Will Nick Raynsford follow his own logic?

Labour MP and former Minister Nick Raynsford has an intriguing article on the New Statesman website today. His basic argument is that Labour’s position is closer to that of the Conservatives in their depths of unpopularity in 1990 (when they went on to win the next general election) than that of their depths of unpopularity in 1995 (when they went on to landslide defeat).

Nick Raynsford writes:

After the Glasgow East by-election, no one can doubt that Labour is in a deep hole. This is much more serious than mid-term blues which may be expected to evaporate as the General Election approaches.

But much less clear is the inevitability of defeat. The historical parallel is closer to 1990 than 1995. While the Thatcher Government was deeply unpopular in 1990, losing the Eastbourne by-election on a similar swing to Glasgow East, the electorate had not yet committed to Labour as the next government. Hence John Major’s surprise victory in 1992. By 1995 the position had changed. The electorate had decisively shifted their loyalty to Tony Blair’s government-in-waiting and nothing could save John Major.

However, what is missing from the rest of the article is the logical conclusion from this. If Labour’s hope is that it is in a 1990 rather than a 1995 type situation, they need to look at what the Conservatives did to recover and win the 1992 general election.

It was in many ways quite a simple two-step to victory: (a) ditch your leader (John Major replacing Margaret Thatcher, and (b) ditch your highest profile policy (the Poll Tax as was). And in 1995? The Conservatives neither ditched leader nor a major policy, and then went on to a crushing defeat.

Nowhere in the rest of Nick Raynsford’s piece does the idea of switching leader or carrying out a major policy u-turn feature, but if he or others in the Labour Party really do believe in the 1990 parallel, that surely is what they must be thinking in private.

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  • All credit to Nick Raynsford for spotting what won’t work – silly bribes and more initiatives. The problem is that Labour needed to work that out in 1997, not 2008.

    It seems all Nick Raynsford can suggest is do nothing but criticise the Conservatives.

    Brown has had his chance to do a Major but didn’t call the election, so the situation is more like 1995, and quite rightly Raynsford says nothing could save the Conservatives in 1995. Knowing that, the sensible thing to do is to introduce electoral reform, otherwise a bankrupt Labour Party with fewer MPs than in 1983 will not be back in office anytime soon.

  • David Heigham 12th Aug '08 - 6:20pm

    Doesn’t this piece mean that Nick Raynsford’s hat is floating somewhere over the edge of the ring for a Labour leadership fight? They could (and probably will) do a lot worse.

    But no candidate who needs to appear “loyal” can mention the possibility of changing leaders.

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