Sean Fear’s local election column

Sean Fear’s local election column

For Labour’s sake, Tony Blair must go now

Regular readers of this site will know that I am not one of New Labour’s greatest fans. In fact, I would be happy to see the Labour Party go the same way as the Liberals in the 1920s. Nonetheless, I am not being cynical in offering my opinion that the sooner Tony Blair goes, the better for Labour.

Tony Blair’s own opinion poll ratings are dreadful. YouGov’s BrandIndex and MORI are at one in giving him ratings of –40% or worse. These are as bad as Margaret Thatcher’s ratings in the Summer of 1990, and it is clear that Tony Blair has become a terrible liability to his party. Matthew Parris’s prediction that while Margaret Thatcher left office respected, but not liked, and John Major left office liked, but not respected, Tony Blair would leave office neither liked, nor respected, is being borne out.

This has potentially terrible consequences for Labour in next May’s local elections. Despite years of losses, Labour will still be defending over 3,000 seats in May. Most of these seats were last contested in 2003, when Labour won the equivalent of 30% nationwide, and some were contested in 2004, when the party won 26%. So long as Tony Blair remains as Prime Minister, I cannot see Labour even managing to win 25% of the vote in May. That is, Labour will achieve a lower share of the national vote share than even the Conservatives did, in May 1995. Labour’s share of local council seats is already at its lowest level since 1978, and it is set to fall even further next year.

I would not expect Labour to perform particularly well next year, regardless of who is Labour. But I do not believe the party will suffer the same degree of damage at the polls as it would with Tony Blair at the helm, such is the degree of public antipathy to him. A loss of perhaps 1,000-1,500 seats, under Tony Blair, would do further damage to Labour’s already-depleted activist base, and reduce the party to little more than a shell outside some of its heartlands.

So my view is that the sooner Tony Blair goes, the greater the number of seats the party will hold on to in May.

Last night brought more bad news for Labour:-

North Somerset UA, Pill: Independent 360, Labour 353, Lib Dem 202, Conservative 147. Independent gain from Labour. Until last night, this was a rarity – a safe Labour ward in Somerset.

Warrington UA, Poulton North: Lib Dem 1,358, Labour 505, Conservative 209, Green 43. Lib Dem hold. This result showed a very big swing to the Lib Dems in a marginal ward, compared to May.

Sean Fear is a London Conservative activist and writes a weekly column for

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