Nothing is certain in politics, but three things seem pretty certain about the next general election, whenever it comes. First, Labour’s share of the vote will go down (from just under 41 per cent in 2001). Second, voter turnout will also go down (from 59.4 per cent). Third, Labour will still win with a sizeable majority. Understandably, no one is particularly happy about this, least of all in Downing Street, where there has been talk behind closed doors about a possible crisis of legitimacy. It is this looming crisis, as much as the more immediate struggles he faces in Iraq and with his chancellor, that set the tone for Tony Blair’s speech to the Labour Party Conference last month. He and his advisers have been searching for a way to reconnect with the electorate, so that their triumph next year will seem like something more than a victory by default. One model to which they have turned in their desperation is the Tory Party’s revival during 1986 from the doldrums of Westland, sealed at their conference that year, when the party is reputed to have rediscovered its radicalism and its nerve after seven years in government.
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