The famous tweet goes, ‘Anyone who’d be a half decent leader of the Opposition would be twenty points ahead?’ – or something like that.
Things can only get better.
For a few months now, Labour has been way ahead in the opinion polls. Rishi Sunak, as the latest Prime Minister, never really benefitted from a ‘bounce’ in popularity. First impressions of him might be that he’s a bit ‘out of touch’. He comes from a background not unheard of in a Conservative Prime Minister – top public school than Oxbridge than City. He is unlikely to be lying awake at night thinking about his smart meter counting upwards while he heats his (large) house. He is possibly not thinking about the idea of people breaking into his house with a warrant to install a prepaid meter. To all intents and purposes, he is another Prime Minister. His relative popularity in the Red Wall might be more to do with his BAME background, or the financial affairs of his family, than what they really thinking of his policies. Boris Johnson, chief bloviator, has been touring the world – it seems at someone’s expense – and is about to foot a big legal bill defending himself against all sorts of allegations, presumably at the taxpayers’ expense.
This administration confuses me somewhat. When I first heard that Boris Johnson had become leader of the Conservative Party, in my naïvety felt that Jeremy Corbyn would have a very easy time. That was all before he got completely monstered by the media. Fanboys of Keir Starmer on a good day boast how Labour is no longer a ‘protest party’. When empowered by extreme chutzpah and confidence, they say blazingly, ‘There are no longer any Palestinian flags’. It is always hard to work out what is true and what isn’t regarding the Corbyn era. What is definitely true is that there has been an almighty cover up in the media regarding the Forde Report – which some brave journalists have spoken out about. What is also true is that organisations such as Amnesty International have also expressed concern about ‘apartheid’ Israel regardless of awkward words being voiced and apologised for in parliament. What is allegedly true is that members of the Labour Party have been threatened with expulsion, despite being Jewish, for ‘siding’ with the wrong grouping. It is easy to ignore it if you hate Jeremy Corbyn, but socialists generally are unimpressed that they feel that they have been saddled with Keir Starmer under somewhat false pretences.
Whichever way you wish to spin it, Starmer has reneged on all of his promises. The vision of Thatcher, extended and elaborated on by Blair and Cameron, has left us with an awkward legacy of unsafe cladding, huge PFI bills in the NHS and utility companies in England, at odds with the rest of the world, for being privately owned by investors abroad paying tax anywhere other than Britain. The public sector, in as much the legislation has prevented a ‘general strike’, has finally had enough with its lack of remuneration. Not only is the public on their side, but the public sector is populated by the public. Not only has renumeration of workers been poor, but fat cats have become extremely fat, with poor standards in outcomes.
It should be obvious that, given also Kwarteng’s disastrous budget and a string of unforced errors from Johnson, that Starmer would be ahead. But what is so creepy is that he is so unwilling to make a link between economic productivity and the fact we are no longer part of a trade bloc. For all his faults, and we’ve heard them ad nauseam, Jeremy Corbyn proposed in 2019 for the UK to be part of a close trading relationship even despite exiting. Alan Johnson and Sir Stuart Rose were supposedly leading the Remain campaign, but have both disappeared off the face of the planet regarding Brexit. So it’s left to people on the front bench of Labour to ask for a closer relationship with the EU without saying what that is. That is like ripping a wheel off your car, and promising to drive fast with the three remaining wheels. It is not a serious offering. Reeves and Miliband, for all their good points, have been on the subs bench since the early 2010s. Like Starmer, they are not the ‘change’ candidates. They are the stench of no change, epitomised by Reeves promising not to increase your bills – in the same way that Cooper promised not to reverse the outsourcing of the benefits outsourcing.
To say that Labour is a pale imitation of the Tories might be intended as an insult, but it is very much a compliment for those who know that this is the desired strategy. John Rentoul at about 3 am this morning went on the radio with LBC presenter Clive Bull to explain that Starmer is not like Blair, but Starmer still wishes the Labour Party to become closer to the Conservative Party. Rentoul adds that there is no guarantee that things will be ‘better’ under Reeves or Starmer. And there’s the rub. Not only is the offering to the left of Labour that ‘things won’t be worse’ – but there are active differences, such as not nationalising the utility companies, or not supporting the strikers. The calculation is that more Tories will join Labour than Labour lefties leaving Labour. For those who supported and campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn, who judging from his interview with Lewis Goodall is even angrier than ever at injustice, being expected to support Labour is not a ‘given’ any more. Solidarity, a key value within the Labour left, has to all intents and purposes been suspended in a dramatic fashion. Furthermore, Labour lefties who feel very betrayed by prominent people on the Left pleading for people not to vote Labour are ‘expected’ to vote for Starmer now who himself has U-turned on everything so fast he has literally spun himself into the ground like a power drill. They are labelled ‘Tory enablers’.
The next phase of the attack has begun. We are being told that Starmer does not need Scotland to form a majority government. This is close to absolute bollocks in fact, as Scotland, even with the furore over gender recognition and prisoners, is likely to vote nearly 100% SNP. Starmer will require basically all of Labour voters to turn out in England and Wales to get the sort of arithmetic he dreams of, and we know that the ‘swing’ required is now enormous. And factor into that, what does Streeting propose to salvage the NHS? A big recruitment drive, and abolition of non-com status. The tax change raising revenue has been disputed, and the big recruitment drive doesn’t address attrition at every training stage of a doctors’ education. He also wants to oversee a transition from partners to salaried GPs – exactly what multinational corporations want in the integrated care systems as per Health and Social Care Act 2022 – but this will bring the NHS to its knees unless substantially more senior GPs are found from nowhere (or abroad). It all doesn’t add up – and even worse he wants to be sparring in a fight with the BMA, which is a pretty frightful look for Labour which seems to be obsessed with dividing and ruling. Starmer’s self referral for ‘internal bleeding’ is of course the final straw.
It’s clear Labour lacks policies, and lacks vision. They are lumbered with an Islington lawyer who seems to hate Jeremy Corbyn, and, even worse, seems to despise socialism.
Don’t be surprised if Sunak wins.
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