Leading article: The Prime Minister must inspire or be damned

Brown has to seize the chance to rally his demoralised party

Share
Related Topics

The Labour Party has gathered for its pre-election conference in what appears an atmosphere of despondency, with some Cabinet ministers giving interviews in which they are almost publicly dismissing its prospects.

This makes the stakes at the conference unusually high. Gloomy polls are the unavoidable context. For several months, they have shown the Conservatives enjoying a substantial lead. Labour also did appallingly in the local and European elections in the summer.

Clearly, the Labour Party faces Herculean challenges if it is recover any momentum. It must shake off the spirit of fatalism to which the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has referred and which makes the party look as if it is folding its robes and preparing to die.

As it confronts the possibility of defeat in only a few months' time, Labour has rapidly to re- establish itself as a serious and credible force. More specifically, Gordon Brown, yet again, has to defy those in his party and beyond who want him out before the next general election.

What Mr Brown and his ministers have to show above all is that they possess the ability to outline a vision of the future that is capable of inspiring a demoralised party and which can regain the attention of the wider electorate.

They have to go beyond trying to persuade the voters that they are a safe pair of hands and can be trusted to pull Britain out of the economic doldrums. They need to do that, too. But when asking the British people to grant them a fourth term – which would be unprecedented in the history of Labour governments – they need to offer more than alleged management skills.

This is not the responsibility of Gordon Brown alone. Whether or not they dream of eventually replacing him, at this juncture his ministerial colleagues must join him in showing that Labour remains in the game.

The imminence of a general election makes Mr Brown's speech tomorrow more significant than would normally be the case. More than any other single event this week, its success or failure will send a signal beyond the conference hall to the country about whether the party wants to retain power in order to do things, or whether it just wants to survive.

The Prime Minister must try to make sense of his leadership, which the polls suggest is deeply unpopular, and try to convince doubters that he is the right figure with the appropriate policies to guide Britain through the recession and beyond. This will not be easy as he was Chancellor for more than a decade.

Many people are angered about the recession and the MPs' expenses scandal, are worried by the rising death toll from the war in Afghanistan, and they appear to want to punish the Labour Government. But we need to bear in mind that British politics as whole will not benefit from a Labour Party that has given up the ghost or has ceased to become an effective political force.

This is not only because the policies of the Conservatives deserve to be scrutinised in much greater detail than has been the case so far – but won't be, if Labour remains hopelessly weak and distracted. It is also because the Labour Party does have important arguments to put forward about the economic recession and about the timing and scale of cuts in public spending.

But voters will pay attention, at this late stage, only if the party reveals a will to mount a real counterattack. The coming days will show whether this remains even a possibility.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee