(Politics) A Labour plan for another 5 years (& 6 months)

Post length: 679 words, just over 3 minutes.

Forgive me for a moment: for the first time I can think of in this blog I’m going to be political. I’ll try to be brief.

It’s not especially a secret that I’m a leftie.  I’ve not talked about it much here, but I suspect you could decode it from my posts, and especially via Twitter.  So it won’t come as much of a surprise that in the upcoming general election I’m backing Labour.

As the election looms it’s looking increasingly likely from the opinion polls that the UK will get a hung parliament on Thursday.  Accordingly the Queen would invite Gordon Brown, as the incumbent Prime Minister, to form the next government. It’s likely that Mr Brown would then approach the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in an attempt to form some kind of anti-Tory coalition government.  For a moment I’m going to assume this happens — that the Liberal Democrats would rather form a coalition with the Labour Party than the Conservative party.

It struck me the other day while listening to Andrew Pierce and Kevin Maguire talking about the Labour leadership on the radi0, that there’s still a way the Labour Party can come out of this election (for a definition of “this” see below) with a strong mandate to run the country for another 5 years.  Let me explain.

So Gordon Brown is the Prime Minster by virtue of a hung parliament, but he has no mandate for the long term.  He talks to the Lib Dems and agrees on a coalition where they get a number of cabinet members (arguably more than they ‘deserve’ given their size in Parliamentary terms), and an agreement that there will be electoral reform.  For the next 6 months the government gets to grips with reforming the electoral system, but not much else (it’ll be a pretty lame duck, with challenging policy hard to push through even the lower house).  They also keep the pressure on the Torys on the policy and fiscal front.  Towards the end of the 6 month period Gordon Brown announces he is to step down as leader of the Labour Party, and thus the Prime Minister, in November — he feels he’s made a big difference to the country and that the time has come for him to move on.

Labour elect a new, younger, more media friendly leader — a Milliband brother, perhaps.  And this is key.  The new leader announces an immediate general election.

New leaders always get a bump in the polls, and a lot of people will see anything as better than Gordon Brown.  While the other party leaders have been through the mill in this election (and I see no sign of any of them stepping down — David Cameron will have more seats than any other single party, and Nick Clegg will have lead the Lib Dems to the largest number of seats in the recent history of the party), the new Labour leader will be fresh, with new policies and new ideas.  A quick winter general election later and the country welcomes in another 5 years of Labour Government, with at least a small parliamentary majority.

There are, of course, flaws to this plan.  Obviously it could backfire if the new leader doesn’t get quite the bounce needed, or if something goes wrong in the first 6 months of the coelltion (an early VoNC by the Conservatives, supported by independents and rouge Labour MPs would cause problems, as would a fall out between the Labour leadership and the Liberal Democrats).  It could also backfire if the Conservatives simply won the November election, but at least the government would be able to reasonably gauge if this was likely before committing themselves to another election.  Finally there’s the cost involved — I’ve heard it said that the only people who could afford another election campaign would be the Conservatives, with assistance from their wealthy backers.

It may be a risky strategy, but from where I’m sitting, it’s about the best chance the Labour Party have of getting another fully effective 5 year term of office.

Posted on Wednesday 5th May, 2010 at 12:07 am in Obiter dicta.
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