Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

Normally when a general election is finally won or lost at least one of the parties is cracking open the champagne, but now that the curtain has come down on one of the strangest elections in living memory it's hard to tell who should be celebrating or commiserating.

Labour has won a third term in office due to its managerial competence in running the economy and public services. With a majority of more than 60 seats it still has a very respectable mandate to govern, yet it has nothing to feel smug about.

Not a single person I spoke to had anything but harsh words to say about Tony Blair and I've never known so many Labour voters make that walk to the polling station in such a state of confusion and indecision.

They had to vote for him, but they really didn't want to. For Labour it's got to be back to basics. Get rid of the swagger that says we're the only option, like it or lump it. Forget about arguing over the technicalities of the Attorney General's advice on Iraq, people felt deceived and ( worse ( that they'd be taken for fools.

And women especially will be hoping that a smaller majority and the likely departure of the Prime Minister means that we can also say goodbye to some of his nasty friends.

So why did the other parties not do better? The Tories and the Lib Dems were faced with the task of scoring into an open goal. They both missed. Not only did they have the Iraq factor, but also all the usual shots that could be taken at a government that has eight years of government behind it.

Both failed to present themselves as alternative governments in waiting. Yes, they made the most of opportunistic scraps, but look behind the leaders and the sound bites. Neither party is anywhere near where Labour was in 1997 ( ready to consolidate its policies or setting the agenda. The Tories should be given a bonus point for taking on an uphill struggle. They elected a politician we remember as one of the most unpopular ever, and then they tried to convince us that we'd come to love him. …

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