THIRD terms are hard for any government. Having won three general elections in a row, the challenge of appearing fresh and relevant to the public is one that any party in Labour’s position would face.
So, to reiterate the question I asked here previously, what do we, as a governing party, need to do, not only to regain the confidence of the British people, but to inspire them once again?
I have one suggestion: put ourselves in the shoes of the opposition.
Our next manifesto will contain many commitments, all worthwhile and well thought out. They will have been formed by ministers and MPs, party members and officials who are only too aware of the intimidating shadow and legacy of 12, or possibly 13, years in government. Those writing the manifesto will have a depth of knowledge and experience of government of which their predecessors in 1996 and 1997 could only have dreamed.
But perhaps that’s part of the problem. Perhaps more than a decade in the role of the establishment we spent 18 years in opposition trying to topple has deprived us of the hunger that is inevitably entrenched in the soul of any opposition worth its salt.
So instead of asking “What should we offer the people in our bid for a fourth term?”, let’s instead ask: “If we were in opposition right now, and the country were facing exactly the same challenges as it is now, and we were determined to form the next, new, government, what would be in our manifesto?”
What new policies and projects would an experienced Labour opposition in 2010 propose to the electorate in order to woo it, and would they be measurably more radical than what an incumbent government would offer?
If so, then we need to adopt a new mindset. And do it quickly.