There now seems very little chance of a General Election taking place in 2008 such has been the huge shift in the political landscape over the last few months.
Gordon Brown's premiership is, at the very least, in dangerous waters even if it hasn't quite hit the rocks yet. Crisis after crisis has battered him since taking over from Tony Blair, leaving the public with the feeling that this is a government lacking the competence to manage the country. That gnaws away at public support and, unless Mr Brown can counter that soon, his government could be doomed.
The parallels with when Labour last changed leader while in government are becoming more numerous by the day. Thirty years ago, Harold Wilson stood down and was succeeded by Jim Callaghan. The Tories had a new leader in Margaret Thatcher, slowly finding her feet after succeeding the defeated Ted Heath. As for the Liberals, they were forced to replace their leader, Jeremy Thorpe when he became embroilled in allegations of bribery, homosexuality and attempted murder. He was succeeded by David Steel who, like the recently elected Nick Clegg came from the right of his party.
Three new leaders, economic crisis, government not in control of events, delayed General Election – the parallels are there. When the election did eventually come in 1979 Labour was swept from power for 18 long years. One significant difference is that in 1977-79 Labour had to hang on in Parliament by its fingertips, eventually relying on a pact with the Liberals to secure majorities in key votes. This time. it has the cushion of a comfortable majority so shouldn't be forced to the country because it loses a vote of confidence in Parliament as happened thirty years ago.
Labour may have a mountain to climb to recover over the next 18 months but we should all remember that they are still the government and could still be the government after the next General Election. The financial services sector musn't make the mistake of thinking that change is just around the corner and therefore spend all its time getting close to the Tories: they need to be taken seriously and this is a good time to influence their policy formation but they are not making any decisions. We probably have two budgets and one hell of alot of legislation to go before the election and any prospect of a change in government.
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