David Blackburn

The Tories are frustrating, but Labour is unelectable

The Tories are frustrating, but Labour is unelectable
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Ok, Coffee House has given the Tories short-shrift in recent weeks, but this is a reaction born of frustration. The election should be a walkover. At their best, the Tories have the radical policies, and to a certain extent the team, to rescue Britain from its current Labour-inflicted quandary. Yet the party remains tentative, fearful of its own shadow.

It should not be. Labour deserves to lose, and not only in retribution for its record: the governing party has embarked on an open internecine war and is completely unelectable in consequence. Rachel Sylvester describes the paralysis:

‘Lord Mandelson is advocating a campaign based on aspiration, public service reform and fiscal rectitude, Mr Balls would prefer to pitch Labour investment against Tory cuts, with a liberal sprinkling of Eton-bashing. It’s essentially the difference between a “core vote” strategy and an approach designed to appeal to “middle England”. Although it is too simplistic to define it as old Labour v new Labour, it is a struggle for the soul of the party that will only intensify if it loses power.

Gordon Brown is torn. With his head he knows that he should side with Peter, but in his heart he agrees with Ed. The tension was all too clear in his media appearances on Sunday. In an Observer article, he called for an “age of aspiration” and referred to “new Labour” five times. Then in a BBC interview with Andrew Marr he emphasised tax rises for the rich, refused to discuss spending cuts and defended his class war attacks as “a joke”. No wonder the electorate is confused. Labour’s message is inconsistent because the leader is trying to follow two paths at the same time.

The result is incoherence. One week Lord Mandelson waves the axe over universities, the next Mr Balls lavishes more cash on schools. Labour accuses the Conservatives of having a £34 billion black hole in its spending plans but it has no credible explanation for how it will fulfil its own promise to halve the deficit over the next four years.’

Skirmishing intensified today. Very publicly, Lord Mandelson told the Standard:

"It (a core vote strategy) certainly does not represent Labour thinking or our strategy. Of course, we want to retain the vote that is most loyal to us but we are not going to win the election on that basis.

"We have to reach out to the whole of the New Labour coalition that brought us support in the last three elections and without which we will not win the next."

The similarities with Major’s stricken party are palpable. That the Cabinet has turned on itself testifies to the depth of Labour’s affliction and the vacuum at its heart. Annihilation should be a matter of course.