For the first time in a decade there is a realistic prospect of a change of government at the next General Election, now certain to be in the first half of 2010. Regardless of one's personal political persuasion, this has to be good for the country as governments without a serious opposition tend to become arrogant and detached. This is almost always the inevitable fate of governments and Prime Ministers who win three elections in a row: it has happened to Tony Blair and Labour, just as it happened to Margaret Thatcher and the Tories 20 years earlier. Blair went according to his own timetable while Thatcher had to be forced out. The aftermath was remarkably similar, however: Chancellor succeeds to premiership, party suffers divisions and gets caned in the local elections. Then what?
The City, of course, is excited by the prospect of a Conservative government and suddenly Conservative spokesmen are in demand and speaking to large and engaged audiences in the financial services sector. They don't appear to have much of substance to say but they are being listened to and taken seriously. But are you really listening to the next cabinet or will we still have a Labour government well into the next decade?
John Major was in the same position as Gordon Brown in 1990 and 1991 but by the middle of 1992 he was able to fashion a General Election victory in the last ten days of a campaign that had previously looked to have only one winner, and it wasn't the Tories. This proves nothing beyond the huge uncertainty and unpredictability of politics but it should serve as a cautionary reminder to City firms, financial institutions and their lobbyists not to get too excited about the prospect of having their 'friends' in government and certainly not to the extent of forgetting to engage with the current ministers. Labour will be running the country for another two years which is a very, very long time in politics.
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