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How can Labour emerge from the dreadful mess it's in?

PUBLISHED: 13:55 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:03 07 September 2010

WHAT a dreadful mess Labour has made of things. Last week s countrywide elections and the dreadful demise in London of Ken Livingstone (overwhelmed by Boris Johnson even in Barnet & Camden) are further indications of a deep malaise that has seen the party

WHAT a dreadful mess Labour has made of things. Last week's countrywide elections and the dreadful demise in London of Ken Livingstone (overwhelmed by Boris Johnson even in Barnet & Camden) are further indications of a deep malaise that has seen the party lose touch with voters to an alarming and perhaps permanently-damaging degree.

It is a sign of the times that Labour's 'disaster deniers' were reduced on Friday to celebrating the success of the Greens in Highgate, if only because it kept the Tories out!

Short-sighted national policies, aimed at grabbing headlines rather than setting firm foundations; the bloody misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan; squeamishness in the face of issues that occupy the nation's minds; the erosion of civil liberties; the obsessive tinkering with national treasures like our health and education systems; the enforced closure of the post offices - the list of contributory factors is endless. Add a liberal sprinkling of crony-ism, phony-ism and balony-ism and you have a recipe for electoral disaster and long term decline.

If New Labour was a company, it would be bankrupt, and its executives hung out to dry by shareholders demanding root and branch reforms - or more possibly a return to the basics around which their loyal support had been garnered.

Part of the problem is that Labour no longer attracts quality people of unshakeable vision, intellect and ability, in the way it once did. Perhaps the writing was already on the wall when Michael Foot was replaced by Neil Kinnock. That episode aside, the transition from an ideology-based party with core values to one that developed programmes on the back of spin and focus groups, became unmistakable when John Smith's untimely death led to the election of a talented but rootless politician who, one feels, could just as easily have led the Tories or the Lib Dems with equal aplomb.

True, Tony Blair's electability gave the party a place in the sun for the best part of 10 years, but at what price? Supporters have for years been deserting New Labour in droves and with Gordon Brown still occupying an electoral no man's land, it is difficult to see how the party will remain a force beyond the next general election. On a local level it has already been put to the sword in Camden and unthinkably, the same may soon be true in Haringey in the not too distant future.

Labour's arrogance after 40 years of rule in Camden was breathtaking, resulting in disintegration at the last council elections. Yet there are people in the party who still haven't worked out why that happened. Like frightened rabbits, they have been frozen rigid by the unrelenting glare of public opinion. If there are people who can rescue them from this dire situation, it is time they made their voices heard.


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