“The party is finished, dead. It has lost consecutive elections, is totally out of touch with the electorate, and looks more interested in internal squabbles than in the challenges facing the country.”
Although that statement could easily be applied to today’s Labour Party, it is actually a quote from an anonymous Conservative MP about his own organisation, following the 2005 General Election defeat, when Tony Blair comfortably won a third term of office – despite the unpopularity of the Iraq war.
The Tories were seen as an irrelevance. They had had a succession of ineffective leaders, Hague, Duncan- Smith, and Howard, and appeared to spend all their time arguing about Europe.
Political commentators were suggesting that there had been a realignment of British politics around an agenda of social democratic policies. The centre ground had won the day, Labour was going to be in power forever, and the Conservative and Unionist Party was a thing of the past.
Of course, the anonymous source, and those political commentators, were proved wrong, when David Cameron started a resuscitation of his party, and took them into government just five years later – where they have stayed ever since.
Just to remind you how far the political Blues had fallen. Less than 200 seats in the House of Commons. Single digit polling in Scotland. On the wrong side of every culture war that was going, from Gay Rights to animal rights. They looked like a rag, bag, and bobtail outfit that would never get to grips with the modern 21st Century, stuck in the past, left to celebrate Margaret Thatcher and former glories.
So, when people, many of them the same individuals who wrote the Tories off in 2005, tell you Labour is dead in 2021, you would do well to view their opinion with a degree of scepticism.
There is no doubt that Labour is in trouble. The election results were bad enough. The leaderships response to those results was even worse.
However, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can truly transform. Labour is surely at its lowest ebb.
We will know over the next twelve months if Keir Starmer has it in him to be his party’s Neil Kinnock – never mind a Tony Blair. I don’t buy the argument that Labour is ultra- loyal to its leaders and will stick with him until the next General Election, come what may. You would have to be beyond naïve not to recognise that some big Labour figures are already on manoeuvrers.
There are too many issues that Starmer and his team need to address to go into this week, but here is one thought. In metro mayor contests across the Northern Powerhouse, Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham were re-elected with bumper majorities, and Labour’s West Yorkshire candidate Tracy Brabin became the first female metro mayor in the country. Perhaps he could pick the phone up to individuals who are arguably among the most powerful Labour politicians in England at the moment, and either invite them into his Shadow Cabinet, or at least ask them how it’s done.