The major political parties are worried that the voters will blame them for the state of the economy at the next election. But with opinion polls showing that voters share the blame between the last Labour government, the current coalition and the problems of the world economy, there is little to be gained for any party in trying to revisit the past and apportion blame to their opponents. Why?
Voters tend not to be interested in the past (if they even know about it). They are more interested in who can offer the best future. There are plenty of examples of voters ignoring the past (good or bad) and voting for what they believe will be the best option for the future.
Churchill lost the 1945 election, having led the country to victory in the war. The Conservatives won the general election which followed the Suez Crisis. In 1990 respected Conservative MP for Eastbourne, Ian Gow, was killed by an IRA bomb, but the Conservatives lost the resulting by-election. John Major won the first election after Margaret Thatcher’s departure, in a recession, but with the largest vote ever achieved by any party. Tony Blair won the general election after the Iraq invasion. Labour held Luton South in the 2010 general election, even though the former Labour MP, Margaret Moran, was embroiled in the expenses scandal (the swing to the Conservatives was actually lower than the national average). The LibDems have just won the Eastleigh by-election, caused by the criminal conviction and resignation of their former MP.
Voters look much more to the future than to the past. Votes are only cast at the election, not in the years in between. If history influences voters’ opinions at the election, it is mainly because they think that the past may be a guide to the future – just like a job application.
In politics, bygones usually are bygones. It’s not the ‘economy, stupid’ - it’s the future.