It was reported on Friday that Gordon Brown was likening himself in private to John Major. I too see the parallels. Both embattled, suffering terrible poll ratings and with a party now starting to turn in on itself. However, Gordon Brown apparently sees himself more at the 1990-1992 John Major, not the 1992-1997 one.
This should be of some concern to Labour. You see in 1992 the Tories squeaked in to power again, but in many ways it would have been much better for them not to have done so. In 1992 the Tories still had some inner city seats (Norwich North, Birmingham Yardley, Manchester Withington, Bristol West, and so the list goes on) and the period from 1992-97 systematically destroyed the Tories in those seats so much so that they have never fully recovered their strength and in some of those seats they are a poor third even now and have few councillors. The fact that the Tories clung on actually worked against them in the long run.
This is problem labour now face. This year people went out and voted against Labour because they dislike them. This is what started to happen to the Tories fro the Poll Tax year (1990), but that hated started to become ingrained each year they clung on to power. So much so that by the time 1997 came around there were a generation of people who didn't want to vote Tory ever again. It has taken eleven years to turn that around, whilst in some areas the seats will be lost to the Tories for some time to come because their activist base has still not recovered or the main opposition to Labour is no longer a Tory one and is now Lib Dem or Nationalist.
Labour now face the possibility of seats that have been Labour for 16 years now falling to the Tories, but should they cling on to power next time, the chances are that they won't just be losing seats they gained in 1992 or 1997, instead they will be losing their 1987 gains, and that spells a real disaster for Labour. Already we see Labour being wiped out in seats where the influence of Tony Blair made them strong for a short period of time. In Broadland and North Norfolk, two examples local to me, the Labour Party became the largest party on the councils in the period from 1995 to 1997, and in the case of the Mid Norfolk constituency, they came withing about 1500 votes of winning in 1997. Now Labour are third in this seat and just like North Norfolk, they have no councillors in the whole constituency and little hope of one. St Albans is the other classic example, a Labour gain from third place in 1997, held in 2001, lost in 2005 and now Labour are down to around half a dozen councillors and look set to be wiped out soon.
This is the fate that awaits whole chunks of Britain if Labour clings on next time.
So in many ways the next election is one Labour needs to lose, for its own survival, and one that if the Tories do lose, should see them win by a convincing landslide five years later.