It must have dawned on even the most optimistic of Labour supporters in Birmingham that the party is highly unlikely to regain control of the city council for another five or six years, or perhaps longer.
Even if the Government's popularity was to undergo a remarkable transformation, which seems unlikely, there are no council elections until 2010 and even then, with re-election of only one-third of members each year, it would take a considerable time to peg back the 60-odd seats needed for outright control.
The sense of frustration in what remains of Labour's heartlands is palpable. Opposition is not a comfortable place for a party that governed a city of one million people for 20 years and, even now, finds it difficult to come to terms with losing power to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of a depleted 36-strong Labour group (out of 120 councillors), inevitably puts a brave face on matters by blaming Government policy and presentational mistakes rather than his own. There is of course something in this, since it is generally agreed that national issues and the extent to which a feel-good factor can be ascertained by voters are strong factors in deciding local elections.
But Sir Albert candidly admits that Labour in Birmingham has not been good at getting its policies across to the electorate and that the party has a tendency to "sit back and moan about things" rather than making the most of the position it finds itself in. It is an interesting admission from a man who next year will celebrate, if that is the right word, 10 years as leader of the council Labour group - five years as council leader and five as opposition leader.
Here is a politician with many virtues. An outstanding chairman of the economic development committee in the 1990s, his drive and vision for regeneration gave birth to Eastside and set in place a number of other important city centre redevelopment projects. But even Sir Albert's best friends admit that, to adapt a phrase popular at Number Ten, he does not "get" opposition. He shuns confrontation, instinctively looks for common ground and the blunt truth is that his performance in the council chamber since 2004 has often been pedestrian.
It is a difficult problem for Labour to wrestle with, but perhaps the time is fast approaching for the baton to be passed to a new generation. ..SUPL: