Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Blair Switch Project

Those who have read Isaac Asimov's Foundation sequence of episodic stories, and then gone onto the sequel Foundation and Empire, and remember the Bel Riose and Lathan Devers chronicles from the latter volume, will probably already have seen what has happened to the British Labour party during these early stages of the election campaign proper.

It all started when the party chose a new leader, and the real powers-behind-the-throne – most visibly the big Trades Unions' leaders – made sure (by skewing the voting in the party leadership 'electoral college' system) that an easily-manipulable individual became the leader – indeed, the weakest of the five contenders, if only narrowly weaker than one of the others.

There were always going to be consequences arising from that outcome, and as it happens the televised Leaders Debate last week generated an air of desperation within the senior Labour ranks, despite some commentators claiming that Ed[ward] Miliband had done well on the night. They said much the same a week or so earlier, after that Jeremy Paxman session...

A strong campaigner, someone with a track record of drawing people to him (and, in this case, hopefully including those who had drifted away from supporting Labour since 2010) was needed. Enter Bel Riose Tony Blair!

Yes, bringing no surprise to those of us who had been expecting this, 'B.liar' (as many have called him) is back in the electioneering game for Labour and as a credible campaigner, unlike Miliband-E. This is quite a switch for him, and for the previously self-confident Labour party as well.

Now, this is interesting because in the intervening years Blair has become something of a hate figure to much of Labour's remaining supporters. He always appealed to the more centrist elements of the party's membership and non-member voters/supporters.

He does not have much if any substantive appeal to a large chunk of what is still out there, supporting and voting for the party. Most of those will, of necessity, go along with this development – but there will be considerable friction and discomfort in the process. I suspect a modest but significant proportion of them will in fact go off to other parties or simply no longer bother, worsening not improving Labour's overall situation.

Perhaps this in The Telegraph gives us as clear an idea as any of just how divisive this move looks set to become.

If one were to step back from what has now transpired and perhaps devised a logic truth table of all the possible alternative scenarios (e.g. the weak leader working without the strong campaigner and losing), just about all feasible combinations and sequences of events in the present and recent climate lead to the same outcome: Labour are likely (in some cases almost certain) to lose the election.

Even if we had a Lathan Devers trying to force or encourage a good outcome, it doesn't really matter: it will probably happen anyway...

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