New Forest East



By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 22 July 2000

Most people – including the Prime Minister – were taken totally by surprise when the Government's popular standing was so suddenly undermined. Yet, this was bound to happen sooner or later. It was implicit in the nature of New Labour's victory back in May 1997.

The reason for the Labour landslide then can be summed up in a single sentence: Labour made itself more electable by abandoning Socialism, while the Conservatives made themselves less electable by abandoning Conservatism.

While the Tories are rediscovering what they believe in (most notably about Europe), Labour dare not revive the policies it ditched in order to be elected in the first place. Yet, without a philosophy, it has no vision to offer.

There are two vital ingredients for being a good salesman – a fluent line in salesmanship and also having a product worth selling. Labour's notorious "spin-doctors" have supplied the one without being able to deliver the other.

When a party loses its sense of mission, all that is left is the fight for places in its pecking-order. William Hague's problems have largely concerned which issues to choose and which policies to adopt. The Government's, by contrast, mostly involve who is in, out, up or down at any given moment.

Churchill once said:

"You can bamboozle people, and you can de-bamboozle them – what you cannot do is re-bamboozle them."

The expectations raised by slick salesmanship in 1997 have been falsified by the reality of everyday experience. Britain has been de-bamboozled, and no amount of grinning and spinning can fill the void left by the loss of Labour's core philosophy in order to win power more than three years ago.