Tuesday, 2 June 2009


What would have happened if we'd reached this institutional political crisis at a time when we weren't due to hold ostensibly unrelated elections? I like to think we'd have seen some definitive action by this point, and that Westminster as a whole would have got itself past the relentless drip-feeding of individual scandals, one way or another. But as it is, everyone's waiting for the other boot to drop.

Which is just silly. There's no possible result for Labour which won't lead Cameron to make a red-faced demand for an immediate general election. That speech is already written. There isn't, in fact, a hard and fast rule about the performance in rural/local elections and the general. There isn't some known vote share at which it makes sense to say, "Above this, Brown should keep his job; below it, he's got to go." In any case, the elections have become as much a referendum on all politicians as a popularity test for the parties - anyone who claims to be able to tease out the distinction between an anti-Labour vote and an general protest vote is deluded or deluding. And yet we're still hanging on, waiting for this supposed moment of clarity.

A big part of the recent scandal has been MPs' apparent inability to exercise their own judgement instead of relying on rules or official guidance. We've got the same problem here. Labour's own problems, and the damage done by expenses revelations, have been clear to everyone for the past two weeks. But nothing's been done about them, as the people involve wait for someone else to tell them how bad things are. If they can't form a judgement on that question for themselves, if they can only respond but not act, then how are they going to govern when there's no conveniently timed election to tell them how good their policies are?

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