Are Labour about to disappear? Sadly not
For it to happen there would need to be a party on their side of the political spectrum capable of taking over. The Tories in the late 1990s were always safe from being eclipsed because no rival party on the right emerged to fracture their vote, in Canada in the early 1990s their Progressive Conservative party did essentially disappear as a major force because another right centre party was able to attract conservative voters. In theory the Lib Dems are better placed to take over from Labour than the Conservatives but that would involve becoming a more overtly left wing party, and seeing as how most of their current MPs are defending their seats from Conservative opponents they aren't willing to do that. Losing their own seats for the good of the party isn't something that appeals to them.
The other reason why I think Labour will survive is because an lot of their current problems stem from the uniquely awful personality of Gordon Brown. Don't get me wrong I strongly dislike the party and think that they have been consistently incompetent, sleazy and malign however this was just as true when they were polling close to 50% in the late 1990s. Although some polls suggest that replacing Brown won't improve that is probably untrue because people don't have strong opinions of his potential successors as they aren't very well known and are seen as mere apparatchiks in Brown's Labour. The only figure whose name recognition is high enough to escape being tied down by Brown is Tony Blair and the polls suggest that he would cut the gap on the Tories to 9%, hung parliament territory. This despite the fact that Blair is more culpable than anyone except Brown for Labour's current woes.
If I were a supporter of the Labour Party I'd be optimistic that ditching Brown and replacing him with David Miliband or Alan Johnson would be enough to avoid a landslide defeat at the next election. Of course if I were a supporter of the Labour Party I'd also be drooling in the corner saying nothing but 'wibble', but that doesn't invalidate the point. David Cameron's whole strategy since coming to lead the Conservatives, and perhaps even before the last election has been based on waiting for Gordon Brown to take over and alienate the largest chunk of swing voters it madness for Labour to be assisting in that policy by keeping Brown in place.
Samizdata quote of the day
6 hours ago