Polly Toynbee's piece in today's Guardian challenges the view that a Tory victory at the next election is inevitable. It is true that the party's meltdown at the May local elections and defeats in recent by-elections have prompted a good deal of soul searching (and recriminations) over the past few months.
The debates over the summer indicate that, metaphorically speaking, there will be two Labour trains departing from Manchester at the end of next week's conference, one will be taking the difficult, but ultimately rewarding, track that leads to renewal whilst the other will be seeking to reverse its way from the platform along the track that is signposted ‘political wilderness.’ This is why the real challenge to the continuation of the pursuit of a progressive political agenda comes not from a resurgent Tory party but from the defeatists, pessimists and cynics that exist within the Labour party itself. A party that talks about ambition, hope and aspiration is far more appealing than one that constantly recites its achievements of the past ten years. Telling the electorate that things are much better than they were in 1997 is the political equivalent of living in the past.
If a crushing defaet is to be avoided Labour must ensure that it continues with its progressive reform package and stop fretting about the opinion polls and how often Gordon Brown smiles. But above all else it must not (as it has so often done in the past) end up defeating itself.