How dangerous are the Blair-Brown tensions?

How dangerous are the Blair-Brown tensions?

    Can a divided party continue to win support?

As the Tories have proved so effectively in the past two General Elections the electorate likes unity and is turned off by divisions in parties that are seeking their support.

With the Cabinet changes following the Blunkett resignation the old tensions between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have come to the surface again with the Brown camp said to be alarmed at Blair’s decision to install David Miliband as Alan Milburn’s deputy at the Cabinet Office, where he will play a major role in writing the Labour election manifesto. One source quoted this morning says the battle between the Blair and Brown camps over the contents of the election manifesto in the new year “is going to get bloody in January”.

    With the Tories apparently so far behind both factions clearly feel that they can fight their causes without paying a price at the election? But are both the Brownites and Blairite being misled by polls that have historically substantially over-stated the Labour position.

But if the positions of the parties are much closer, as we believe, then this latest spat could take the party into dangerous territory. And getting back to our “foregone conclusion” theme will not the media be looking to play up the splits simply because journalists do not want another boring election like 2001? A close election makes good copy.

Even if the Tories remain static at 33% they could make huge progress if the “plates start shifting”, in John Prescott’s memorable phrase, and Labour looks like a party at war with itself causing more Labour support to move over to the LDs.

Cabinet Minister and ex-Young Liberal Leader, Peter Hain, is correct in his analysis when he warns of the dangers of rising LD support helping the Tories. If many of those LD-leaners who went with Labour in 1997 and 2001 are turned off by the lack of unity and switch to Charles Kennedy then Michael Howard could be a beneficiary. The trouble is that this is a difficult message to get over because the Tory party is seen as a spent force.

It all looks for a more interesting General Election than Labour’s lead in two or three of the polls might indicate.

Latest spread betting prices: LAB 345-353 seats: CON 199-207 seats: LDs 71-75 seats. We see no value at any of these levels – buy or sell. In spite of the poll leads Labour has still not returned to its 346-354 spread position that it moved to after the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election in July when it is was just one per cent ahead in the polls.

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Mike Smithson

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