Tuesday 19 July 2022

Has Labour a death wish?

Amid all the contrived excitement of the competition for the Tory leadership (which doesn't really matter becasue they're all Tories and they're all wrong) yesterday's most important political development seems to have escaped most of the media's notice.

it is, in a small item on page 2 of the Guardian, that Sir Keir Starmer has ruled out any deal with the Liberal Democrats. This is interpreted as no coalition after the next election, and no "confidence and supply" arrangement  either.  Nor with the SNP.  

Labour will go it alone, or not at all.

Starmer's reasoning is easy to understand.  Without such a committed declaration he fears the the Tory PR machine will use the threat of a "coalition of chaos" to defeat Labour.  it is understood that a similar ruse helped prevent Labour under Ed Milliband from winning in 2015

I believe Starmer is profoundly wrong.  Again and again Labour die-hards  believe that they can win on their own and so won't sully their precious ideals by compromise with  others.  Maybe that made sense in the last century, though I doubt if serious history would support it.  The Wartime three-party coalition had its faults but it did its bit towards wining the war.  The much maligned Lib/Lab pact arranged between Jim Callaghan and David Steel achieved the only period of government in the 1970s era in which both the level of inflation and unemployment fell together.

Even in this century, the 2010-15 Coalition, though profoundly  misguided in its economic policy (see contemporary posts on this blog|) filled the bill that was thought to be necessary at the time.  In 2010 it was widely (though in my view wrongly) believed that the country desperately needed a stable government with a working majority, or there would be a run on sterling.  So we got the stable government, largely but understandably on Tory terms (they had 300+ MPs, we had 57).  

And  since 2015, without the moderating influence of the Liberal Democrats, Tory governments  have been profoundly worse.

Current opinion polls show Labour in a modest lead over the Conservatives, but for Labour to be confident of victory that lead needs to be 20 percentage point or more over a sustained period.

The Tories, with their massively sportive press and slick PR machine, are good at recovering.  Witness their victory under Macmillan in 1959 after the Eden's Suez disaster, and John Major's unexpected victory after the Thatcher years.   They have not lost the knack.  

What ever the result of the leadership election, the new leader will be burnished as a combination of St Peter, or the Virgin Mary, with the Archangel Gabriel (despite the male name I think angels are gender neutral) and the appalling  errors of the May-Johnson period will be nothing to do with the new and oh- so- wonderful management team.

And, Sir Keir, they'll probably get away with it.

But there remains a "progressive majority" of voters.  We are highly unlikely ever to get a government as incompetent, dishonest  and corrupt as the present one.  We should seize the moment,combat predictions of a "coalition of chaos" with the rejoinder  that nothing could be as chaotic as Johnson's Tory-UKIP coalition,  and, leaving all post-election options  open, allow the progressive parties to campaign  with minimum hindrance in the areas where they can prevail.

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