How does Labour attack a party that is no longer hated?
Reading Carole Cadwalladr’s enjoyable feature in the Observer Review yesterday “So we are all Tories now? the thought struck me that something very profound has happened to British politics – the Tories are no longer hated.
And this simple fact could have a dramatic effect on the next general election because it takes away the core proposition that Labour have deployed so successfully for a decade and a half – “vote for us to stop the Tories getting back in”
This worked brilliantly in 1997, then again in 2001 and four years later it dominated Blair’s final superb week of campaigning. The result: he got enough of the Labour vote out and minimised the seepage to the Lib Dems to ensure Labour’s historic third term.
In all three elections the Tory shares were kept in the low 30s and, it appeared as though Mr Brown was hoping to repeat the exercise in 2010. The trouble is that this probably won’t work any more.
What does Labour now say to voters to stop them returning in their droves to a party that has shaken off its past and is becoming popular again? Labour desperately needs a new message that will, at the very minimum, cause people to pause to think before becoming Cameron followers.
Mr. Brown and his team are facing exactly the same predicament that John Major’s government had to grapple with in the 1995-1997 period. We had “Phoney Tony”, the billboard ads with Blair’s eyes, and the repeated effort to suggest that this nice young man who had so won over much of middle England was not what he seemed.
None of it had an impact. With Cameron Labour have tried but to no avail several strategies such – “Dave the Chameleon”, “lack of substance” and the “he’s just a super-salesman” etc. etc.
I wonder whether part of Labour’s problem is that during “the years of plenty” up to 2006, when it all seemed so easy the party lost it’s ability to develop effective attack strategies for when its back was against the wall?
Would Miliband make any difference? He might but there has been nothing in what he’s said or written in the past week that suggests that he is any nearer to thinking through the central issue. Labour has no idea how to deal with Cameron.
Maybe someone else – a Harman or a Johnson or a Cruddas – could do something different? Maybe – but don’t bet on it.