Two things are remarked upon at the moment as being definite for the Labour Party: that Keir Starmer will be their next leader and they will lose the next general election. Yet for everything I have said in the past about the Tories being in power until 2035, I don’t think the latter needs to be the case. There are two ways this can all go from here.
One path, which is the one most pundits presume will unfold is that Boris Johnson figures some way to get round the worst possibilities and permutations of Brexit. Despite all his bluster about no alignment and “Australian deal”, he will in the end come to a fudge with the EU that Labour and Farage will try and attack from different sides but that, like his Withdrawal Agreement, manages to find favour in both the Conservative party and their electorate. Combined with this, Starmer becomes leader of a hopelessly divided Labour Party, infected with anti-Semites and tankies. He tries his best to be the Kinnock figure and drag the party back to respectability, but the battle is too onerous. He gets some way toward his goal but is constantly dragged down by his own party, both in terms of having to get lost in internal battles and announcing some bad policies to please the left. He loses the next election, badly, after which, the far left take over again with a terrible candidate, assuring us of Tory government until the middle of the 30s at the very least.
Yet there is another way it can all go. The danger in politics – and I have done this myself on many occasions – is to assume that just because it has gone right for a particular political figure through all the last few risky staging posts, it will go right them in all future gambles. David Cameron and the EU referendum is only the most obvious example of this. Because Boris took a series of huge bets and it all paid off for him big time, it is easy to assume that he will indeed find some way of finding a Brexit settlement with the EU that keeps his party and Leave voters on side without severely damaging the economy in an obvious way.
But it worth mentioning here that the European Union and its negotiators are not Jeremy Corbyn and his delusional flunkies. The challenge Johnson faces now is way larger than a general election facing opponents in Labour and the Lib Dems who turned out collectively to be far, far worse than they could have ever imagined. It might be that Johnson ends up in a WTO with a few minor details ironed out Brexit at the end of 2020, perhaps even by accident through pushing ideas simply as negotiating chips, underestimating EU resolve. If this happens, Keir Starmer will actually be the ideal Labour leader to have in post. Someone who warned about the dangers of a “Tory Brexit”, he could be well placed to say that while rejoining the EU so soon after leaving is not something he wants to “inflict” on the country, after becoming prime minister he could go to Brussels and “get a better deal” – which will just mean Norway Plus, of course. If the actual, real Brexit moment in January 2021 is mishandled, Starmer has an obvious campaign for trying to win the next election. Even from such a poor starting point, Labour could possibly win that election, particularly as a bad, real Brexit in 2021 will help Starmer in his internal battles – it will be hard for the Lexiteer tankies to argue that leaving with what is essentially no deal is a great idea when the reality of it bites hard.
Labour is at the mercy of events, that much is certain. Starmer faces a huge uphill battle once he gets the job. Yet assuming Labour can’t win the next election is not a good idea, particularly for the Tories. If the last five years should have taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen in British politics.
Thank you for reading. I have a book called “Politics is Murder” coming on in April. You can find out all about it here: