The last member of the old U6 politics set is about to head off to uni. This would, of course, be Pierpaolo Barrett – as a future luminary of Oxford (along with Peter Wright) he only needs to be there for about 10 weeks a year. How that place gets its reputation I don’t know. Nevertheless, we met up, chatted politics, and tried to predict the future, which is where these thoughts come from.
Everyone says how foolish it is to try and predict political developments, and then goes right on ahead to do precisely that. Why? Because it sheds some light on our current political plight. So here are some of the futurist options for the British political scene.
Scenario 1: ‘Dave’ Cameron wins the next election by a small majority over a Gordon Brown led Labour party. Brown, as predicted, failed to connect with the British – and especially English – public, thus enjoying his triumph as PM for only a short time, and the Liberal Democrats, as ever, failed to make any further headway – even losing a number of seats to the eco-friendly Tories. But what happens next? Cameron comes under increasing pressure from his right-wing tendency to lower taxes, whilst having to confront the economic chaos of massive over-spending left by Brown. As the economy crashes, and the Tory party is riven in ideological warfare again between modernisers and Nazis – sorry, traditionalists – a new Labour leader, David Milliband, is elected to take the reigns of a party that remains firmly modernist. Inevitably, he wins the subsequent General Election.
This, by the way, is a bit of a replay of the option that used to haunt Tory minds – what if they had lost the 1992 election to Neil Kinnock, thus bequeathing to him the economic hazards of the subsequent five years, whilst remaining united under a new leader – perhaps Heseltine – and ready to take power again in 1997?
Scenario 2: Dave loses the election, but has sufficiently increased the Tory vote to keep his party behind him; he stays as leader, and continues to drive forward the modernisation process. The old Tory dinosaurs keep dying out. In the meantime, the Labour government under Gordon Brown puts more and more distance between itself, under its aloof leader, and the public, while the economy unravels fast. More sleaze reports tarnish its reputation until, in the subsequent election, they lose massively to Cameron’s Tories. And this time, they are not in a position to quickly regroup – all their brightest minds are tainted by association with an increasingly unpopular, ineffective and sleazy government. The Tories are ready for a long period in office.
This scenario, of course, replays the disaster of the Major years for Labour.
There is a third scenario, which is a hung parliament, in which Ming’s Liberals would almost certainly chum up with Labour, despite the attractions to some of the Liberal ‘Orange Book’ authors of the new conservatism.
Of course this is all speculation, and history rarely repeats itself so neatly. But it does perhaps remind us that politics is such an unpredictable – and extraordinary – activity, that even a victory may not be the best option for David Cameron at the next election. There are subtle undercurrents circulating!