Tag Archives: Britannia unchained

After a decade of Cameron, May and Johnson, has ‘Britannia Unchained’ got what it takes?

Keir Starmer, 60 today, will need a larger majority than Tony Blair to sweep to victory in the next general election. Currently, the approach of the Tory leadership is unpopular, and even the current finalists of ‘Britain’s not got any talent’ are not cutting the mustard with all of the Conservative membership. The traditional adage is that parties don’t win elections, but parties lose elections. Like all things Boris Johnson, that might be one final trend to be bucked.

Boris Johnson is still popular amongst his cult and the Tory Party, like the Labour Party, is a coalition. The future looks pitch black, not because the lights have gone out yet with or without rationing of energy supplies, but Liz Truss is a known unknown. Keir Starmer, although maintaining influence on the NEC and some degree of stability on and off the picket line, has U-turned on all his pledges, so the pitch on “telling the truth” lands uncomfortably with some, despite Johnson defending himself on the reputation of being an inveterate lawyer. Starmer is still unpopular with some within Labour (mainly socialists), but popular with others who genuinely feel he has a good chance of winning the next election.The ‘Enough is enough’ movement is gaining momentum with celebrity appearances such as Bernie Sanders. Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak still are chucking out the bangers like aged rockstars. Truss boasts confidently, ‘I am a woman’, while Sunak says ‘We will get rid of the European definition of asylum’ – at least one of those must be true?

For all the bluster of putting country ahead of party, you have to worry about an opposition unable to win with the NHS struggling and the economy falling apart. Just as it is unclear that Labour was solely responsible for a global economic crash in 2008/9, it is equally unclear that the Ukraine war is responsible for the high inflation in the UK. The arguments for why this is not the case perhaps have been exhausted elsewhere. Certainly inflation is movable feast, with the US dollar being strong against the sterling pound and Euro. As we know food prices started going up due our supply chain problems were not due to Brexit, so they say. All alcoholics in recovery to have the courage to face the things they can, so both Labour and the Conservatives acknowledge their lack of influence on externalities presumably. But one internal dispute within the Conservative Party became very public within the whole country, and is as yet unresolved due to issues such as the Northern Ireland protocol or regulatory alignment. A culture war may be beginning to make an appearance causing a fracture within Labour too. One only has to look at Owen Jones and Eddie Dempster, and their groups, to know that there is a meeting of minds over neglecting the concerns over the ‘working class’. But the argument is clearly nuanced – so for example not all of the working class are White, and not all racists live in the North (apparently they mainly live in the South East, where coincidentally much of the Conservatives membership lives.)

It feels as if Labour has somewhat been thrown off track from its founding ideas. Mick Lynch is clearly concerned that founding values are not audible in statements made by Labour’s leadership. I think this is true. It doesn’t seem to say much on employment rights. It doesn’t say much on why it has accepted the economic model of Thatcherism in the privatisation of elements of the State, even though the unconscionable profits of directors are clearly at odds with the 1975 privatisation think tank within the Conservative Party which said that privatisation was partly charged with redistribution of profits to workers fairly. Starmer possibly wants to have his ‘red meat’ clause 4 moment. The Beecroft report from 10 years ago is still fresh in the mind of the Free Market group members, Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss, Priti Patel and Chris Skidmore. This ‘liberisation of the workforce’ is together with tax cuts designed to promote productivity in a Singapore-on-Thames is an appealing idea, except without any state intervention it is possible that many SMEs will go to the wall – and then there will be not much growth, and much unnemployment. The pitch on low taxes is clearly Wild West politics, and it would be more ‘grown up’ to think about maximising markets, not just pork markets, to improve productivity. But this might necessitate discussion of the topic which cannot be mentioned – that of course is Brexit. The Tories have had various crises to contend with apart from Brexit such as the coronavirus pandemic. So it’s quite possible that we never saw ‘peak Johnson’ as he was negotiating one crisis and the next.

We know what happened to what was called a ‘far left’ approach. Somebody told me that he considered Labour to be ‘far left’ because of their Green policies, wanting to increase spending in the NHS and social care, abolition of tuition fees, and so on. Each to their own. But it could be that the ‘radical right’ goes unchallenged – and certainly not subject to quite the same degree of toxification from the media. Energy issues, such as the lack of market, wind farms, insulation – have all been known issues when Ed Miliband pitched for a Labour government in 2015, but it was considered more important to get Brexit done in 2016. That Brexit is yet to achieve its full potential is illustrated in the damp squib of the Festival of Brexit.

Nobody can define what ‘Britannia unchained’ will end up looking like. It’s an experiment in economic liberalism to continue the legacy of Margaret Thatcher which is effectively an obsession – which only a Truss/Kwarteng government can deal with as a compulsion. With ambulances delayed, social care on its knees, people not able to pay their utility bills, it could be that Cameron’s volunteers in the ‘Big Society’ are stretched to their limit. But apart from food banks and warm houses, what more is there to be done? The failure of Tory policies is glaring, and there are few else to blame. For Liz Truss to succeed, she is going to have to tear apart her own record, including legal aid cuts (criminal barristers are on strike), not having gas storage (gas import is costing us dear), and not having environmental safeguards (it is difficult not to go for a swim in certain beaches without contracting a life-threatening illness.)