Does any party want to win next year’s general election?

Counting the votes at Clacton last week - but is any party ready to fight next year's general electi

Counting the votes at Clacton last week - but is any party ready to fight next year's general election? - Credit: Archant

One thing that has become clear as a result of last week’s Clacton and Heywood by-elections is the fact that seven months out from a general election, British politics is in a difficult place.

The figures might say that the economy is recovering, but most people are no better off than they were in 2010 . . . and frankly don’t feel that things are going to get better for them.

The official opposition should have been able to make hay over the last few years, but Labour has failed to generate any kind of excitement. It talks about the “cost of living crisis” but it has too often given the impression that it is only worried about the poorest and dispossessed.

Tony Blair did so well in the 1990s because he persuaded middle income people, from the plumbers and electricians to the bank clerks and call centre workers, that he had a positive image to offer them.

Today’s Labour Party only seems to be able to talk to these groups by telling them how badly they could be affected if things don’t change.

It’s a message that didn’t go down well in Clacton and almost led to the loss of the Heywood seat in the north west. If I had a pound every time someone told me: “Ed Miliband will never be prime minister,” I’d be doing very nicely thank you!

The Tories do have a good message on the economy – but they seem incapable of explaining how this is going to benefit those at the margins of society.

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They continue to talk about squeezing the benefits of the poorest in society while reducing taxes for the most wealthy.

They seem to understand the economics needed to make a free-market society work but are incapable of understanding the importance of simple humanity in the equation.

UKIP is still a bit of a mystery. Most people know they don’t like the EU or wind turbines, but their other policies – the policies that will be the battleground of the next election remain totally unclear.

Some of their leaders talk about improving health care. Others talk about replacing the NHS with an American insurance-based system.

On a philosophical level that might be arguable, but you try telling Mrs Smith who’s been waiting six months for a hip replacement that you want to get rid of the NHS and you might find yourself in choppy waters!

What is their policy on job creation, managing the economy, on improving state schools? There are also significant differences between Douglas Carswell and some of his party’s more robust members on the question of immigration!

When these policies are tested during the general election campaign, how well will they stand up?

Next year’s general election is the most open I have ever seen. None of the parties seem to want to win it!

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