Gordon BrownToday would have been Election Day. As October is now behind us it would be pleasant to be able to draw a line under what has been an awful month for Labour. Yet try as I might, I find it hard to be upbeat looking forward.

First we had all the speculation (and spending from the Labour Party to match) that an election would be called, hyped by Number 10 and the euphoria of the first post-Blair party conference at the end of September. The opinions polls looked OK, and Brown had been seen to steer a steady course through troubles such as foot and mouth encountered over the summer.

Then panic. Some negative polls, the fear that an election would not lead to a decisive victory for Labour. If the only point of an election was to give Cameron a kicking, why go for it if that was not going to be the result?

The political crash, the deadly thump that was the decision to not call the election, tinged with some moderate relief among activists that they did not have to cobble together a campaign, was nevertheless a hard blow to take. How could one man lead us all, from MPs down to party members, so far down the track towards thinking there would be an election and then chuck it in?

An effort to help pick us all up was urgently called for. So what did we get? The Pre Budget Report for Alistair Darling that stole half of the Tories’ policies on non-doms and inheritance tax, and reforms to Capital Gains Tax that seemed to please no one. The debate about the Reform Treaty and a referendum has surged back with a vengeance, with the government on the back foot lacking arguments against putting the treaty to a public vote. This week the government has been roundly criticised for a complete mess regarding statistics for the numbers of non-UK workers in the British economy. The Tories have even managed to make some headway with barmy plans for an English Grand Committee in Parliament, with the government unable to come up with any coherent ideas about the problems of Salmond and the SNP, the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula.

So where do we go? What do we do? Where are the ideas, optimism, social justice and leadership going to come from? What – if anything – is Brown’s vision for the UK other than economic stability? We’re waiting for answers. Unless we get some soon then October 2007 will be seen as the start of Labour’s inevitable decline towards a future election defeat. The government looks tired and bruised; Labour is showing the strains of 10 years in office. We need some new ideas and a new direction – fast.

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