrets not staying in bed.
Where did it all go wrong for him? Oh dear, he’s only himself to blame. The seed of his current misfortunes lies in his failure to tackle and modernise his own party.
When he unexpectedly won the leadership of his party he knew what he had to do, set out a new direction. Reform his party root and branch. He had to do a Neil Kinnock, remove the “loons” from the party. Make it an outward looking modern party.
Constituency Associations needed to start choosing candidates that were more a reflection of the country as a whole. Cameron singularly failed to do this.
It was the same old reactionary people choosing the candidates. The new in-take were predominantly white and male. They reflected the views of the membership who were anti-European, anti-immigration and anti diversity.
And guess what, the new in-take has moved the party further to the right. That this would happen wasn’t rocket science.
In the words of Cilla Black, surprise, surprise, the new lot resent the coalition. They blame David Cameron for getting them into it. Now they push their demands, in the hope that the whole damn enterprise comes crashing down. The PM is forced to the polls and a grateful nation elects a true blue government.
Now back in the real world this split is likely to see Labour returned under a lack lustre leader. But as they say, that’s politics.
All down to Cameron talking a good game of reform but doing little about it.