"For what we are witnessing here in Manchester is not the beginning of the end of Gordon Brown. It is the beginning of the end of new Labour.
Ten years ago in our kitchen table Conservative paper, written at a moment when Tony Blair was more than 15 points ahead in the polls, Andrew and I thought we could see three failings that might eventually make Labour unpopular.
The first was that Labour was spending a great deal of money on public services without reforming them. At the time this was shrewd - the public didn't want market reforms and they did want more spent. There was, however, a small problem: spending more without proper reform would not work. The improvements would not live up to voters expectations. And they would become angry. They wouldn't blame themselves for this failure - remembering their resistance to reform - they would blame Labour. And there would be a change in mood. Fury at Labour, greater acceptance of reform and a change in attitude toward government spending.
The second failing was that Labour believed “there is a political solution to every problem”. They couldn't see a social issue without intervening. This made good headlines in the short term, but in the long term would stoke an anti-politician feeling. People would believe new Labour had betrayed them and had turned out to be just another bunch of politicians.
And finally there was this: “When people begin to feel really let down by the Labour Government, it is likely that the one thing they will most loathe is the slick over-packaging.”
If you doubt this, consider what happened last summer. When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister there was a brief period in which voters accepted that perhaps he represented change. Labour's popularity soared. Then it dawned on the electorate that Brown was not change and their popularity plummeted.
So to win again, Labour has to change. And to change it has to accept that voters criticism of their failings - on public services, on spin, on all their tiny micro-interventions - are not only a fact of political life but fair and reasonable."
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
When people begin to feel really let down by the Labour Government, it is likely that the one thing they will most loathe is the slick over-packaging.
Daniel Finklestein's Times column is a must read today.