When a General Election is in sight, party strategists waste no time in analysing how best to threaten the competition. Often, such maestros will flock to the political archives, tracing the tracks of past elections in the search for a tactic that will lead their party to victory. With less than 100 days to go before Britain heads to the polls, the consensus around Westminster is that we could be in the early stages of witnessing an action replay of 1992, an election that saw Labour's Neil Kinnock unexpectedly concede defeat to John Major.
Back in '92, Major was not expecting to win. ‘It’s The Sun wot won it,’ many claimed, though the paper has yet to decide who they are backing for May 2015. Back then, the odds were in favour of Kinnock who, leading to a party that had been in power for 13 years, appeared to be ahead in the opinion polls. However, behind the scenes, unnoticed until the election's outcome, Tory schemers were changing the stakes by promoting the idea that Labour would ruin the economy, causing greater unemployment in a society that was witnessing a rapid rise in interest rates, and so it was therefore only the Conservatives who could be trusted to get Britain back on track. Sound familiar? Despite having exhausted the public with the endless repeats of their 'long term economic plan', there is no hope that we will be hearing less of this over the next three months. They will not let you forget the ‘mess that Labour left us’, unless, of course, Labour choose to challenge that…
Another flashback this week following Labour's announcements on NHS reform, prompting Alan Milburn, Tony Blair’s former Health Secretary, to comment that Ed Miliband was making a "fatal mistake" which he viewed as a "pale imitation" of Kinnock's fate in 1992. In the Commons this week David Cameron accused Miliband of “weaponising” the NHS for political gain, hitting the Labour leader in the heart; “You dare come here with all your disgusting talk of weaponising. Go and wash your mouth out with soap and water.” In addition to Milburn, Lord Hutton, another New Labour man, also stressed that Labour had to avoid a re-run of 1992; “Labour has got to talk about the economy and have a message about what it will do to keep the economy moving ahead.”
Whenever a party leader begins to appear vulnerable; support dwindling from within their own party ranks, past figures are often quick to leap to their defense. Lord Kinnock, rarely seen in the media these days, this week tried to put an end to the "sniping from behind" that was going on within Labour, stressing that "we've got to get our party back". The gossiping amongst Blairites had become a "distraction", Kinnock claimed, highlighting that Labour cannot go into an election campaign looking divided. He’s right; they can’t. But is peer support enough to change public consensus with three months of campaigning left to go?
The Conservatives have recognised that by portraying the Labour Party as chaotic with an economic plan that cannot be trusted, they could find themselves back in government. And if there are two areas that cause the most public concern, it is the economy and the NHS, both of which are currently working to their advantage.
The question is, do the majority buy the Tory talk that Britain would sink further into deeper financial trouble under the leadership of Miliband? The answer will be revealed on May 7th.