Friday, 2 November 2007

Is This Really May 1997 All Over Again ?

That's how someone described it on the BBC's "Election 07" coverage last night. This morning has dawned fine and clear in London at any rate and the pictures of Gordon Brown and his wife going to Buckingham Palace are reminscent of those of Tony and Cherie Blair on May 2nd 1997.

Indeed, I think some actually see this as some form of "new" Government though of course all the voters have done is to give the new guy a chance.

To be fair, Gordon Brown has done well since he took over from Tony Blair at the end of June. The floods, foot and mouth, even the Northern Rock crisis, well, he's looked sure-footed and the decision to call a snap election on the back of that Observer poll has also been vindicated.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems fought hard of course and George Osbourne's proposals on Stamp Duty and IHT were widely applauded but all too often, especially during his set-piece interviews, David Cameron looked like a boy sent on a man's errand. In his defence, the poll figures never give him much encouragement apart from that rogue Mori poll showing the Conservatives only three points behind (shades of '97 again).

I thought Sir Menzies looked tired toward the end and I doubt after this performance, he will be leader much longer. Nick Clegg looks the obvious contender even though Chris Huhne actually increased his majority in Eastleigh.

The final exit poll told everyone what they needed to know - Labour 39%, Conservatives 33%, Liberal Democrats 18%. In essence, a four point fall in the LD rating has gone mainly to Labour (some of the Iraq "switchers" coming home) while the Tories have made almost no progress at all and have even lost a few seats back to Labour while picking up a handful from the Lib Dems. The big shock though was the Green win in Brighton.

Gordon Brown has his mandate, a majority of 90 - up from 64. The Conservatives remain becalmed on 186 seats but the big losers are the Lib Dems, back down near their 1997 figure of 48 and another derisory turnout of just 64%.

So, what now ? We have a fourth Labour victory and Brown is secure until 2012. For the Conservatives, the choice is clear - renewed modernisation or entrenchment. The recriminations are already starting and while no one has yet come out calling for Cameron's head, he has been severely weakened and the vultures (aka supporters of David Davis) are circling. Will they challenge Cameron ?

For the Lib Dems, there will have to be a change and Sir Menzies is said to be "consulting with senior colleagues". Too many good people were lost yesterday and it must now be time for Nick Clegg to come forward though I still have a soft spot for Julia Goldsworthy. She looked radiant at her count this morning having nearly doubled her majority.

The only consolation for both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is that they have time to sort out their next move. No one will give much for politics in the next six months and Gordon Brown has a potentially difficult winter to negotiate with oil prices still high and the stock market still volatile.

No comments: