Can Labour win?

AS more and more doubts are raised over the Prime Minister's character, perhaps more pertinent questions would be: Does Labour deserve to win? Does Labour have the desire to win? Of course, Labour can win.

Graham Dines

AS more and more doubts are raised over the Prime Minister's character, perhaps more pertinent questions would be: Does Labour deserve to win? Does Labour have the desire to win?

Of course, Labour can win. Anything is possible in politics, as events conspire to knock the parties off course.

But it would have to be a hurricane force 12 to blow Labour back to power with an overall majority. Either the Tories would have to collapse like a pack of cards or some major international crisis would have to erupt which causes voters to stick with Gordon Brown.

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Does Labour deserve to win? Fresh evidence has emerged of Gordon Brown's volatility, which will do nothing to improve his image with voters.

We know that Brown believed Tony Blair had reneged on a deal to step down as leader during the second term of Labour government, instead keeping him waiting for 13 year.

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But according to journalist Andrew Rawnsley, Blair allegedly told friends in 2006: ``He kept shouting at me that I'd ruined his life” before demanding that Blair ensured Brown would face no rival for the Labour leadership succession.

This comes after dark tales of Brown's bully boy behaviour and Chancellor Alistair Darling saying the “forces of Hell” had been unleashed against him by the Downing Street spin machine when he wouldn't play the Prime Minister's game of pretending the economic situation would not result in massive public spending cuts.

If Labour really wants to win and deserves to win, it must show that it has the stomach to take the fiscal and revenue measures to enable Britain to recover from the downturn and that it is prepared to sacrifice some sacred cows for the greater good.

But back to: Can Labour win? It's the question which deep down is troubling election strategists at Conservative Central Office. The Tories' solid opinion poll leads since October 2007, when Brown famously bottled an election which I suspect he would have won, are now in single figures. What the Conservatives cannot fathom is why this is happening.

Under Brown, this government has struggled over virtually every major policy initiative. The complete farce over the abolition of the 10p starting rate of income tax showed a government in turmoil and unable to predict the unintended consequences of measures intended to be populist.

It also applies to equipping the armed forces for military conflict. Horror stories of troops having to buy their own protective clothing as well as the lack of helicopters in theatre were put down to Brown's budget cuts - when procurement spending is axed, you put at risk the lives of men and women sent to fight on behalf of the nation, and voters do not like that.

So why aren't the Tories in an unassailable position? Since December, David Cameron seems to have gone off the boil, making increasingly more personal attacks on the Prime Minister, who portrays himself as more and more exasperated at Cameron's refusal to tackle and debate policy issues ahead of the election.

And until policies are fleshed out for voters, there will be a reluctance to put their faith in the Conservatives.

The voters aren't enthused by either party. The perversity of the British electoral system is that the Tories will have to have a 9% lead on polling day for Cameron to form a government outright. That's a daunting task which I have always believed is beyond the Tories.

The likelihood is that the election will produce a minority government. And that might be sapping Labour's will to win - I suspect the party has calculated that a minority Tory government which slashes public spending and raises taxes would collapse after a year to 18 months, leading to a Labour election victory under a new fresh leader.


DAVID Cameron and Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles will have breathed a huge sigh of relief when two minority ethnic candidates rejected this year by Suffolk Tories managed to find themselves safe seats at the General Election.

There will be especial delight that Sam Gymiah came through the lists to become candidate for Surrey East.

He made the Suffolk West shortlist, but was eliminated on the second round of voting by Tory activists assembled at Mildenhall last month.

Instead they chose Matt Hancock, George Osborne's chief of staff, to inherit retiring MP Richard Spring's comfortable majority.

Gyimah, who is 33, is a former president of the Oxford Union whose parents came from Ghana.

He impressed Suffolk West, but in the end the general opinion seems to have been that he was more suited to an urban constituency.

In the final six for Suffolk Coastal was Nadhim Zahawi, 42, who is Kurdish and a former aide to Jeffrey Archer. However, he was no match for winner Therese Coffey, who took the selection meeting by storm and won on the first round of voting earlier this month.

At the weekend, Zahawi was chosen to fight Stratford-on-Avon.

Gyimah and Zahawi are among the 44 black candidates so far selected by Tory activists to be the modern face of British Conservatism. Currently there are just two Tory MPs from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Of the 44, the two MPs are seeking re-election and six are in safe Conservative seats.

These include Gyimah, Zahawi and Priti Patel, the 37 year-old former Tory Party staffer who is fighting the new Essex constituency of Witham.

A further seven are in seats which the current opinion polls suggest will be won by the Conservatives.

This switch to ethnicity is part of Cameron's deliberate social engineering, when he said the Tories would only be fit for government when its MP base was switched from white, middle class, professional men to include a sizeable tranche of women and minority ethnics.

Making the Conservatives “more representative of modern Britain” was how Cameron described his approach as he played catch-up with Labour, which has led the way in selecting women and black candidates.

Shamefully the Liberal Democrats are still in the dark ages. Their candidates are still overwhelming white male, and the same goes for the UK Independence Party.

A scan of candidates selected so far in Suffolk and north and mid Essex reveals that 51 are white men, one is black, five white women, and one black female.

Of those likely to win, only two are women - Priti Patel in Witham and Therese Coffey in Suffolk Coastal.

In south and west Essex, two current women MPs are likely to have mixed fortunes.

Tory Eleanor Laing will be elected in Epping Forest by a massive majority, while Labour's Angela Smith looks doomed as she tries to win the new seat

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