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The Independent
One of Britain's newer papers, the Independent generally has a centre-left take on culture and politics, while taking a more pro-market stance on economics. The Independent is not affiliated with any party and readers find a good mix of viewpoints in its pages.

Circulation: 215,000
Taking Stock: How Can The Tories or Labour Chart a Path to Victory?

With two of the main parties losing their leaders, at this point in the parliament the Conservatives may well be relieved that Major has decided to step away from the leadership at last. To suggest that the party is in dire straights would be to understate the problem. The most recent Telegraph poll not only has the Conservative Party an astonishing 21 points behind the Labour party it also has them behind the Liberal Democrats.

A lot of Conservative MPs will likely point to John Major as the primary source of the party's ill state. They would not be entirely incorrect, since Black Wednesday he has been an albatross around the neck of his party. John Major has - mercifully - removed himself from the neck of his party, that will certainly see the huge deficit closed slightly as whichever candidate wins the Conservative leadership will likely enjoy a limited honeymoon period. The key for whoever succeeds John Major will be: how can they regain the momentum from a Labour Party that looks likely to cruise to victory?

There are no simple answers, the legacy of Black Wednesday will likely haunt the party for a decade or more, the Conservatives are simply not trusted on the economy and that doesn't bode well for a party whose only hegemonic credibility among the electorate has been their position as trusted stewards of the economy (even if people haven't necessarily liked what they've done with it.) So the solution may seem obvious, earn back that credibility. Easier said that done. The party will have to navigate the consequences of its own actions and shake off the image that they are simultaneously cruel and incompetent. It's possible (though unlikely) that you can win an election when perceived as one or the other, but not both. The party's primary strength therefore is in their attitude to "moral" questions, though this too will have been critically damaged by a series of scandals that followed Major's "Back to Basics" campaign. That shouldn't mean that whoever is leader should discard these ideas, but the urgent need for a scandal free period is clear for all to see.

Labour have an enviable position for an opposition party. In total command of the opinion polls and well and truly on course to inflict a generational defeat on their arch foes in the Conservative Party. While tragic, John Smith's untimely death will not change the core facts on the ground for the new occupant of Labour's leadership. Calvin Ward would be wise to pay heed to John Smith's ability to stand above the at times toxic petty factionalism that had dominated the party at the end of the last decade, while he will need to learn how to do this, should he manage it he could see himself becoming the next Prime Minister sooner (potentially after by-elections) than many might expect.

In a lot of ways Calvin Wards task is both the easiest and most difficult one in British politics, he has inherited a confident well liked party, that has capitalised upon the failings of the Conservatives ruthlessly. But he is also trying to step into the role after the death of the most popular leader of the opposition in recent memory, inevitably there will be a slight sagging in Labour's lead. The question is can they keep the margin large enough to avoid the bitter disappointment that has been synonymous with the party?

Overall though the attitude of the country seems to have created an electoral geography favourable to the Labour Party, after so long in power the Conservatives look a spent force, lacking dynamism. Should they regain that element that will go a long way to easing a lot of the electorate out of their fatigue. If the Labour Party want to continue to sit comfortably atop the polls they need to take the best of what John Smith brought to the leadership and as boring as it may be, keep steady and try not to unnecessarily create controversy. Their lead may be a lot softer than many would imagine, some voters may say they'll vote Labour in polls and may even do so in local elections and by-elections where there is relatively little danger of ousting the Conservatives, but will they in a General Election? Calvin Ward needs to turn those soft converts into a solid, coherent, electoral coalition. The longer he fails to do this, the more likely it will be that the Conservatives will be celebrating an unprecedented and unlikely victory come the next general election.

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