“Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile. This is a party of government, and I will lead it to government.” – Tony Blair
It is not easy for many people to understand Labour’s problems and where they historically stem from given Blair’s three-term success, but it is probably here where we should start to consider Starmer and the problems that face him and his party.
Labour has historically been a socialist party. That, given the fact that it was founded to be just that, is not really something with which one can argue.
Where Labour has failed has to demonstrate an alternative vision to the Conservative vision of a country. We have to consider that the Tories are a party of constant renewal and pragmatism: MacMillan’s post-war statism of house-building and infrastructure development; Thatcher’s neoliberalism which saw people buy their own homes and aspire to greater things; Cameron’s attractive liberalism, pro-worker and low-tax politics; to Boris’ Brexiteer, working man’s politics. The Conservative Party has always had a fresh offer and moves with the ideas of the country, and the needs and aspirations of working people in it.
Labour has, historically, not done this, and its achievements in government are a reflection as to why. Even in the pause of Tory governments, every Labour government has delivered higher unemployment. Look at what faced Thatcher, and even stalwart Labour members and voters must understand why measures had to be taken to democratise the unions.
Tony Blair understood that the ways to beat the Tories involved understanding that people did not want to share the equal burden of misery in socialism. Fundamentally, he understood that people wanted the means to better themselves, and he understood (although broke his pledge on this) that they weren’t all that fond of over-taxation.
I write this as a person who worked for a Tory MP and had a fundamental falling out with the Conservative Party over Brexit. I now consider the matter closed, given that we have a deal and that, yes, we will pay for it for a long time, and some businesses will undoubtedly fold as a consequence. We may never really know the true effects of Brexit, because enter COVID and its effects.
This is something else that Starmer misread. The public support a Government which is delivering a successful vaccination programme, and the public have shown its support for that party in these local elections. I expected Hartlepool; I certainly did not expect the majority that we saw.
I share the outrage over Cameron and Greensill. I share the annoyance at the unbelievable blatant porkies that we have been told by Johnson by his lack of answering questions directly in Parliament regarding the Downing St flat. I think that Cameron and Hancock have questions to answer about Payd. I can’t tell you how embarrassed I feel about supporting the Cameron project only to see its public face flipping for £60m in share options.
But the thing is this: The public’s mood is different. Voters care about delivering promises and their lives. They should listen to how bent politicians are, but they might be forgiven – especially after scandal after scandal of cash for questions, cash for peerages, expenses scandals, and the like – that the whole thing is bent anyway, and just vote for the least worst option.
People don’t like virtue-signalling tossers. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Woke Labour is putting people off. As Khalid Mahmood MP, who resigned from Starmer’s front bench said yesterday: “Labour has lost touch with the ordinary British people… The loudest voices in the Labour movement over the past year in particular have been more focused on pulling down Churchill’s statue than they have on helping people pull themselves up in the world. No wonder it is doing better among rich urban liberals and young university graduates than it is amongst the most important part of its traditional electorate, the working-class.”
So then it becomes policy. The public, if it had been given something to vote for by Starmer might have behaved differently on Thursday. What has he done to actually differentiate himself while understanding that we don’t live in a socialist country? Very little.
If the voting population hadn’t been harassed by Starmer’s constant assessments of failure over COVID (in spite of recent facts — I won’t defend pre March 2020 actions) when they could see the opposite happening, perhaps they’d have responded differently.
We have heard from Jeremy Corbyn – of all people – that the Labour Party needs to have a strong socialist message in future elections. That worked really well for him, didn’t it?
Politics shouldn’t be difficult. People want to be able to get on with their lives, move up the ladder, move on, feel safe and be able to afford somewhere to live. The Tories are offering answers to these questions: Labour is not, and has not for a long time.
Labour will always be tempted to be a socialist party, and I understand that. But Tony Blair’s removal of Clause 4 was a huge moment in British politics because that is what people wanted. People don’t want to become part of a big state project; people value freedom to spend their own money, to look after themselves and their families and friends and their communities. But we can look after our communities through things other than the state, and charity should not be a dirty word in this respect.
I don’t know how long it will take for Labour to understand that the country isn’t doing anything wrong, but they themselves are, but for the sake of good governance, I certainly hope that this happens sooner rather than later. A weak opposition makes for a terrible governing party.
As for me? I didn’t vote for the first time in my adult life. You can attribute that to a small protest against Johnson’s lies and Cameron’s lobbying. But above that, nobody gave me anything to vote for. Perhaps someone might be able to.