Monday, 23 February 2009

Could this be 1931 over again?

The 1931 General Election saw Labour down to 52 seats, winning just 10% of the seats they contested. That election followed a period of national government under Ramsey MacDonald in which it was apparent that the government had no convincing answers to the economic crisis, and with the Labour and Liberal parties split on policy. The Conservatives, running on a strong protectionist manifesto, also gained an absolute majority in terms of votes cast - the only time this has happened.

Labour recovered from this nadir, of course; the strength of a real working class identification and aspirations in the 1930s led to the post-war changes that have given us the nation we have today.

So could the next election see Labour down to 60 seats? Possibly. But if it does, there is no prospect of recovery for Labour this time. With a grass-roots membership haemorrhage, a wipe-out from local government and the atomisation of the old working class there is no ladder for Labour to climb from the pit. Their own reforms of Parliamentary allowances, which reinforce incumbency, will also serve to keep them from regaining their old seats. They would become a small regional party, centred in the north-east and north-west. Personal donors would dry up, and the unions would look to buying influence instead from a party that actually mattered.

The depth of public anger with Labour this time around could mean not just a cyclical electoral kicking, but a death-blow.

3 comments:

Blue Eyes said...

I hope the Tories don't run on a strongly protectionist manifesto and that once in power they dismantle all the incumbency advantages as well and throw open the doors to democracy.

Bill Quango MP said...

Political Betting had the maps of general elections up a few days ago. I posted about 1931 but few thought it likely. Have to agree really. Labour had no history back then and were more a sort of SDP in power.
That is why they were dumped so quickly, and the crisis was worse for individuals with minimal state help,little cheap food and housing etc. Work or starve were the options.

Anonymous said...

People thought about the Tories like this in the immediate aftermath of 1997.

They were wrong, and so are you.

"As a dog returns to its vomit..."

Labour will recover, I am sorry to say.