The election results last week underlined that Tony Blair has succeeded in partly rehabilitating the Conservatives.
If you defend Tory polices for long enough, and rely on Tory votes to get your measures through parliament – as Blair has done – then eventually a section of people will lose their sense that the Tories are pariahs.
Nevertheless, the Conservative revival should not be overstated. In Scotland the number of Tory MSPs actually fell by one – and 13 of the 17 they won had to be elected through the top-up list.
In Wales the Tories gained just one assembly member.This hardly represents an electoral breakthrough.
But the Conservatives did gain nearly 900 councillors in England. This is a significant revival for them – although major cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester are still without any Tory councillors.
The limited nature of the Conservative performance is underlined by the fact that most of the seats up for grabs were last fought in 2003, when the Conservatives won only 35 percent of the national vote.
Any improvement from that low was bound to produce rich results.
It would be the wrong response for us to draw back from criticism of Gordon Brown out of fear that David Cameron is on the march to Downing Street, as some on the left argue.
The crucial task is to fight Tory policies wherever they come from. That can turn the tide against Brown’s attacks on ordinary people – and against Cameron’s Tories.
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