The great Labour problem…

Martin Kettle puts his finger on one of the major problems of the Labour Party: the abiding emity of a large majority of it membership to its popular leader. He accuses the British left of taking its eye off the ball and, in the process, actively enfranchising what remains an unpopular Cameron Tory opposition.

The conviction that Blair must go now is certainly not coming from the Labour voting public. I’m not even certain, in spite of Jack Dromey’s understandable anger at being snubbed on the loans issue, that it is coming from Blair’s traditional foes in the unions. I’ll stick my neck out by saying I don’t even think it is coming from Brown right now. But it is coming from part of the parliamentary Labour party and from the media.

But it is daft stuff. Political logic is simply not on its side. This is not 1990, when Labour was ahead by 16 points and all the polls told all the Tories that unless they got rid of Margaret Thatcher, they would lose. This week’s Guardian-ICM poll showed Labour drawing ahead of the Tories again, not slipping behind. For 100 days David Cameron has had media to die for, yet at the end of it Labour has regained a three-point lead.

Blair’s own ratings have never been great since his Iraq adventure three years ago. Nevertheless, this month his net approval ratings among all voters are his least bad since May 2003. And his position among Labour voters is very robust. You would never guess this from some of the media, but today Blair has more approval among his own voters than either Cameron or Menzies Campbell has among his.

Blair will go soon enough. His time is nearly up. But this week has not been his tipping point. It may, though, have been the point when a group of Labour MPs stopped caring about the damage they are doing to their party. The real political story this week is not whether Labour has had it with Blair. It is how Labour can recover from having its schools policy taken hostage by MPs with little public support, few coherent alternative ideas, and for whom much of modern Britain is not the cause for celebration it ought to be – but a threat.

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