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.