The one thing that has managed to break up the news cycle a little bit over the past couple of weeks, away from CoVid and the government’s handling of it, has been the latest shitstorm within the Labour Party. The departing Corbynistas have burnt the crops behind them like fleeing Russian peasants, trying to send this message: if we can’t have the Labour Party, no one can. I like many others have speculated that the ongoing bad behaviour of the far left will keep bringing Labour down, no matter what Starmer does. And this is obviously going to happen, given what we’ve seen already. But I don’t think that’s Labour’s biggest problem.
Scotland, you might say. This is a huge impediment to a Labour a majority but all they can do is become more presentably competent, which they have a start on in electing Starmer leader, and hope the SNP flame starts to fade, which it will eventually. If Labour returns nationally, in other words, I think it may return in Scotland, although there will probably be a significant lag there.
No, the biggest problem I think Labour faces is getting the voters it lost in England, in 2019 back. Just as those voters hung on through a lot of years where they were less than impressed with the Labour Party for varying reasons, I believe that now that many have voted Tory, getting them to vote Labour again could be more difficult than is often talked about. There is sometimes an assumption made by some on the centre-left that a lot of working class voters “loaned” Boris a vote in order to “get Brexit done”, and will thus return to the fold fairly easily next time, particularly now that crazy grandpa has returned to the allotment. I’m not so sure about this. There is an anti-Labour culture that has built up around the country and appears to still be on the rise. It is tricky to see how Starmer moves in a way that convinces the Lib Dem types they need while getting the blue wall seats voting Labour in majority style numbers again. As in, I think the biggest problem Labour might have is available pool of voters that would even consider voting Labour. It goes beyond Remain/Leave and City/Town/Countryside into brand problems that are now monumental in scale.
Blair was able to build on the fact that there was a group of voters, ideally geographically placed under First Past the Post, who religiously voted Labour. The Miliband/Corbyn years have chipped away at this base until we saw what happened in 2019. The one hope Labour has is that these are volatile times and we have a Tory government that isn’t exactly brilliant. The winds could shift quickly in Starmer’s direction for reasons we couldn’t have foreseen even a few months ago. Yet when people say “Labour have a mountain to climb” they really aren’t exaggerating. If anything, it is mostly underestimated how tough it will be for any leader to get Labour a majority not just in 2024, but anytime in the next 20 years.
I have a new book out now. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s available here: