Less than two weeks out from the British election, and the fleeting
Tory hope that they could be within reach of government seems to have
died. Recent polls all have Tony Blair’s Labour Party headed for a
third decisive victory, albeit of slightly smaller dimensions than the
first two. The Tories have been complaining about the difficulties of a
three-party system. Even when they succeed in scoring points against
Blair, some of the benefit goes not to themselves but to the Liberal
Democrats, who are sitting on 22% in recent polling. But in this the
Conservatives have only themselves to blame, since, unlike the
Liberals, they chose to support Blair’s unpopular decision to fight in
Iraq.

This is all rather interesting because of the role of Australia’s own
Lynton Crosby as chief Tory strategist. He seems to be finding that his
brand of scaremongering campaign is easier to run from government than
from opposition. As Le Monde
put it last week, the Tory
manifesto “resembles more a list of grievances against Labour rather
than a credible election program.”

Just as interesting, perhaps, for Australians is the role played by
leadership rivalry within the government. The Tories began the campaign
with high hopes of exploiting the obvious tension between Blair and his
heir presumptive, Gordon Brown – just as the ALP has spent two
elections trying to play on fears of a Costello succession. It didn’t
work for them, and it’s not working for the Tories either. On the
contrary, the prospect of an orderly transition in the leadership seems
to be running as a plus for Labour, and their opponents have now
stopped talking about it. Vindication of a sort for John Howard, but
cold comfort for his namesake in the UK.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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