Assuming no big upset on 5th May, the interesting thing about this election will be watching Labour’s internal politics play out in the aftermath. Will a tired, divided government start to fracture, its leader disliked by the voters, and its would-be leader disliked by his cabinet colleagues? Or will the start of a smooth transfer of power provide the renewal that Labour needs to rule for a generation? Much depends on size of the majority, conduct of the campaign and even the result of France’s EU referendum.
Thanks to the growing importance of the university town vote, the disenchantment of “liberal” Britain over Iraq could hurt Labour more than usual. But in our republic of entertainment, boredom and irritation count against Tony Blair more than political protest—as the Tories have sensed, the smile that was once affable and open has turned saccharine.
If turnout is low again there will be much hypocritical hand-wringing in the media. The shrinking of the public realm may be inevitable. Rising affluence and modern technology mean most of us can control our individual destinies to a far greater extent than our parents or grandparents. But the means by which that control is achieved—the global market economy or institutions like the EU—leave us with the feeling that we are no longer in charge of our collective destinies. That is partly a myth, as Geoff Mulgan argues inside, but it is reinforced by the unfairness of Britain’s electoral system. If Labour’s vote collapses, one silver lining could be a hung parliament, ushering in PR. Under Thatcher, Britain modernised its private sector, under Blair it has begun modernising its public sector while building a more progressive Anglo-social model; what still remains, as Michael Prowse says, is to modernise our politics.
David Goodhart, Editor, Prospect
The Conservatives still cannot be trusted to run the country. They have not rediscovered their one nation roots and will not accept that Europe is our destiny, both economically and in terms of global influence. The single currency has, rightly, been ruled out for the forseeable future. But under Labour our economy is stronger than it has been at any time since 1945. Since 1997 we have overtaken Italy and then France; we are now the fourth richest nation in the world. Why put it all at risk for the sake of a few promises from Michael Howard?
Howard’s track record speaks…